As you may have heard, Sun Microsystems recently ponied up a cool $1 billion for open-source database developer MySQL AB. MySQL has been an integral aspect of many Web development products, and has emerged as the world’s most popular open-source database software. MySQL AB claims that more than 100 million copies of MySQL have been downloaded over the years, and the MySQL developer community is large and vocal.

Some of the success of MySQL can be partly attributed to the past few years’ rapid growth in database-driven Web applications, many of which rely on MySQL and PHP. MySQL has also been widely adopted by many large enterprises for internal use; the MySQL Web site lists dozens of corporate giants that use their software, from Airbus/EADS to Apple and Sears to Citrix. MySQL has also been available for a huge variety of platforms, from Mac OS X to multiple variants of Windows and a plethora of UNIX and Linux distributions. MySQL is currently offered in two editions, which both share the same code base: Community Server and Enterprise Server. The impressive amount of adoption that MySQL enjoys is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Sun came knocking.

In a recent statement, Zack Urlocker, MySQL AB’s executive vice president of products, reiterated MySQL’s status as the ubiquitous database of choice for many online applications. “We are proud that MySQL is established as the ‘de facto’ database for modern online applications—for both large and small Web properties,” Urlocker said. “While many of the world’s largest Internet-based companies rely upon MySQL, our database is also helping innumerable start-ups handle their explosive growth to reach their business goals.”

It’s clear that MySQL is a widely-used and popular open-source database, but what does Sun gain from their $1 billion acquisition? Given that Sun has only been an interested onlooker in such markets as enterprise databases, data warehousing, and business intelligence (BI), the MySQL acquisition could do wonders for Sun in those markets: MySQL is a contributing technology in all of those spaces, and MySQL immediately gives Sun a seat at the table in these emerging, high-growth markets.

Sun’s Java is also a perfect companion to MySQL, given that both technologies are used extensively in next-generation Web applications. Sun also could use MySQL as a great value-add story for their bundling efforts: When talking to prospective customers about what they might like to choose from the Sun Microsystems product menu, MySQL opens up a new page of entrees. Sun Microsystems CEO and president Jonathan Schwartz seems to think so, and said as much when the deal was announced. “\[The MySQL\] acquisition reaffirms Sun’s position at the center of the global Web economy. Supporting our overall growth plan, acquiring MySQL amplifies our investments in the technologies demanded by those driving extreme growth and efficiency, from Internet media titans to the world’s largest traditional enterprises,” said Schwartz. “MySQL’s employees and culture, along with its near ubiquity across the Web, make it an ideal fit with Sun’s open approach to network innovation. And most importantly, this announcement boosts our investments into the communities at the heart of innovation on the Internet and of enterprises that rely on technology as a competitive weapon.”

The idea of large companies buying open-source software developers certainly isn’t new: Citrix gobbled up XenSource a few months prior to the Sun/MySQL deal, and the open-source developer grab is likely to continue. On the downside, integrating any new product acquisition into a large enterprise like Sun can always be a challenge. And then there’s the question of the large, vocal, and passionate MySQL user community. Will they stay as committed to MySQL given that the product is now joined at the hip with a large, for-profit corporation?

Only time will answer these key questions, but Sun and MySQL have definitely stirred up the pot and disrupted the status quo in the enterprise relational database management system (RDBMS) market. And from where I stand, roiling the waters a bit seems like a pretty good thing.