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.
Oracles list of commitments
Here is Oracle’s 10-point list of commitments to MySQL and its community that it says it will guarantee for five years if the acquisition is sanctioned:
1. Continued availability of storage engine APIs. Oracle shall maintain and periodically enhance MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture to allow users the flexibility to choose from a portfolio of native and third-party supplied storage engines.
MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture shall mean MySQL’s current practice of using, publicly-available, documented application programming interfaces to allow storage engine vendors to “plug” into the MySQL database server. Documentation shall be consistent with the documentation currently provided by Sun.
2. Non-assertion. As copyright holder, Oracle will change Sun’s current policy and shall not assert or threaten to assert against anyone that a third-party vendor’s implementations of storage engines must be released under the GPL because they have implemented the application programming interfaces available as part of MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture.
A commercial license will not be required by Oracle from third-party storage engine vendors in order to implement the application programming interfaces available as part of MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture. Oracle shall reproduce this commitment in contractual commitments to storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun.
3. License commitment. Upon termination of their current MySQL OEM agreement, Oracle shall offer storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun an extension of their agreement on the same terms and conditions for a term not exceeding Dec. 10, 2014. Oracle shall reproduce this commitment in contractual commitments to storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun.
4. Commitment to enhance MySQL in the future under the GPL. Oracle shall continue to enhance MySQL and make subsequent versions of MySQL, including Version 6, available under the GPL. Oracle will not release any new, enhanced version of MySQL Enterprise Edition without contemporaneously releasing a new, also enhanced version of MySQL Community Edition licensed under the GPL. Oracle shall continue to make the source code of all versions of MySQL Community Edition publicly available at no charge.
5. Support not mandatory. Customers will not be required to purchase support services from Oracle as a condition to obtaining a commercial license to MySQL.
6. Increase spending on MySQL research and development. Oracle commits to make available appropriate funding for the MySQL continued development (GPL version and commercial version). During each of the next three years, Oracle will spend more on research and development (R&D) for the MySQL Global Business Unit than Sun spent in its most recent fiscal year (about $24 million) preceding the closing of the transaction.
7. MySQL Customer Advisory Board. No later than six months after the anniversary of the closing, Oracle will create and fund a customer advisory board, including in particular end users and embedded customers, to provide guidance and feedback on MySQL development priorities and other issues of importance to MySQL customers.
8. MySQL Storage Engine Vendor Advisory Board. No later than six months after the anniversary of the closing, Oracle will create and fund a storage engine vendor advisory board, to provide guidance and feedback on MySQL development priorities and other issues of importance to MySQL storage engine vendors.
9. MySQL Reference Manual. Oracle will continue to maintain, update and make available for download at no charge a MySQL Reference Manual similar in quality to that currently made available by Sun.
10. Preserve Customer Choice for Support. Oracle will ensure that end-user and embedded customers paying for MySQL support subscriptions will be able to renew their subscriptions on an annual or multi-year basis, according to the customer’s preference.
“The geographic scope of these commitments shall be worldwide and these commitments shall continue until the fifth anniversary of the closing of the transaction,” Oracle concluded.