Oracle is seeing fierce opposition from the European Union against its proposed Sun Microsystems acquisition. Technology and consumer groups alike are pushing the European Commission to block the deal for one reason: MySQL.
Sun owns MySQL, and opponents are concerned that Oracle's ownership of the open-source database will stifle competition.
The EC is investigating Oracle's planned $7 billion Sun acquisition and is expected to announce a decision to approve or deny the deal by Nov. 19. The commission has expressed concerns about Oracle's acquisition affecting competition in the database market, and it has supporters in the private sector.
"If Oracle is allowed to acquire MySQL, it will predictably limit the development of the functionality and performance of the MySQL software platform, leading to profound harm to those who use MySQL software to power applications," wrote the Open Rights Group, Knowledge Ecology International, and software developer Richard Stallman in an Oct. 19 letter to Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.
Keeping MySQL Open
As these foes see it, while Oracle's database is the dominant player for the old database market, MySQL is the dominant player in emerging markets. Oracle competes primarily with IBM and Microsoft in the enterprise market.
"Defenders of the Oracle acquisition of its competitor naively say Oracle cannot harm MySQL, because a free version of the software is available to anyone under GNU GPL version 2.0, and if Oracle is not a good host for the GPL version of the code, future development will be taken up by other businesses and individual programmers, who could freely and easily 'fork' the GPL'd code into a new platform," they wrote.
The concern is that Oracle will put MySQL on the back seat to protect its proprietary database interests. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison recently said Oracle will not spin off MySQL after the merger. The authors of the letter said during that announcement, Ellison made the "outlandish claim" that Oracle's product is not in competition with MySQL.
"While some merger defenders have suggested that the MySQL acquisition will bolster Oracle's position with respect to competition from Microsoft's SQL Server, it is naturally more likely that Oracle will prioritize protecting its core product, the Oracle proprietary database, from further erosion of market share and the shrinking of licensing fees, and this will most efficiently be accomplished by curbing the growth and improvement of the free version of MySQL," the authors wrote.
Staunch EU Opposition
Stallman, the Open Rights Group and Knowledge Ecology aren't the only ones opposing Oracle's acquisition of MySQL as part of the Sun deal.
Michael Widenius, creator of MySQL and founder of the namesake company acquired by Sun, and Florian Mueller, an EU strategist and former MySQL shareholder, are also speaking out. Widenius has suggested Oracle should resolve antitrust concerns by committing to sell MySQL. Mueller is even more pointed.
"Every day that passes without Oracle excluding MySQL from the deal is further evidence that Oracle just wants to get rid of its open-source challenger and that the EU's investigation is needed to safeguard innovation and customer choice," Mueller said. "This is highly critical because the entire knowledge-based economy is built on databases."