Eye on Oracle

Nov 18 2009   3:21PM GMT

The IOUG takes a swipe at the European Commission

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

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.

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