As tension builds in the standoff between Oracle and the European Commission (EC) over Oracle’s proposed ownership of MySQL, Redwood Shores has picked up the support of the Independent Oracle Users Group (IOUG).
This is hardly a stunning development, although Chairman Ellison may find some comfort in knowing he has the backing of 20,000 database administrators, developers, architects, technical managers as he continues on his crusade.
Late last week the IOUG released a letter opposing the EC’s Statement of Objection, in which the EC made clear – again — what would happen to European users’ freedom of choice if Oracle controlled both its own dominant proprietary database and MySQL.
In the IOUG letter president Ian Abramson tried to make the case that by owning MySQL, Oracle would actually increase competition in the database market instead of limiting it. As evidence he pointed to Oracle’s staunch support of open standards along with how it has treated several open source technologies it has acquired over the past decade.
“Consistently, Oracle has demonstrated its intention to define standard approaches that are open to all, and the acquisition of MySQL is expected to be no different,” Abramson wrote. “Oracle has shown it is a company that supports open standards. We anticipate that Oracle will continue to foster innovation and openness with MySQL following the acquisition and not hinder competition.”
Underlining his point about how well Oracle is capable of working and playing well with others in the open source world, he cites several acquisitions the company has made and how well those technologies have done since including TimesTen, Berkeley DB and Hyperion’s Essbase.
Abramson added that should Oracle decide to “deviate” from this pattern of behavior of the way it has treated the technologies it has acquired, it is his belief the market would be quick to drive a whole new set of viable competitors into the open source world.
In the latest go round involving the EC’s Statement Of Objection to the Oracle-Sun deal, Ellison and the EC’s Neelie Kroes slapped each other around pretty good. Ellison gave the EC a backhander saying its objections were based on a “profound misunderstanding of how open source worked, and Kroes countered with a sharp left hook labeling Ellison’s criticism as “facile and superficial.”
Why is this battle over a free piece of software, which represents such a small part of the overall $7.4 billion deal growing increasingly contentious? Some good answers were given in a New York Times story that points out this case is helping surface the very different views of open source software.
First open source software is much more economically important to Europeans than it is to Americans. In the story Michael Cusumano, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management says the trans-Atlantic “megawar” makes sense in that “the Europeans come to the defense of open-source companies because the big proprietary companies are nearly all American.”
The story goes on to say European governments have looked at open source software as a “potential tool of economic development and independence.” For instance, according to the story, several major European countries actively encourage local and central governments to consider products like MySQL and Linux over proprietary platform such as Oracle databases and Microsoft’s Windows.
The EC is clearly considering what this decision might mean to the overall health of some European economies. It appears to be a much more important consideration to the EC than it was to the U.S. Department of Justice who approved the deal with not too much muss and fuss months ago.
So this battle could serve to resolve a much larger issue than what havoc Oracle might wreak among its competitors with a free database. It continues to be a crime that Sun employees lose their jobs as these two haggle over what this solution should be? If it goes badly for Oracle at the scheduled Nov. 25 meeting with the EC, and the latter formally blocks the deal by the Jan. 19 deadline, and if Oracle decides to take the EC through a protracted trial, there won’t enough of Sun left to make this worth Oracle’s while.
The topic of support has often been a sore subject for Oracle customers. In the past couple of years we’ve seen Oracle support services get mixed reviews and consultants recommend third-party support for unhappy users.
There have been, however, glimpses of hope. Last year, Oracle received high marks for support in a survey from the UK Oracle Users Group (UKOUG). The software giant also announced the release of My Oracle Support, a new next-generation user support portal to replace Metalink, at last year’s Oracle OpenWorld. And just last week, Oracle upgraded My Oracle Support and officially retired the Classic Metalink allowing even more users to switch over to the new portal.
But it looks like that’s where the good news ends.
Users are calling the new user support portal a fiasco, according to a ComputerWorld article by Chris Kanaracus this week. Complaints from customers about “severe problems” in My Oracle Support include a Flash interface that’s often not compatible, unhelpful tech support and the inability to simply log into the portal.
How has Oracle responded to the complaints?
The vendor has not yet provided a status update. In a blog post Monday, Oracle’s Chris Warticki emphasized that Metalink could no longer be used. “Please register. Change is here. Get in front of this one…seriously,” Warticki wrote about My Oracle Support.
As of Wednesday afternoon 39 users, most of whom could not log in, had commented on the post, writing complaints including:
“This is an unmitigated disaster. MOS is not working for our company. It is not working for DBAs at two other companies I have asked, either. When I get through to support by phone, they tell me that they can’t help me because they can’t use the new system either.”
“Why, with all of Oracle’s software acquisitions, holdings, and developers, was Oracle unable to create a new support site with Oracle software?… If Uncle Larry hears of this fiasco, it sure seems that heads will roll, but hey, at least the interface (that always freezes) is pretty to look at.”
“I am really curious why Oracle thinks anyone wants flash on what is supposed to be a support site? I just want my sr’s resolved in a timely manner, and usable information. Right now we have neither.”
Warticki responded to the comments a few times, apologizing for the frustration and saying that Oracle would fix the issues: “Our apologies for any inconvenience as Support works out any ‘glitches’. Hang on. Remain on hold. We’ll be right with you,” he wrote in his latest comment
But is this just an issue that needs a few days to sort out, or is the future of Oracle support doomed?
Not the best of weeks for Team Oracle in or out of the water.
First came reports late Tuesday that the European Commission (EC) was nearing a decision to issue an official statement of objection over Oracle’s proposed bid to acquire Sun Microsystems. Issuing such a statement is largely considered the first step toward blocking the 47.4 billion deal.
As has been reported here and elsewhere over the past couple of months, the focus on the EC’s two-month long investigation continues to be on Oracle gaining possession of Sun’s MySQL, the market leading open source database. EC officials believe Oracle’s control over both the leading proprietary database and the leading open source database would significantly limit the buying choices of European users.
The EC reportedly is seriously considering issuing a statement of objection because Oracle has failed to get back to the organization with evidence that the proposed deal would not cripple competition after several requests.
The EC has not blocked mergers of this magnitude very often, but Larry seems to be testing their patience. No word yet whether Larry and his right hand woman, Safra Catz are on a plane heading to Brussels to better explain themselves.
The second bummer for Team Oracle this week is the 200-foot mast on the company’s gigantic trimaran, which is expected to represent the US the America’s Cup, snapped and came crashing down while sailing out in the Pacific ocean. The gigantic craft had to be towed back to its berth. Estimated cost of the boken mast, a whopping $10 million.
Is this an omen of some news that could be coming out of Brussels
We’ve been talking to you a lot recently about the new Toad for Oracle 10, including a sneak peak of the new version, a look at Toad 10’s best new features and a podcast on how to get the most out of the Oracle database tool.
In the podcast, Toad for Oracle product manager John Pocknell discusses many benefits of Toad for Oracle 10, such as its ability to greatly speed up routine tasks, how the tool appeals to a wide range of Oracle users and its capabilities compared to those of SQL Developer.
But what do the users think?
I recently spoke with John Weathington, President and CEO of Excellent Management Systems, about his experiences using Toad in his management consultancy. Weathington helps companies with a variety of management issues, such as the need to increase efficiencies and optimize organizational performance.
But Weathington is no stranger to Toad. He began using the database tool when it was free, well before it was acquired by Quest Software, Inc. in 1998. He has seen Toad evolve from his time as an Oracle database consultant using the pre-Quest Toad to using Toad for Oracle 10 today in his management consultancy. He credits the tool for helping him “shine” at his job.
How? For one, Weathington, who mainly uses the Toad Development Suite, highlighted speed and efficiency as major benefits to using Toad as a consultant. He discussed one project in which an organization was going through a major compliance effort and he had to mine its database. With Toad, he was able to profile the database and extract information very quickly, something that was critical to the success of the high pressure, multi-million dollar project.
In another situation, he had to perform a transformation load for a data warehouse. The load was taking approximately two hours to run and had to be performed somewhere between 50 to 100 times, Weathington said. But by using Toad’s SQL Optimizer, Weathington was able to cut the two hour load down to about two minutes.
Some of Weathington’s other favorite Toad features, including those in Toad for Oracle 10, are:
- Toad 10’s new ER Diagramming Tool: Weathington says he uses this tool almost every day and thinks the idea of taking an ER diagramming paradigm to explore your database is “very innovative.”
- Benchmark Factory: Being able to predict how your database will perform after scaling a small database to a 500-user production database is very important, Weathington said.
- Quest Code Tester: Weathington thinks this automated PL/SQL code testing tool is undervalued and overlooked in the market. Since the importance of testing in general is often overlooked, it’s an important tool to have, he said.
As far as cost is concerned Weathington said it doesn’t matter: what you’d pay for new developers is far more than what you would pay to make your existing ones two to three times more productive with Toad. Over the course of his career Weathington said he’s never had a reason to embrace another tool. But what about you? We would like to hear from you about your experiences using Toad or other database developer tools and how they have or haven’t helped you perform better at your job.
With Red Hat making a $19 million investment in EnterpriseDB earlier this week, competition in the open source database market figures to get a little more interesting. While the European Commission (EC) and Oracle grapple over whether it is in the best interest of the market for the latter to take ownership of MySQL, Red Hat is clearly not waiting for that decision to make its move.
Red Hat officials hardly drew a detailed product roadmap for what they might do with Enterprise DB’s Postgres-based database (like putting together a software stack with Enterprise Linux, JBoss and KVM to go after Oracle at the low end perhaps) at this week’s announcement. More importantly, Red Hat’s investment signals its belief that maybe the open source database market could be the next big opportunity in software.
A nice byproduct of the Red Hat-EnterpriseDB deal is if the EC does finally write off on the Oracle-MySQL deal, Oracle would have a legitimate competitor that could prevent it from completely dominating the open source database market. Not that the Red Hat-EnterpriseDB partnership would cause a mass migration away from MySQL either.
For now, officials from both companies see a good fit going forward. Enterprise DB has established itself as one of the leading supporters of PostgresSQL database, announcing in 2005 it planned to make proprietary products based on the product. Red Hat is hardly unfamiliar with Postgres as it has bundled the product with every copy of Red Hat Enterprise Linux for some time. Red Hat is also moving its Linux-based Network Satellite to PostgresSQL and away from Oracle.
Each company also shares the same view on how to sell its products. “EnterpriseDB is also working to create customer value through a subscription support model. Clearly, this is a model we see as beneficial,” said Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat said earlier this week.
And if both companies eventually do put together a software stack that takes on Oracle, both Red Hat and EnterpriseDB, particularly the latter, would benefit from Red Hat’s larger sales organization and network of resellers.
If the EC forces Oracle to sell off MySQL in order for the Sun acquisition to be approved, the Red Hat-Enterprise DB deal could take on even larger significance. Any third party that MySQL ends up in the hands of almost assuredly would be less powerful and influential than Oracle (I just can’t see IBM, Microsoft or SAP jumping in here because of either a lack of strategic interest or government intervention), meaning the newly formed partnership would have a better chance to grab market share.
If the EC rules against Oracle holding on to MySQL, the loser here could be Oracle. Redwood Shores would lose a golden opportunity to own one of the premiere products in the open source market – a market that figures to grow bigger not smaller over the next few years – as well as have its proprietary database business come under pressure from Red Hat and the new owners of MySQL.
It seems like some people just don’t want Oracle to own MySQL.
Right on the heels of Oracle chairman Larry Ellison’s pledge to aggressively support Sun’s MySQL database at OpenWorld last week, Michael “Monty” Widenius, MySQL’s creator says Oracle should sell the open source database to a third party thereby resolving the antitrust concerns of the European Union (EU).
The EU’s objections are focused on Oracle, the leader in proprietary databases, gaining possession of MySQL, the leading open source database, and the competitive ramifications that sort of dominance will have on European markets.
In his blog Widenius wrote that MySQL needs a different home other than Oracle “where there would be no conflicts of interest concerning how, or if, MySQL should be developed further.”
Both Ellison and Sun co-founder Scott McNealy in their OpenWorld keynotes pointed to examples of Oracle’s track record when it comes to owning open source products, most notably the Sleepycat database. McNealy said he believes Ellison will carry through on his promise to bring MySQL greater success adding that the product represents no threat to Oracle’s flagship database and that it is a natural competitor to and an offering from a common enemy – Microsoft.
“MySQL is the leading open source, low-end database. Larry says it will not compete with Oracle or DB2 but with Microsoft so he has every reason to want it to succeed,” McNealy said.
Even Widenius’ former partner and co-founder of MySQL, Marten Mickos has contacted Nellie Kroes, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, advising her to approve the acquisition in the face of Sun’s dwindling market share and financial fortunes.
Ellison last month said Sun is losing some $100 million a month, and if the EU’s investigation goes all the way to the January 19 deadline, that could mean another $300 million in losses, along with God knows how many more points of lost market share to IBM and HP in the server hardware business. As I have said before, I don’t understand why the EU doesn’t understand there is little danger to limiting user choice or in Oracle trying to control pricing by approving the deal. I mean, there are no pricing issues — MySQL is free.
Just late yesterday Sun said it planned to cut 3,000 jobs over the next year, although some of those jobs could be related to redundancies with Oracle personnel as the company readies itself for the expected merger. Still, some of those layoffs have to be related to Sun’s poor performance since early this year.
The rub here is finding a “suitable” third party to take over ownership of MySQL. It certainly can’t be sold to IBM, SAP, Hewlett-Packard or any other major competitor of either Oracle or Sun without the strong objections of Mr. Ellison and certain government agencies.
Microsoft? They should be interested in the idea, since Oracle could well use MySQL to compete against SQL Server in the lower end markets. They could take a weapon out of Larry’s hands. But I doubt they are ready for such an aggressive move into the open source world.
Leading open source companies Red Hat and Novell would give serious consideration to buying it, but will they ever get the chance? Highly unlikely, but it’s an outside possibility.
Widenius, by the way, left MySQL a while ago to form his own company, Monty Program AB which is working on a branch of MySQL called MariaDB. I assume he doesn’t have any interest in marshaling an effort to take his old product back.
No, (and I can barely believe I am saying this) the best option here for everyone concerned is that the EU show some faith and trust that Oracle will do what it says it will do. If Oracle doesn’t follow through and abuses its monopoly position in the database market, Oracle will be the biggest loser because customers and their dollars will migrate to a more trustworthy competitor.
While analysts have noted that only about 10% to 15% of Oracle database users have upgraded to Release 1 of Oracle 11g, which was first shipped two years ago, Oracle OpenWorld attendees seemed very interested in learning about 11g Release 2.
In a packed session room at the end of the day on Tuesday, Oracle Architect Tom Kyte spoke to the crowd about 11 features he thinks are important in Oracle 11g R2. He joked that while they weren’t being presented in any order, he did “save the best one for last.”
Here’s a quick look at Kyte’s top 11 things about 11g R2 — some you may have heard of already and others are probably new:
1) Do it yourself Parallelism: Kyte says that in 11g R2 there is a ‘do- it- yourself’ parallel package that performs processes that used to be done manually. DBMS_PARALLEL_EXECUTE now automates the process of splitting up large tables using rowid or primary key ranges.
2) Analytics are the coolest thing to happen to SQL since the keyword SELECT: In Oracle 9i R2, Kyte introduced the STRAGG function, which helps perform string concatenation with user defined aggregates. But Kyte says 11g R2 makes this easier with the long-awaited LISTAGG analytic function.
3) EXECUTE on a directory: Directory objects can now be granted EXECUTE privileges in addition to READ and WRITE. EXECUTE can be granted to run a PREPROCESSOR program on an OS file.
4) Recursive subquery factoring: This is a new ANSI SQL statement that can be used as a replacement for CONNECT BY and is easier to understand, Kyte said, “unless you have been using CONNECT by for 22 years, in that case it’s confusing.”
5) Improved Time Travel: The usability of the flashback data archive, which can be found in previous versions of the Oracle database, is greatly enhanced in 11g R2, accommodating complex DDL changes such as table splits.
6) You’ve got mail: When a new file arrives in the system, a feature called file watchers creates an event that includes complex metadata about the incoming file. After a file watcher is created, you can create event-based jobs or schedules that reference it.
7) Deferred segment creation: When creating a table, this new 11g R2 feature allows you to put off the initial extent allocation until the first row is put into a segment. Deferred segment creation is useful for many third party apps that often create thousands of tables but only end up using 100 of them.
8.) Flash Cache: The flash cache works not only on Oracle databases, but on Enterprise Linux, Sparc Solaris or Solaris s86. It’s a transparent extension of the database buffer cache that uses solid state disk technology, allowing you to choose how buffers for a schema object are cached. Flash allows you to use fewer drives, enabling I/O throughput and completing large jobs faster.
9) Parallel Improved: A data warehouse with over 1,000 users can easily become overwhelmed as processes continue to pile on. In 11g R2, the DBA can set up the maximum number of parallel operations that can be happening at any time. When that number is reached, the processes go into a queue until the resources become available to perform them, giving all processes better response times.
10 and 11) Edition-based redefinition: “This thing is so cool, it’s both (number 10 and 11),” Kyte said about the “killer feature” of 11g R2 that comes built into the database. Edition-based redefinition allows you to upgrade an application while it’s in use, making data changes safely by writing only to new columns and tables not being used in an old edition.
At another OpenWorld session this week, which focused on best practices for Oracle backup and recovery, Oracle’s Timothy Chien acknowledged that what everyone was really waiting for was to learn about the new features in 11g R2. When talking about the new database version, Chien highlighted RMAN features such as improved automatic block repair, which allows corrupt clocks on the primary database to be automatically repaired from the physical standby database, as they are detected. Chien also discussed how in 11g R2, there is an Advanced Compression Option which offers multiple RMAN backup compression levels (high, medium and low) and you can choose your compression levels and backup throughput.
What do you think is the best new feature in Oracle 11g R2?
What do Brazil’s tax system, Amazon’s Kindle reader and South Korea’s first magnesium sheet plant have in common?
At first glance it may seem like nothing, but these systems share something with approximately 10 billion other devices in the world — Java.
As the ‘Father of Java’ James Gosling pointed out in an OpenWorld session Monday, the number of Java devices on the planet is even greater than the number of people. So as Oracle takes control of the technology with the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, they definitely have their work cut out for them. As Gosling went through his presentation, ‘The Top 10 Things You May Not Know About Software at Sun,’ it quickly became clear that there were easily more than ten.
While you might think of Java Enterprise Edition when you think of Java, Gosling said that EE is just the tip of the iceberg. The Java Runtime Environment has an average of 15 million downloads a week, and even more during busy weeks — like when there’s a new release or it’s tax season in Brazil. According to Gosling, Brazil uses Java apps to manage its tax system, and residents can even use their cell phones to file their taxes.
Speaking of cell phones, Java also runs on approximately 2.6 billion mobile devices. Gosling pointed out that, with the exception of the Apple iPhone, it’s hard to buy a non-Java cell phone. At the JavaOne conference in June, when Ellison discussed new opportunities for using Java and JavaFX on mobile devices, Sun’s Scott McNealy joked with the Oracle CEO that he should discuss this with his good friend Steve Jobs.
Though Java doesn’t run on the iPhone, it certainly runs on a lot of other devices – from real-time scanning of vehicle geometry on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the POSCO Magnesium Mill in South Korea.
Here are some other things about Sun software you may not know (and if you do, are important to remember):
- Think Java is slow? Gosling says that this hasn’t been true for at least a decade, and that HotSpot, Java’s virtual machine, beats C/C++ and Fortran (usually) in performance.
- It’s important to pay attention to issues encountered when working with multicore processors. The average machine currently has 4 cores, but in the year 2030 it could have many as 5220 cores, Gosling said. In the enterprise world you often get a “free pass,” as EE frameworks usually deal with multicore issues easily.
- GlassFish is the world’s most downloaded app server, with nearly a million downloads a month. As Gosling showed on a JavaFX map, the world is infested with GlassFish “like a bad horror movie.”
- OpenSolaris’ ZFS, a new data management system, is what Gosling calls “a religious experience.”
And this is just the beginning. While it’s easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding Sun’s hardware, make sure you take the time to learn about its software, too.
Larry Ellison was adamant in his keynote Sunday night that Oracle would not be selling any part of Sun’s hardware business, saying “there are limits to what you can do if you do just software.” Hear what else the Oracle CEO had to say about the future of Solaris, SPARC and MySQL:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/t-3X7-oUQNM" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
How does Sun Microsystems Chairman and Co-Founder Scott McNealy feel about Oracle buying his company?
It was clear in his keynote Sunday night that McNealy won’t have an easy time handing over his business — he called “going to work every day with my employees” the innovation he was most proud of — but the Sun head also seemed to have no reservations about the man he was handing it over to, calling Oracle CEO Larry Ellison “my hero.”
But before Ellison took the stage, McNealy gave the thousands in the audience two of his famous top 10 lists — “The top 10 signs that engineers have gone wild” and “The top 10 innovations from Sun.” While McNealy did talk seriously about the future of Sun innovation, he also enjoyed poking light fun at Sun engineers, Oracle’s marketing team and even Ellison himself. When Ellison took the stage (so McNealy could reassure the audience he was “not making up” his optimistic outlook for Sun), he had plenty of his own IBM jokes, but also did not seem to want anyone to take his ‘we’re in it to win it’ message lightly.
Here’s our own top 10 list of the most memorable moments, quotes and quips from Scott and Larry’s keynote:
10.) McNealy says that #1 of ‘The top 10 signs that engineers have gone wild’ is that “someone came up with this crazy idea for a ‘Java Ring.'”
9.) Ellison puts his money where his mouth is when he claims that Sun runs Oracle twice as fast as IBM’s fastest computer: He challenges any company to take a database application, and if it can’t run twice as fast as IBM, Oracle will give them $10 million. IBM is welcome to enter.
8.) McNealy jokes that the Oracle marketing team might have to come up with a better statement about the future of Java than “Java speaks for itself.” However, he does seem confident that Oracle will continue to innovate with SPARC and Solaris, saying that Oracle will spend more on these technologies than Sun did.
7.) McNealy on Ellison and Sun hardware: “I think Larry’s going to like his new toy.”
6.) ‘Father of Java’ James Gosling takes the stage to speak about the future of Java with Oracle, saying he thinks Oracle is committed to continuing to develop it.
5.) McNealy reassures the audience that MySQL is not going anywhere, pointing out that it competes with Microsoft SQL Server, not Oracle. Ellison later reiterates this, saying Oracle will spend more on MySQL than Sun.
4.) Ellison continually praises Sun, saying he is “very proud to be working with Sun to make sure all Oracle software runs better and faster on Solaris.” He also praises Apple, saying that “they’ve done a terrific job of tackling the hardware problem with the software problem,” and thinks the combination of Oracle and Sun can do the same to “compete successfully against The Giant.”
3.) Oracle introduces a new storage product, the F5100 FlashFire Storage Array, which integrates flash and disk; Oracle claims its throughput and response time is four times faster.
2.) Ellison continues his attack on IBM and talks unapologetically about the ‘Oracle + Sun is Faster’ ad that the software giant was recently fined for. He said that IBM’s plan to “sunset” Oracle by stealing away Sun customers is not going to work: “Depending where you are on earth, one man’s sunset is another man’s sunrise.”
1.) McNealy’s last (and arguably most important) statement, telling the audience to enjoy Oracle OpenWorld: “Drinks are on Larry!”
What did you think of the Ellison-McNealy keynote and their claims?