1Oracle’s 15 Key Plot Points in Its Struggle with the EC over Buying Sun Microsystems
It’s been a long, strange and expensive trip for Oracle in its quest to add Sun Microsystems to its list of company acquisitions. And the final chapter isn’t yet written.
This started in early 2009 when word got out that Sun was up for sale. At the time, IBM was first in line as a buyer, and that scenario nearly happened. The transaction was only a few days from fruition in mid-April when some major issues got in the way and the deal fell through. A few days later, on April 20, Oracle surprised a lot of people by announcing that it would acquire Sun for about $7.4 billion, less Sun’s cash on hand.
Since April 20, it’s been a rocky road for Oracle and for Sun, which is losing a lot of potential sales due to the uncertainty of the situation. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has said he believes Sun is losing about $100 million per month, and that’s a lot of money for anyone — even the billionaire Oracle CEO.
The major sticking point is an open-source database that Sun bought for $1 billion two years ago: MySQL. The EC is withholding its blessing on the deal until it is satisfied that MySQL will be allowed to innovate and compete fairly in the IT marketplace. The fact that Oracle’s own proprietary database often competes directly against it is seen as a huge conflict of interest; obviously, this has been the crux of the problem. Ellison has said that MySQL does not compete with his company’s bread-and-butter databases. This eWEEK slide show covers the 15 most important plot points in this lingering international IT saga, with the final chapter still to be written.
Some of the earliest reactions of the MySQL community to the idea of Oracle owning the MySQL codebase were recorded here at eWEEK. Three days after the announcement, attendees at the MySQL Conference in Santa Clara were asked their opinions. The question was generally met with a smile, then followed by a measured, thoughtful response. Answers ranged from an absolute “No way” to equally absolute “Yes, it will be great for MySQL,” with middle-of-road opinions thrown into the mix.
The EC, which represents 27 European nations, schedules an antitrust review date of Sep. 3 to discuss the multinational companies’ proposed deal. It will look closely at two main areas of concern: Sun’s Java networking software franchise and the enterprise parallel database market. It will soon drop the Java talk and focus solely on MySQL.
The U.S. Department of Justice, charged with enforcing federal antitrust laws, takes a full four months but ultimately sanctions the deal as not being a threat to competition in the parallel database market. Industry analysts tell eWEEK they do not expect this to be problematic for the EC, either. Wrong!
Digital civil liberties organization Open Rights Group, Knowledge Ecology International and open source software guru Richard Stallman tell the EC in a letter that they are concerned about Oracle’s possible squashing of competition in the database market by abandoning MySQL. A deluge of protests begins after this event.
Oracle pleads its case before the EC on Dec. 10, then offers a 10-point list of commitments it says it will guarantee for five years if the acquisition is sanctioned. The company is now willing to create a separate entity within a combined Oracle-Sun to manage Sun’s MySQL open database business in order to get the acquisition completed.