Oracle and Sun: Monty Widenius Advisor on the Deal

Last Updated Nov 11, 2009 7:54 AM EST

I got an email from Florian Mueller, who appears to be an advisor to MySQL creator and founder Monty Widenius. Mueller says that Oracle has been refusing to understand the importance of MySQL independence to the EU, which is why regulators are pushing back on the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, which bought MySQL for $1 billion. But I still think something a bit more intentional is going on, with a multi-faceted strategy to knock off the database upstart.

Here's what Mueller had to say:

Oracle wants it all, Sun stands to lose it all and the European Commission apparently had no other choice but to issue this Statement of Objections because Oracle just doesn't want to understand.

Those who claim that MySQL's open source nature all by itself ensures competition ignore the fact that open source is just a distribution vehicle while MySQL depends on a company using the related intellectual property rights to generate revenues and fund further development.

Why would Sun have paid $1 billion for something that can be forked? Why doesn't Oracle just close the Sun deal quickly without MySQL and fork it if it's all that easy to do and it doesn't matter who owns the assets?

I concur that if open source were enough for success, then people would download Linux without getting a specific distribution like Ubuntu or Red Hat. But software is a type of product and needs packaging and marketing.

That brings us back to whether Oracle fails to understand the situation. I asked Mueller this morning, who said the following:

What [Monty and I] really believe is that Oracle has its own view of the world and they believe that MySQL is far beneath Oracle. If they were to control the intellectual property it would mean controlling the development. They would probably transform their view into reality by not developing it or marketing it in a certain way.
As Widenius has said himself, MySQL's biggest competition has been Oracle and not Microsoft SQL Server. And as Mueller said, MySQL's business model is destructive to Oracle, and each unit of revenue for the former means a loss of ten units of revenue for the latter because of the difference in pricing models.

I suspect that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and associates understand this all too well. And this would perfectly explain Oracle's actions as a multi-pronged strategy:

  1. If possible, buy Sun and kill off MySQL.
  2. If killing off MySQL completely would be too suspicious, then reduce its effectiveness through selective direction of product development and marketing, steering it out of enterprise markets.
  3. Should regulators demand more support, then let the deal die. Sun would emerge highly weakened and not able to property support MySQL. Should it sell off the group, there would be a transition time that might leave enterprise customers, who depend on vendor stability, uncomfortable adopting the technology.
If regulators "prevent" the deal, then Oracle gets to walk, keep its money, and know that Sun's flailing, even if it sold off MySQL, would be enough to keep enterprise customers off for a significant amount of time. It's a pretty good return for the relatively low money invested in the deal to date.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.