Key members of the Sun Drizzle team have recently joined Rackspace. This is great news for Drizzle users, but also begins positioning Rackspace as an enterprise software provider for the next decade.

Drizzle, a fork of the MySQL database, is described as a database designed for the cloud. The project was founded by MySQL’s, and now Oracle’s, Brian Aker. Development of Drizzle occurred with Sun’s blessing after Sun had acquired MySQL and while Sun was still independent. Jay Pipes, another core Drizzle developer writes about his experience on the MySQL team before joining the Drizzle project:

“For almost 3 years, I had sent numerous emails to the MySQL internal email discussion lists asking the engineering and marketing departments… to recognize the importance and necessity of major refactoring of the MySQL kernel, and the need to modularize the kernel or risk having more modular databases overtake MySQL as the key web infrastructure database… My ideas were met with mostly kind responses, but nothing ever materialized as far as major refactoring efforts were concerned. “

Jay began working on Drizzle, and stayed on with Sun after the Oracle acquisition was approved. Jay and other members of the Drizzle team, including Monty Taylor, Eric Day, Stewart Smith and Lee Bieber eventually joined Rackspace on the Rackspace Cloud team.

Funding open source for profit:
Like any hosting company, Rackspace has a rich history of using open source within its hosting offerings and to run and manage their infrastructure. However, with Rackspace’s prior investments in the open source Cassandra project and new investments in Drizzle, Rackspace is shifting from a consumer of open source to a producer of open source. In doing so, Rackspace is also evolving its focus from a hosting provider to an enterprise software provider. The fact that the enterprise software will be made available through usage-based Cloud services and APIs is secondary. Rackspace is increasingly likely to compete with enterprise software vendors such as Oracle, IBM, VMware or Microsoft over the next decade. This competition is likely to open the door to Rackspace being acquired by an existing enterprise software vendor. I suspect this will happen as Rackspace’s revenue base shifts from hosting to enterprises seeking software platforms through Cloud offerings. The latter would offer higher profit potential than the former. This is important for a potential acquirer that needs to maintain high profit ratios for Wall Street. At 68 percent and 5 percent, Rackspace’s current gross profit and net income percentages would drag down the 80 percent and 20 percent respective figures that, for instance, Oracle and Microsoft achieve today.

Rackspace’s open source investments or enterprise software capabilities won’t surely stop with Drizzle. Databases are critical to Platform as a Service (PaaS), but so to are runtimes. This would suggest Rackspace’s open source involvement has room to grow in the area of Java or dynamic scripting language runtimes.

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