Oracle Helps EU Save Face as Battle over Sun Ends

Includes: JAVA, ORCL
by: Dennis Byron

Aaron Ricadela of BusinessWeek is out December 14 with what looks like some good inside baseball reporting on the final innings of the Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) win against the European Union (EU) Competition Commission over the Sun (JAVA) acquisition. A non-binding PR release from Oracle pledging not to be Oracle for a few years when it comes to MySQL seems to be all it took. Interestingly, Ricadela says the thing that pushed the apparent EU approval over the top was Oracle's quiet commitment…

“to let other technology vendors continue licensing MySQL for use in their products for another five years”

on the same terms that Sun had offered them.

So who are these poor little technology companies? Are they a bunch of struggling open source based MySQL, JBoss and Zimbra wannabees? Ricadela says they include Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC), F5 Networks (NASDAQ:FFIV), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), Facebook [partially owned by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)], and Twitter. SAP has an arrangement with MySQL as well. He says

“EU regulators were concerned that Oracle could squelch competition in the database market by owning (both) the top business database software and the most widely used database among Internet companies.”

Oracle argued unsuccessfully that these are two distinct markets. The EU decided correctly that that claim was bogus. No 2008 market analysis I've seen divided Sun's revenue for MySQL from Oracle's revenue for Version 11.

So what Oracle did was give some competitors a few years to find other options if they do not like what are likely to be higher support fees and other more expensive terms and conditions in the long term. Clearly the EU was simply looking for a way to save face given that no one in the world objected to the deal except a small Finnish company called Maria offering a MySQL knock-off (and hoping to get all that Google, Symantec, Facebook, etc. business).

The version of MySQL used by these companies is not open source according to the BusinessWeek article. That explains why the two-month-long attempt by Maria to stoke the fires of open source blogoblatherers and the last minute direct call to the open source community to write to the EU fell on deaf ears in Brussels. Recent 451 Group research shows how the open source community that uses and works with MySQL soldiers on depite all the EU intrigue.

The press focus on Oracle's more visible “pledge to spend at least $72 million in the next three years to develop MySQL and on the company's commitment to continue releasing open-source versions of the software with the latest technical enhancements” illustrates how really un-open-source the MySQL product is culturally.

As with most commercially popular open source software, we are not talking about nerds in the attic working through the night cranking out code. To put it another way, most popular open source software is built in the cathedral, not out in the bazaar. And more and more of it is built right in the sanctuary.