Background On Recent MovesIn case you haven't been following the state of play, we've got two recent open letters sent to the EU competition commissioner:
- RMS, Knowledge Ecology International, and the Open Rights Group came out as strongly opposed to allowing the Sun/Oracle acquisition to proceed as long as MySQL was part of the acquisition.
- Monty suggested that Oracle be forced to sell MySQL as part of the Sun acquisition.
Competition and AcquisitionFirst of all, let's directly address the core matter at hand, which is that Monty, RMS, and the various others appear to believe that the Database market is hopelessly consolidated and were Oracle to get its hands on the copyright to the MySQL source code that would be bad for competition. This, to be honest, completely and utterly disregards the actual history of the database market, which has always been one of consolidation and benefits to the consumer:
- Illustra, a Berkeley spin-out, was bought by Informix
- Informix was bought by IBM
- RedBrick was bought by IBM
- RDB was bought by Oracle
But MySQL Is SpecialWith all due respect, no it isn't. Let's consider the pseudo-market for Open Source databases. We've got:
- MySQL and its various derivatives (like Drizzle)
- PostgreSQL and its various commercial/supported versions
Oracle Is A Bad AcquirerFirst of all, let's get the obvious out of the way: Oracle bought BerkeleyDB, and continued to enhance it; Oracle bought InnoDB, and continued to enhance it. At no point did they crush them to drive Oracle database revenues, or change the licenses, or stop forward momentum. So when you look at the actual track record of the company, they're in the clear. But they might do, because they're an evil, scary corporation that MySQL turned down once before (from the Stallman piece):
Oracle made an earlier effort to buy MySQL in 2006, but the management rejected Oracle's offer, in part because Oracle would not disclose its plan for MySQL, and some members of the MySQL management team were concerned that Oracle was only acquiring MySQL to curb its advances in the marketplace.I know a number of people involved with MySQL when it was an independent organization. While there were people who worried about that fact, senior management wasn't. More importantly, Monty was willing to sell MySQL to Oracle in 2006 for the right price. The use of the words "in part" there are telling, because the primary consideration that MySQL's senior management had wasn't some happy-clappy love for the Libre Software Movement, it was money. I'm sorry, but I fail to see what's changed in between 2006 and 2009 except that Monty is a whole heck of a lot richer. Why in 2005 and 2006 were offers ultimately rejected from Oracle based primarily on money, but now Oracle is an evil corporation that can't be trusted with MySQL? Larry's the same guy he was then, Oracle has bought BEA but they don't compete in any way with MySQL, it's the same company. Why would Monty trust Oracle back in 2006 but not now?
Force Oracle to Sell MySQLThis is Monty's solution. And it's cunning. It's particularly cunning that he says repeatedly that the obvious Monty-connected acquirer, Monty Program AB, lacks the funds to do such a purchase. Again, a half-truth. MySQL was worth $1Bn in early 2008. Since then markets globally have tanked, but MySQL has had some good commercial strength recently within the Sun organization. So let's conservatively say that it's still worth $1Bn. Let's then say that Oracle values the acquisition of Sun highly enough to let MySQL go for less, and do a 20% haircut to $800MM. Who's got that kind of money to acquire?
- Microsoft. You think Stallman and Monty would be happy with that? No.
- IBM. #2 in the database market. Erm, raises same issues that Oracle would.
- Sybase has the market cap (super-recently) but not the cash.
- Red Hat has the market cap, but not the cash.
- Novell lacks the market cap and the cash.
- Computer Associates has the market cap and the cash, but is the place technology goes to die. They also have Ingres to work with.
- VMWare has the market cap and the cash and an acquisitive streak, but would MySQL really fit into their product strategy? I can see Spring driving people to vCloud, but can't even fathom the same kind of strategic benefit for MySQL.
- Symantec has the market cap and the cash, but their storage work has been pretty solidly focused on backup and low-level storage these days.
Consider The SourcesSo let's look at the motivations of the major current players. Stallman is irrelevant to any commercial discussion. His press release essentially says "I don't like the GPLv2 anymore, even though I wrote it, and it would be better if MySQL was under the GPLv3." Tough. Furthermore, RMS has no commercial experience of any kind. I fail to see how someone who has never even worked for a profitable commercial enterprise could be considered knowledgeable about how an acquisition would affect the marketplace in an anti-competitive way that harms consumers. Furthermore, RMS' press release completely belies his previous positions regarding the possibilities for commercialization of GPL projects. He's stated in the past that offering dual licensing is only one of many ways that you can make money with the GPL being the dominant licensing model. Why all of a sudden does he believe that this is the only possibility for MySQL? Why is he so adamant that without that ability, there's no ability to derive commercial revenue from MySQL? Monty has been slinging FUD about this acquisition for months. He was such a disruptive element inside Sun that they released him from his Non-Compete just to make him go away. Given that he's an extremely rich, disgruntled ex-employee and project founder, he has personal reasons and financial ones (under the Monty Program AB umbrella) to cause as much disruption to this deal as possible. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Monty has been playing a long game here, and I think he'll be obstructive to any potential move that Oracle would make with MySQL until the IP is under his control.
Personal Opinions Should Not Drive Competition PolicyUltimately, you can sum up the entire argument against the Oracle/Sun acqusition due to the MySQL situation as:
- We don't like Oracle owning the MySQL IP
- Therefore, don't let Oracle own the MySQL IP