In a 10-point press release issued today Oracle has listed a series of "commitments" regarding their acquisition of MySQL by way of acquiring Sun.

I am not impressed.

As a former employee of a large Internet company (the largest at the time, in fact) that used both Oracle and MySQL, I'm utterly puzzled by this. I can't think of why we should trust Oracle to do right by the users of MySQL--especially the non-paying users.

You see, for years Oracle worked agressively behind the scenes to discredit MySQL and tried hard to understand how their customers could ever consider using such a "toy" instead of their flagship product. In fact, it was so important to Oracle that they offered some very substantial discounts to customers who were using MySQL and Oracle. In some cases the discounts were so impressive that their motivation was clear: cut off the opportunity for MySQL to grow and spread in such organizations. (Remember what happened to Netscape when Microsoft gave away Internet Explorer for free?)

The funny thing is that it really didn't work. MySQL was already a fast moving train with lots of momentum. And it was still accelerating.

It was clear that Oracle saw MySQL as a threat to their business. When they eventually bought Innobase (the company that makes the InnoDB storage engine), many of us got more than a bit nervious. That put Oracle in a position of having a choke hold on the one componenet that was critical to MySQL's future success. They could have just shut down development entirely. But that may have made their motives a bit too clear.

Since then they've continued to develop InnoDB. However, the pace hasn't exactly been agressive and their openness around that has left me (and others) wondering what their longer term plans really are. The few tidbits we get seem to be overly vague. Could they have been throttling development of InnoDB? Or not providing the same resources that MySQL (and now Sun) would have? It's hard to say.

But here's the thing that continues to bug me...

Back a few years ago when Oracle dismissing MySQL in public while working hard against it in private, I realized that they were simply trying everything they could to protect their crowned jewels: public denials and classic FUD paired with hush-hugh backroom deals.

Nobody has managed to explain, in even a mildly convincing way, what has changed since then. Why should we suddenly trust Oracle? Their crowned jewels are still threatened by MySQL.

Convince me.

See Also: Monty's appeal is selfless!

Posted by jzawodn at December 14, 2009 06:27 PM

Reader Comments
# Doug Kaye said:

Not only would non-support of MySQL in this situation be what we'd expect from any for-profit entity in this situation, it's *particularly* what I expect from Oracle, an extremely aggressive company. As a CTO, I've been an Oracle customer at four companies, and I found them downright nasty and capable of anything. I believe this is the greatest current threat to the open-source world, and it's a real one. I've written my letter to the EU, and I hope others will, too.

on December 14, 2009 08:50 PM
# Roger said:

I have yet to see a good explanation of why Oracle doing anything or not matters. Why can't they stop development and support? This in no way affects the open sourceness of the existing code base. It in no way stops the project from being forked, other companies providing support and development etc. All Oracle and Sun have is control over one branch of MySQL. Anyone else can step in with a branch that works the way they dim fit.

When Monty sold the company, he also gave up control of that branch. If he didn't want to lose that control then don't sell the company. If he wanted a binding commitment to certain behaviour then why not have done that back then?

Are Oracle going to do "evil" things? Almost certainly. (Note that MySQL - the company - could also have done "evil" things while they had control.) So what!

on December 14, 2009 08:52 PM
# Roland Bouman said:

Hi Jeremy!

"Since then they've continued to develop InnoDB. However, the pace hasn't exactly been agressive and their openness around that has left me (and others) wondering what their longer term plans really are. The few tidbits we get seem to be overly vague. Could they have been throttling development of InnoDB? Or not providing the same resources that MySQL (and now Sun) would have? It's hard to say."

Funny, I got the impression the pace was faster than when Innobase was still on its own.


on December 15, 2009 12:33 AM
# David said:

why do you believe it is a threat to anyone building open source on top of MySQL? I see plenty of threats to commercial MySQL offerings, but none at all to the open source portions of the community. Sure, there are parts of the open source community that support themselves through commercial offerings, but they can shift their product offerings to make money in other ways. And if Oracle isn't "lying", commercial offerings may have more room than before for their offerings.

Do you think the EU won't enforce these concessions? They certainly have prosecuted Microsoft and Intel extensively over anti-competitive practices. The front room deal is that with these concessions, the EU will approve the merger, but there's likely also some back room chatter where Oracle has been told that if they don't keep their promises, they will be prosecuted.

I don't see why people don't recognize that Oracle buying MySQL is like Intel making Atom processors. If there's competition knocking you out, it's better to jump on their (lower-margn) boat than to stay on your sinking boat. Oracle just got undercut by the open source world while Intel undercut itself before others got there.

Also, that article on Monty disagrees with many of his public statements about the case. Then again, I constantly see him contradicting himself, so I think he actually wants to see Sun bankrupt itself so he can be proved right in his dislike of management.

on December 15, 2009 01:29 AM
# Mark Callaghan said:

Much of the discussion against the merger has been FUD in the strict sense. That is the opposition is justified because of fear, uncertainty and doubt that Oracle will do the right thing. And then this is set against the image of Monty as the savior -- 'he is selfless'.

Of course, he has also been attacked for selling out and there is anti-Monty FUD -- he is trying to get MySQL back for free.

I don't think any of that advances the discussion. I wish the statement of objections were not secret. If the EC is really protecting our interests, or the interests of EU citizens, I don't understand how secrecy accomplishes that.

I don't think things will be easy with Oracle as the coporate sponsor of MySQL. But they haven't been easy from my perspective with Sun. Nor were they easy before Sun bought them.

However, most of us require a corporate sponsor with our demands that all of MySQL be free. Someone has to pay or it and a lot of people think they should not pay even when they are building a business on top of MySQL.

We need to organize if we are to manage Oracle better than we manage Sun and right now we are in disarray. We also need to stay on the good side of people working at MySQL as they influence a lot regardless of the direction set by corporate.

on December 15, 2009 08:49 AM
# said:

Jeremy - I'm a contributing editor to IEEE Computer; doing a story for the February issue on NoSQL databases. Saw your story in Linux Magazine and would like to send you a list of questions as would welcome your comments/contribution. Full-time I run an int'l marketing communications firm. To see past articles, go to, click on Articles. My deadline to IEEE is 1/4; need comments by 12/28 so plenty of time - please send email address and will send over list. Thank you.

Neal Leavitt
Leavitt Communications
(760) 639-2900: Office
(760) 639-3800: Fax
(760) 212-9112: Cell
(408) 547-9468: E-Fax
Skype: nleavitt007
twitter: leavcom

on December 16, 2009 10:11 AM
# windboy said:

good luck to you...

on December 16, 2009 11:32 PM
# Ms. Pretty Blogger said:

hello i saw your blog on google :) just dropping by

on December 18, 2009 08:22 PM
# Michael said:

I don't see how trust factors into, actually. Oracle is a sales company with products.

I think it's important to realize that Oracle no longer really considers the RDBMS a flagship product. They seem to view all of their products as components in the packages they're now assembling. If anything, I think there's a recognition that many of their biggest corporate clients just aren't going to come up with big bucks for any given single product license, and are extremely interested in bundles.

Oracle is a sales organization first and foremost, and they'll use whatever products they've got in the mix to make a sale. In that light, I can certainly see how MySQL will fit alongside the existing range of Oracle RDBMS license offerings.

on January 21, 2010 10:54 PM
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