Sun couldn't execute on such a strategy because it lacks the database know-how and open-source credibility, Vallee said. "IBM could do this way better than Sun," he said.
IBM also has experience with such "scorched earth" strategies. When IBM threw its support behind the Apache HTTP Server in the late 1990s, it helped the free, open-source web server quickly overtake the Netscape web server, which was Netscape's main source of revenue.
On the other hand, IBM's attempts to pry users from Microsoft Office by offering Lotus Symphony for little or no cost have yet to bear fruit.
Would there be cannibalisation?
Upgrading MySQL into an enterprise database could hurt IBM's flagship DB2. Vallee, however, said IBM has long treated DB2 as a "cash cow," milking longtime users for maintenance and upgrades.
A stronger MySQL wouldn't hurt DB2's new customers since there aren't many, Vallee said, nor would it cause many existing customers to consider a lengthy, tricky migration.
MySQL could hurt Informix, which IBM acquired in 2001 to help it regain the database crown, albeit for only one year.
IBM hasn't put much marketing muscle behind Informix for years, though its user base, remains strong and loyal.
What MySQL would cannibalise is DB2 Express, the free database IBM created in reaction to MySQL and other open-source databases.
But "it's not like DB2 Express does IBM much good or harm, it's just there," Vallee said.
Independent database analyst Curt Monash also likes the strategy, though he is dubious whether MySQL could ever be bulked up enough to become a true "Oracle-killer."
"If IBM wanted to produce a true high-end open-source DBMS, it would be easier via PostgreSQL than MySQL," he wrote in an email.
If IBM is not interested in a scorched earth strategy, Vallee said it could aim for a more modest but sure-fire plan: Wring more money out of its paying corporate users.
Sun tried to do that last year but, after an outcry, backed off.
"I think IBM would have the guts to enforce certain rules that Sun didn't try," Vallee said. For instance, Sun doesn't require support customers to purchase subscriptions for all of their MySQL databases, something IBM would have the leverage to demand and enforce.
"I think IBM is in a better position to say, 'Either we support all of your databases or none of them,'" he said.