A couple weeks ago, Oracle gave MySQL a knife in the back by buying out Innobase and walking away with the rights to several features that MySQL had long used for its own products. This went hand in hand with Oracle’s announcement of a free “lite” version of its 10g database in an obvious attempt to lure potential customers who might be contemplating the open source route.
Now Oracle’s on the wrong side of the blade. Microsoft has unveiled SQL Server 2005, which it hopes will compete feature-for-feature with Oracle and IBM’s enterprise database offerings. Like Oracle Microsoft is offering a free “express” version (aka–limited to a single CPU, a gigabyte of RAM and a 4GB databases size–eerily identical to Oracle’s Database Lite). But Microsoft is also dangling a 50-percent discount to anyone looking to migrate from Oracle to Microsoft.
Oh, and during all this, MySQL announced the official “production ready” release of MySQL 5.0, the first version to include noticeable absentees from previous versions, including store procedures and triggers.
The database market hasn’t seen this much action since the Borland vs. Microsoft desktop database wars of the mid 90s. But is it good news for customers? Probably yes, at least in the short term. These sorts of fights tend to drive down end-user costs and rapidly improve feature sets. In the long term, however, such business altercations tend to leave casualties (remember Ashton-Tate?)–and a single dominator in a given space.
The open source movement helps temper the ability for any company to completely control a market (WordPerfect and WordStar may be gone, for instance, but OpenOffice lives. [Ed Note: OK, I’m an idiot. WP is far from gone. Apologies to Corel.]) But you always have to worry when the “competitive upgrade” and “free version” fever hits–people sometimes start forgetting that the goal of business is actually to make money.