When the Oracle/MySQL deal was first announced, I wrote:
I can probably come up with business practices that could make things very hard on Oracle/MySQL competitors … but I haven’t found a compelling antitrust trigger on my first pass over the subject.
Now that the European Commission is delaying the Oracle/Sun deal, explicitly because of Oracle/MySQL antitrust fears. That is, the European Commission wants to be reassured that an Oracle takeover of MySQL won’t unduly impinge upon the future availability of open source/low cost DBMS alternatives. This raises that natural question:
What could Oracle do to assure concerned parties that its ownership of MySQL won’t unduly hamper open-source-based DBMS competition?
I think that’s indeed the crucial question. The Oracle/Sun deal has enough momentum at this point that it both should and will be allowed to happen — perhaps with safeguards — rather than banned outright. If you have concerns about Oracle’s pending acquisition of MySQL, you should speak up and outline what kinds of regulatory safeguards would alleviate the problems you foresee.
More or less obvious possibilities include:
- Divest MySQL. This is obviously an extreme measure, but it surely would work.
- Provide some money and trademark rights to MySQL forkers. If MariaDB and Drizzle were put into strong competitive positions with MySQL today, it’s hard to argue how regulators could object to any future Oracle maneuverings Oracle might envision with the GPLed side of MySQL.
- Offer a standard, attractive, long-term deal to MySQL bundlers. The commercial/non-GPL version of MySQL is a requirement for appliance vendors (surely), OEM vendors (probably), and storage engine vendors (maybe — I disagree, but I’m evidently in the minority).
- Strengthen PostgreSQL. Realistically, that’s not going to be part of any Oracle/MySQL resolution, so I’ll leave it as a subject for another time.