Why Oracle Must Decide Soon About Keeping MySQL

Analysis: Industry experts have varying opinions on whether Oracle should divest itself of MySQL so: a) it can conclude the $7.4 billion Sun Microsystems acquisition, and b) satisfy people who are concerned that Oracle will own a database monopoly. But most agree on one thing: No one really knows what Oracle's intentions for MySQL are.

As of Oct. 24, Oracle has been unable to convince a key European Commission antitrust regulator that it will develop and promote the freely available, open-source MySQL database as well as it would one of its homegrown -- and much more expensive -- parallel database products.

This conflict is becoming more problematic by the day for Oracle, the world's second-largest software company, because the EC wields a great deal of power in this area. The Redwood City, Calif.-based corporation needs to make a big decision as soon as possible: Shall it continue to fight for MySQL, or not?

Oracle is in the process of acquiring the copyrights to the MySQL code base while it trudges through the legalities of acquiring Sun Microsystems in a $7.4 billion deal announced last April 20 and later cleared of antitrust liability by the U.S. Department of Justice. The EC won't sanction the deal if it perceives an antitrust problem, and Oracle needs this blessing in order to do business in Europe.
MySQL's trademark acronym (which stands for My Structured Query Language), the code, and most of the project's key development leadership have called Sun home since January 2008, when the company bought MySQL for $1 billion.
However, Oracle is going to have to plead a stronger case to the EC and its hard-boiled Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, so it can conclude the deal and stop the oozing red ink from Sun, which is losing about $100 million a month, according to Oracle CEO/founder Larry Ellison.
MySQL was developed in Europe by Sweden's David Axmark and Finnish developer Michael Widenius and first released in 1995. It is in daily use inside an estimated 6 million IT systems around the world, including those of Google, Amazon.com, eBay, Yahoo and numerous other business systems. Most database administrators use the free version, but Sun also offers a paid edition that comes with support services.
MySQL is considered a major resource by many IT people -- especially in Europe -- who want to see it remain out of the clutches of a proprietary-software driven company.
Oracle, along with its acquisitions of PeopleSoft and Siebel, owns nearly half of the enterprise parallel database market. IBM, with its DB2, comes in at around 22 percent. Microsoft SQL Server has about 19 percent, with MySQL, Sybase and Teradata taking up most of the final 9 percent.
Oracle would control more than half the market following the Sun acquisition, most analysts agree.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...