Turning a funny little relational database project into one of the largest commercial open source companies ever seen, Mårten Mickos oversaw the growth of MySQL from 2001 all the way through its acquisition of MySQL by Sun in 2008. In February 2009, Mickos dusted Sun off his feet and presumably took a long vacation. Now he’s back in the news, joining the Board of Directors of three year-old RightScale.
There are parallels between RightScale and MySQL. Based on open source software? Check. Sitting pretty at the front of a burgeoning market? Check. Strong and contributing community of users? Check.
MySQL and RightScale also have a venture capital firm in common: Benchmark Capital. Michael Crandall, RightScale CEO said he met Mickos through that connection, and that Mickos was an informal advisor and friend.
RightScale is almost out of the nest now, with a high profile in cloud computing. RightScale provides management and tools for cloud consumers across all the major cloud providers. It boasts buzz-worthy new-school customers like Animoto and Sling Media and old-school giants like Capgemini. But, competitors are springing up like weeds, armed with funding and new ideas, and customers already paying for computing power can be hard to sell on additional spending.
Mickos was contacted for this article but declined to be interviewed because he didn’t wish undue publicity on the move. Crandall said that Mickos will act in an advisory role on strategy and business development.
Crandall sees other parallels between cloud computing and MySQL. In its early days, developers adopted the free database without approval from higher ups because of the way it was so well suited to the new class of Web-based, interactive applications they were writing. “In a similar fashion, cloud adoption is being done through ‘Shadow IT,’” said Crandall.
Leveraging Amazon’s cheap computers instead of free software, Crandall hopes to take RightScale down the same road, fostering users of its free suite of cloud management tools and selling sophisticated extras to those who don’t have the time or the expertise to do it themselves.
Whether or not RightScale and Crandall will be successful remains to be seen. Cloud computing and the marketplace growing around it is in its formative years, and the road to maturity is littered with cast-off toys that have been outgrown.