MySQL head seeks to profit from online-user surge

Marten Mickos, chief executive of open source database vendor MySQL, believes increasing web use will fuel demand for databases. China Martens reports

The companies that open source database vendor MySQL would most like to have a relationship with are IBM and Microsoft, says MySQL chief executive Marten Mickos.

“It’s an important goal of ours to have strategic relationships with all the major platform suppliers,” Mickos says. “Specifically noteworthy, we have a desire to work with IBM. But people say, ‘IBM has a database’. We don’t see that as an issue.”

The two companies are already teaming up in some early, unspecified areas, he says. Big Blue also sponsored the MySQL Users Conference in California last month.

“We’re [also] eager to work with Microsoft,” Mickos says. Forty percent of MySQL’s installed customer base is on Windows “and we want to better serve them”.

As well as running on Windows, MySQL integrates with Microsoft’s .Net platform, Mickos says.

Mickos laughs off a suggestion that Red Hat’s next purchase could be MySQL. The Linux distribution vendor appears to be busy building a software stack and the recent purchase of JBoss, which is subject to regulatory approval, is part of the plan. Given that strategy, the next logical move would involve buying an open-source database. “Ask Red Hat [about it],” Mickos says. “We have a wonderful business as of today.”

As increasing numbers of the world’s population go online, the need for vast amounts of computing infrastructure, including open source software to support those users, will skyrocket, according to Mickos. He foresees at least one US$1 billion (NZ$1.5 billion) open source software company. “It’s not clear who it’ll be,” he says.

“If you look at it [today], sure, Red Hat is the biggest,” he says. “[But] even they’re not super big.” Privately-held MySQL had sales of around US$40 million in 2005, he says.

Mickos has just read Blueprint to a Billion: 7 Essentials to Achieve Exponential Growth, by Marshall Goldsmith. The book describes how companies, including software players, have managed to grow their businesses to the US$1 billion mark. The book suggests it takes a company between two and ten years to reach an inflection point, then four, six or 12 years to hit a billion.

Red Hat has hit that inflection point, although it’s unclear at which year it will crack the billion-dollar mark, Mickos says. He won’t say whether MySQL has already reached its inflection point, but says the company has the opportunity to grow. Databases, particularly ones that can use a variety of different storage engines, will be important in supporting large numbers of online users accessing a wide variety of applications, he says.

MySQL’s future plans include opening up its database storage API to encourage third-parties to develop their own engines for the MySQL database.

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