VMware / Yahoo Zimbra Deal Immaterial Except to Sun / Oracle / MySQL Story

by: Dennis Byron

As you would expect, "the financial details... were not disclosed" January 12 when VMware (NYSE:VMW) bought the remnants of Zimbra from Yahoo (YHOO). Time will tell but presumably future SEC filings from Yahoo, VMware, and VMware parent EMC will all say something similar in the section in the back of the back where the pro forma accounting is done. This deal was immaterial except for the orphan technology and orphan technologists left in the lurch.

But VMware/Yahoo/Zimbra (why do I feel I should list them alphabetically?) is not immaterial to understanding the Oracle (NYSE:ORCL)/Sun (JAVA)/MySQL issue.

As explained in my blogging often, I don't believe there is any such thing as an open source software market. There are so few people that deploy software under open source license terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) solely because it uses those license Ts&Cs (of which there are dozens of variations) that there are no market dynamics to measure and opine about. No market dynamics equals no real-life market. No real-life market equals no meaningful information technology (IT) investment-market criteria.

But if you disagree and believe there is some benefit in investing in a company simply because of the license Ts&Cs it associates with its software products and/or services (as opposed to because of its functionality, or the fact that it works on a certain platform, or is integrated with other software IT users like, or is cheap, or....), this is the connection between the VMWare/Yahoo/Zimbra story and the months-long Sun/Oracle/MySQL saga: the value of Zimbra was immaterial.

As part of the recent rumors leading up to the asset sale, it is widely reported that Yahoo unsucessfully shopped its Zimbra open source messaging software all around the Valley all last year before VMware and EMC entered the picture. If the rumors are true, it appears Zimbra ended up at VMware at a significant discount from the $350 million Yahoo paid for Zimbra a few years ago.

If that's the case, if it is no longer easy to find someone willing to pay not only huge multiples but multiples of any kind for software companies just because they put the words open source on their home page, then that could be another reason Oracle/Sun does not want to spin out MySQL, for which Sun also paid a high multiple.

I happen to think Oracle actually wants to further develop and actively market MySQL but maybe it just does not want to unload a billion-dollar baby at pennies on the dollar.

About this article:

Want to share your opinion on this article? Add a comment.
Disagree with this article? .
To report a factual error in this article, click here