Can MariaDB’s commercial business be saved?

Posted by on 21 February, 2024

This post was originally published on this site

A non-binding proposal to acquire MariaDB, the provider of the relational database management system (RDBMS) of the same name—a fork of the open-source MySQL database, has sparked speculations about the company’s future and what the acquisition would mean for its enterprise customers.  

The proposal was for MariaDB PLC, the firm that provides database services and SaaS offerings built on the core open-source database that is managed by the MariaDB Foundation.

Earlier this month, MariaDB PLC received a proposal of acquisition, to the tune of $37 million, from California-headquartered investment firm K1 Investment Management.

The proposal, which is non-binding and may not result in an actual offer for acquisition, puts a value of $0.55 for each share of MariaDB—a 189% premium over the database firm’s closing share price on February 5.

A rocky ride for the last year

MariaDB PLC has been on a rocky ride for the past year, including laying off staffers, changing leadership, spinning off parts of its business, and filing cautionary statements with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The company’s path to financial difficulty began in December 2022 when it decided to go public via the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) route with Angel Pond Holdings.

After going public, the company saw its market capitalization plummet from $445 million to just over $10 million by the end of 2023. The sharp drop in value can be attributed to the company’s poor quarterly performance and history of losses since the last quarter of 2022, according to statements filed with the SEC.

While the first quarter of 2023 saw the company lay off staffers, the second quarter saw it file cautionary statements about its financial health via a prospectus. The company said at the time that it was looking at attracting financial investments to keep the lights on.

This was followed by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) issuing a warning to the company in September. The stock exchange had warned MariaDB that it was failing to meet listing norms that make it necessary for listed firms to ensure that their market capitalization doesn’t drop below $50 million for a trading period of 30 days.

October brought in more woes for the database-as-a-service provider with the company being forced to lay off 28% of its workforce and shut down two of its products, MariaDB Xpand and MariaDB SkySQL. Three months later, Microsoft announced that Azure Database for MariaDB was scheduled for retirement by September 19, 2025.

In the meantime, the company received a takeover proposal from existing investor Runa Capital, which didn’t work out. Then an associate company of Runa Capital by the name of RP Ventures offered MariaDB a loan of $26.5 million at an interest of 10%.

Commercial business on the brink

The continued losses that forced layoffs, de-listing, and product shutdowns may have also ensured the ruin of MariaDB’s commercial business, experts said.

More enterprises have been switching from the MariaDB Enterprise Server edition to the MariaDB Community Server edition ever since Microsoft announced the end of life in 2025, according to Thomas Spoelstra, a database expert with Dutch database management services firm OptimaData.

OptimaData manages multiple database management systems including Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, Sybase, MySQL, MariaDB, MongoDB, and PostgreSQL.

MariaDB Enterprise always has been less popular than the community edition, Spoelstra said, adding that most of OptimaData’s clients use the latter because technical support for MariaDB Enterprise is “very” expensive.

This results in most enterprises using the community edition along with MariaDB offerings such as the Galera Cluster, the expert explained.

Additionally, Spoelstra said that not only have the financial difficulties forced enterprise customers to look at other options but have forced cloud service providers to slowly steer away from MariaDB’s commercial offerings.

Samsung is one example of an enterprise customer who might face challenges due to the shuttering of MariaDB Xpand and eventually look at other options. This could pose a significant cost for the Korean giant, as the company uses 50 MariaDB Xpand nodes to operate a single database where it hosts data of its smartphone customers.

An email sent to Samsung seeking more details on their MariaDB investment went unanswered.

In addition, the Korean electronics giant’s cloud and technology services division, Samsung SDS, offers MariaDB as a managed database offering. A separate email seeking responses on the availability of the service and its planned continuity also went unanswered.

Customers losing confidence

The discontinuation of offerings by MariaDB has forced enterprise customers to lose confidence in the company, said Tony Baer, principal analyst at dbInsight. These kinds of developments will make any customer enterprise insecure about whether their investments will be next for the chopping block, Baer added.

Although the decisions, such as laying off staffers or discontinuation of offerings, were taken by MariaDB to reduce costs, these decisions have impacted the profile of the company, according to Matt Aslett, director at Ventana Research, an arm of research and advisory firm ISG.

The impact has been profound, especially in relation to the company’s DBaaS and distributed SQL offerings, which were potential areas of long-term growth and innovation, Aslett explained.

Given the current plight of MariaDB’s commercial business, Baer said that he sees any acquisition activity as “nothing more than a Hail Mary pass to protect what are now stranded legacy customer investments.”

In fact, if Spoelstra is correct the acquisition by K1 or any other company will further accelerate the movement of customers from MariaDB to MySQL, ProxySQL, and other options.

Presently, MariaDB, according to data from 6Sense, has a 2.08% share of the relational database market category, which is 0.07% less than what the company had reported in April of last year.

For the quarter ended December, MariaDB PLC posted a net loss of $8.8 million, driven by interest expense, restructuring costs, and costs associated with the discontinuation of products.

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