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Oracle-Sun Deal Makes Headway

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Today, as a result of "constructive discussions with the European Commission," Oracle released a statement of commitments to the customers, developers, and users of MySQL.  The statement addressed some major concerns held by the EU and MySQL stakeholders - concerns which have held up the merger for several months.  Although the hearings were portrayed as being belligerent by many news outlets, it now seems that EC chair Neelie Kroes had good reasons to be optimistic that Thursday and Friday's hearings would yield results.  

First, Oracle addressed commercial licensing concerns by vowing to keep MySQL storage engine APIs public.  Oracle plans to change Sun's current policy by not requiring third parties to release their storage engine implementations under the GPL if they have used MySQL APIs.  MySQL customers will be allowed to extend Sun's commercial license for five more years, Oracle says, and they will not be required to buy support.

Oracle also pledged to maintain MySQL as a "competitive force in the database market."  Specifically, they intend to periodically enhance MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture and create a customer advisory board.  Oracle says it will also create a vendor advisory board.  The company restated its commitment to increase Sun's current investment in MySQL R&D.  The reference manual will also be maintained and updated with no cost for downloading.

There are some caveats at the end of the document where it says, "commitments shall continue until the fifth anniversary of the closing of the transaction."  The statement also ends with a "Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements," similar to a disclaimer in the Oracle FAQ about the future of Sun technologies such as GlassFish and NetBeans.  The closing remarks highlight the fact that the document is in no way legally binding.

Florian Mueller, an advisor to the MySQL founder who is opposed to the deal, called Oracle's statement "cosmetic."  He said the proposal wouldn't allow business-database users to easily make investments in and around MySQL.  The EU, on the other hand, considers the statement to be a big step in the right direction.  

Neelie Kroes reiterated her statement from Thursday saying that she is "optimistic that the case will have a satisfactory outcome."  In a press release that followed Oracle's statement, the EU confirmed that talks had been productive and that the commitments were "an important new element to be taken into account in the ongoing proceedings."  The EU has recently been under pressure from the the U.S. to complete the investigation.  The U.S. Justice Department has already cleared the deal and 59 Senators recently sent a letter to the EU urging them to finish the investigation, citing Sun job losses as a key motivator.  There is a possibility that Oracle's sweet-talk could lead to a decision on the merger as early as this week.  However, the EU may want better guarantees from Oracle before they sign off on the deal.


Loren Kratzke replied on Mon, 2009/12/14 - 4:39pm

I remain unconviced that there is any long term good about Oracle owning Java, MySQL, or NetBeans.

Jess Holle replied on Mon, 2009/12/14 - 7:22pm

Better Oracle owning Java, NetBeans, etc, than Sun on their own -- as Sun is too wounded to stand on their own any more.  They don't have (nearly) the resources to do just what most desparately needs doing in any of these spaces.  This was, unfortunately, absolutely abundantly clear at JavaOne.

While I would have liked to see Sun make loads of money and continue with their relatively benevolent open source approach to things, they failed to stay financially viable on their own.

This then leads to a question of which realistic purchaser of Sun would be least bad -- as the lack of a purchaser will simply lead to worse and worse stagnation and an eventual firesale of all assets.  I don't know if Oracle is absolutely the least bad, but they're certainly far from the worst (think blue...)

I suppose that it is possible that some of the open source communities Sun has been fostering/leading/financing, e.g. Glassfish and NetBeans, will effectively walk away from Sun and stand vibrantly on their own.  Either these communities haven't given up on Sun+Oracle continuing to fulfil vital leadership and funding roles or these communities don't contain anyone else willing and able to take up the reins.  I suspect the communities are stuck in a wait-and-see mode along with everyone else -- courtesy of the EU.

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