Oracle on Dec. 14 released its first public statement in weeks regarding the pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems, attempting to reassure the European Commission and Sun's MySQL development community that it will maintain -- and even enhance -- Sun's successful stewardship of the open source database.
In its statement to the press, Oracle said that it "has engaged in constructive discussions with the European Commission regarding the concerns expressed by the commission about the Oracle/Sun Microsystems transaction, and in particular the maintenance of MySQL as a competitive force in the database market."
Oracle then offered a 10-point list of commitments it says it will guarantee for five years if the acquisition is sanctioned.
Oracle met with EC regulators in a closed-door hearing on Dec. 10 to outline its case. According to eWEEK sources, the Oracle representatives' performance was persuasive enough to soften regulators' fears that development of the open source MySQL database will become diminished under Oracle's ownership. In fact, sources told eWEEK that the commission was all but ready to sanction the deal.
However, open source activists dead set against the acquisition were quick to respond, calling Oracle's statement "totally ineffectual."
"In an outpouring of support ... Europe's antitrust authority is now getting many thousands of e-mails from MySQL users every day, asking regulators to protect the open source database," Florian Mueller, a former MySQL shareholder and adviser, told eWEEK. Mueller is working for MySQL creator and founder Michael "Monty" Widenius in opposing the deal.
Widenius wrote a scathing Dec. 12 blog post against the acquisition, saying that "a weak MySQL is worth about one billion dollars per year to Oracle, maybe more."
Widenius, open source software advocate Richard Stallman, and several software development industry groups staunchly oppose the inclusion of MySQL into the Oracle product line because they see it as a clear conflict of interest that would result in the eventual phasing out of the popular open source resource.
MySQL is commonly used in the data centers of Web 2.0 companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon.com, and it also has a loyal following in the midrange and small and midsize business markets. Estimates of its installed base range from 6 million to 20 million or more, former MYSQL CEO Marten Mickos told eWEEK.
Oracle's main product is its enterprise parallel database software and the middleware that goes with it. Sun, which bought MySQL for $1 billion in January 2008, is an enterprise IT systems company that does not primarily make database systems. MySQL, despite owning less than 10 percent of the market revenue, has been Oracle's largest open-source competitor for most of the last decade.
However, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has said publicly several times that he believes that MySQL has its own niche market and that owning its trademark and codebase does not represent a conflict of interest to compete with his own company's proprietary databases. The U.S. Department of Justice agreed and approved the proposed $7.4 billion acquisition last August.
The Brussels-based EC, which serves as the law enforcement body of the 27-nation European Union, is due to make a decision on Jan. 27, 2010, about whether to sanction the acquisition, so Oracle can continue to do business in Europe. Ellison has said that Sun is losing money at a $100 million-per-month clip, thanks to the uncertainty surrounding the deal.