September 10, 2009

What could or should make Oracle/MySQL antitrust concerns go away?

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.

Subsequently, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether or not Oracle can use control of MySQL to make life difficult for third-party MySQL storage engine vendors.

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:


9 Responses to “What could or should make Oracle/MySQL antitrust concerns go away?”

  1. EUretardos on September 11th, 2009 9:13 am

    First of all, the EU fockers should just go to their EU hole and never talk about anything technology related, especially when two US based companies merge.

    Secondly, if you want to find a monopoly, Oracle+MySQL isn’t a monopoly. There is postgreSQL, IBM DB2, Vertica, and all sorts of in memory databases around

    If you really want to screw Oracle, their only intended monopoly is the Flash aware file systems, namely BTRFS for Linux and ZFS for Solaris. Oracle controls both/only file systems on the planet that are copy on write. In the following years, where flash will take over database tier, that is the true monopoly. Not some Java App Server, or SQL. It is flash.

  2. Michael McIntire on September 11th, 2009 10:04 am

    There are plenty of niche and mainstay technologies in the Sun portfolio which are worrisome and — could — become a sales leaver for Oracle. Luster, Java, ZFS. There are entire companies built on the java stack, Luster is one of the few mature file oriented DFS systems. I suppose it can be argued that Sun had the same leverage. The difference is, Sun does not have Oracle’s well earned reputation for using anything at it’s disposal to accomplish it’s goals.

  3. Curt Monash on September 11th, 2009 10:09 am

    Java + app servers never led to app server dominance at Sun (and that’s a gross understatement). So I don’t think it’s a fair hook for a monopoly challenge now. Java is portrayed as open, with clean interfaces, and I don’t see how the antitrust folks could rightfully come after Java’s owner until there was some evidence said owner had started doing some inappropriate bundling.

  4. Daniel Weinreb on September 11th, 2009 11:42 am

    The anti-trust division of the Justice Department, during the Bush II administration, was told to just not enforce the law at all. Christine Varney, the new head of the anti-trust division under the Obabma administration, will almost certainly do what she’s supposed to do. However, American law is still pretty lax. I, for one, am glad that the EU is taking concerns about monopolistic practices seriously, in general.

    As to this specific case, I’d sure be happy if Oracle divested MySQL, but I would be extremely surprised if that comes to pass. What bothers me is that MySQL isn’t just a DBMS. It has become a de facto industry standard INTERFACE between applications and database systems. If Oracle can take advantage of its rights to MySQL to make life hard on vendors who are using MySQL as a standard interface, that could cause serious and highly unfair market distortion.

    I agree with Michael McIntire’s comments above. It’s not just a question of what the owner of MySQL is able to do, but also what the owner’s will is.

    And I think you (Curt) are right that until we see what Oracle actually does with MySQL, it would be very hard to make a good case that they’re going to do something bad. I hope that the EU’s actions serve to put Oracle on notice that the EU will be watching, and will take appropriate action if Oracle engages in monopolistic practices in the future.

    I am not anti-business at all. I like free markets. When a company behaves in a monopolistic way, that’s hurting free markets, not helping them. Business competition is great but must be done within a legal framework that encourages markets to do what they do well, and discourages them from doing what’s against the public interest.

  5. RC on October 22nd, 2009 2:29 pm

    Richard Stallman has sent a letter to the EU. See here: . It is bit weird, why is he so late?

    The take over of Sun was approved July 16, 2009. So why does he sent this letter on October 19, 2009?

    I think that Neelie Kroes should ditch this letter.

  6. Curt Monash on October 22nd, 2009 3:04 pm

    I’m not sure that “Richard Stallman”, “weird”, and a question mark fit together well in the same paragraph …

  7. RC on October 23rd, 2009 12:49 am


    Well, can you explain why he has sent his letter so late?

  8. Curt Monash on October 23rd, 2009 12:56 am

    I can explain very little of Stallman’s behavior.

  9. MySQL 5.5 Enterprise Edition notes | DBMS 2 : DataBase Management System Services on March 15th, 2011 9:24 am

    […] how hard Oracle fought the antitrust authorities to keep MySQL around the time of the acquisition, we always knew they were serious about the […]

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