Red Hat and MySQL are growing up together in the technology industry. And over the next few months, they will depend on each other more than ever before. But for both companies to continue to thrive, they'll need to avoid several temptations.
First, the good news: Red Hat remains Corporate America's favorite choice for Linux-based servers. According to various estimates, Red Hat controls anywhere from 60 percent to 80 percent of the North American market for Linux servers; Novell SuSE Linux has 20 percent or less, followed by several niche solutions.
Meanwhile, MySQL has cornered the open source database market. Sure, there are well-performing alternatives like EnterpriseDB and PostgreSQL. But MySQL is the open source database of choice for most customers. In fact, sales at the privately held MySQL grew from $12 million in 2003 to $40 million in 2005, according to CNET. Now there's growing buzz that MySQL will pursue an IPO later this year, although company insiders downplay such speculation to me.
Red Hat and MySQL share an undeniable bond. Red Hat's forthcoming online exchange--where customers and VARs will be able to purchase integrated open source applications--will be built upon the MySQL database. And Red Hat is one of MySQL's leading resellers. Plus, Red Hat's strong relationships with Dell, HP and IBM has paved the way for MySQL deployments on many corporate servers.
Still, the Red Hat-MySQL relationship will face two challenges: Growth and greed. Much like Microsoft (MSFT) built an integrated NT Server suite (featuring SQL Server, Exchange Server, Internet Information Server, etc.) in the 1990s, Red Hat will be tempted to build--or buy--an applications suite for its own operating system. Plus, Red Hat will want to keep certain open source companies out of the acquiring hands of Novell (NOVL), Oracle (ORCL) and other potential buyers.
Likewise, MySQL will be tempted to acquire applications for its database. Someday in the near future, small companies like Sugar CRM or JasperSoft could make compelling additions to MySQL's in-house product portfolio. Admittedly, this is pure speculation on my part, but Oracle's success buying up application providers has got give MySQL some ideas of its own.
The end result? "Difficult to see, the future is," as Yoda once put it. But here's one potential scenario: Imagine an open source world where Red Hat becomes Microsoft and MySQL becomes Oracle. The duo would cooperate on some fronts, but compete on many others.
Still, the Red Hat and MySQL camps dismiss such speculation.
"We see Red Hat as a partner and a distribution channel, not a competitor," says Zack Urlocker, executive VP of products at MySQL. "Red Hat is our #1 platform and w e do a lot of joint sales & marketing together. In fact, they resell MySQL as part of their stack offering."
No doubt, Red Hat and MySQL will continue to cheer each other on in the weeks ahead. MySQL is hosting a big customer event--sponsored by Red Hat, among others--in April. And Red Hat will follow with its own annual conference in May. Plenty of handshakes and joint customer engagements will follow. Let's just hope greed and growth don't spoil the party anytime soon.