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MySQL Creator Wants War with Oracle

Monty Widenius calls for “open war” between the MySQL community and Oracle

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Oracle’s reaching out to customers to defend its acquisition of Sun and its MySQL open source database has spooked alienated MySQL creator Monty Widenius and his spokesman Florian Mueller, both of them enriched by Sun’s billion dollar purchase of MySQL last year, into calling for “open war” between the MySQL community and Oracle.

Oracle has accused the European Commission, which is blocking its acquisition of Sun because of MySQL, of twisting the results of its antitrust investigation to suit its own MySQL bias by misrepresenting, cherry-picking or ignoring what users said about the market and the competitive scene and so Oracle brought a string of large accounts to its closed-door hearing before the regulator on Thursday and Friday to support its contention that the “great majority of customers” do not oppose the deal.

According to the Wall Street Journal more than 200 others are writing letters.

In response, Widenius, afraid that the EC will change its mind because of Oracle’s campaign, is asking the open source community to flood the EC with e-mails opposing the acquisition.

In an e-mail to the press late Saturday Mueller claims, without mustering any proof, that Oracle dictated the contents of the 200 letters. For his part Widenius has provided boilerplate for the open source community to use in their e-mails.

The Widenius camp, which wants the EC to force Oracle to divest MySQL, scorns Oracle’s resort to users although the EC, in its cockamamie process, questioned users to begin with in its investigation.

It also criticizes Oracle for reportedly appealing to customers with a wider interest in Sun’s future than just MySQL, which they might regard by comparison simply as a pimple on the ass of progress.

Anyway, this is Mueller’s e-mail:

“I’d like to give you an update on dramatic developments in the tug-of-war over the Oracle/Sun merger. Monty, MySQL's creator and founder, has made an urgent call on the open source community to send emails to the European Commission concerning the proposed takeover of Sun’s MySQL by Oracle.

“I’m not allowed to talk about the Oracle/Sun hearing that took place in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. What I can say about the case in general is that in my view the facts are just the same [as] they’ve been all along. But as Oracle’s lawyer even stated in public, they believe now that Europe will change [its] mind due to messages from big customers in favor of the transaction.

“It’s just that Oracle mobilized customers to write letters to the Commission and basically dictated the content by telephone. Based on what we heard from at least one such customer, Oracle apparently tried to particularly appeal to customers who also use Java and/or Sun hardware, and Oracle basically tried to capitalize on customer concerns about Sun’s overall future in case the deal falls through, while the European Commission’s concerns are only about MySQL, not about the rest of Sun. Monty just wants a solution for MySQL (the simplest and most effective one would be for Oracle to commit to sell MySQL to a suitable third party).

“In light of this aggressive campaigning by Oracle, Monty made the following call on the open source community a few hours ago: http://monty-says.blogspot.com/2009/12/help-saving-mysql.html.

There is already some initial Internet momentum even though it’s the middle of the night in Europe: http://bit.ly/info/66vFwm. (That’s just some statistics from the bit.ly URL shortener, which is popular but not the only that people use. Apparently people have already begun sharing it via Twitter etc.)

“I want to stress that this was Monty’s personal decision and it’s easy to see the difference between Monty’s writing style and mine. I continue to believe Oracle should, in the first place, never have started with customer-related campaigning around a regulatory process. I think a case like this should be decided entirely on its merits, not on the basis of mobilization, and I told that view to the Commission a couple of days ago. However, I can absolutely understand that Monty took this decision because he’s just too afraid that in the end some letters orchestrated by Oracle could make a difference at a decisive point in time. If the open source community understands it, it can probably generate far more messages to the Commission than Oracle has achieved.

“A few years ago I ran a campaign against software patents that repeatedly called on companies and the open source community to write letters/emails. But that was a legislative process in the European Parliament. I don’t think Oracle should have done something like that in connection with merger control, which is supposed to be a purely facts-based regulatory process. But they did, and now Monty hopes the open source community will show them how strong it is, how fast it can mobilize people and how this community stands together.

“Further below please find an example of an email that Oracle sent to customers a few weeks ago, asking to set up a conference call with someone in their US headquarters to discuss the acquisition of Sun. When people accepted those invitations to conference calls, Oracle then made all sorts of promises (neither legally binding nor truly useful) as to what they would do after the acquisition and once the customer reacted favorably, they then asked the customer to write a letter to the Commission to request immediate approval of the takeover. The email below was given to me by one such customer and of course I have meanwhile provided it to the European Commission in order to prove that this isn’t an independent outpouring of customer support: it’s simply an Oracle campaign. The email below is in German because that is the only language in which I have obtained it so far, but there’s every indication that Oracle did this throughout Europe, not only in Germany.”

[The e-mail below simply asks to talk to the recipient about his or her views on the Sun transaction – MOG.]

Von: [[NAME OF ORACLE SALES DIRECTOR REMOVED]] [email address: FIRST_NAME.LAST_NAME at oracle.com]] Gesendet: Montag, 23. November 2009 [[TIME REMOVED]] An: [[NAME OF CUSTOMER CONTACT PERSON REMOVED]] Cc: [[NAME OF ORACLE ACCOUNT MANAGER REMOVED]] Betreff: Terminanfrage - Gespräch zum Thema Oracle und SUN

Sehr geehrter Herr [[CUSTOMER LAST NAME REMOVED]],

Unserem Unternehmen ist sehr daran gelegen, die Einstellung unserer wichtigen Kunden zur SUN Akquisition zu verstehen. Gerne möchten wir Ihre Sicht zu dieser Transaktion kennenlernen.

Deswegen bittet Sie Herr Joakim Johansson - Director Corporate Development - aus unserem Headquarter in Redwood Shores um ein kurzes Telefonat von 10 bis 15 Minuten.

Wir würden uns sehr freuen, wenn Sie für dieses Gespräch zur Verfügung stehen und uns einige Terminvorschläge für ein Telefonat - vorzugsweise nachmittags - nennen könnten.

[[NAME OF ACCOUNT MANAGER REMOVED]], Account Manager für [[CUSTOMER COMPANY NAME REMOVED]] wird gerne die weitere Koordination übernehmen.

Wir freuen uns auf Ihre Antwort. Vielen Dank und beste Grüße [[ORACLE SALES DIRECTOR NAME REMOVED]]

[[ORACLE SALES DIRECTOR NAME REMOVED]] | Vertriebsdirektor Phone: [[NUMBER REMOVED]] | | Fax: [[NUMBER REMOVED]] | | Mobile: [[NUMBER REMOVED]] Oracle Enterprise Sales

ORACLE Deutschland GmbH | [[STREET ADDRESS REMOVED]] | [[POSTAL CODE AND CITY REMOVED]]

Below is the blog posting by Monty Widenius.

What he does not explain, as Groklaw does, quoting his submissions to the EC and thinking that Microsoft is behind them, is that he would swap MySQL’s GPL-based dual-licensing for so-called open-core licensing, “which combines closed source modules with the open source core software.”

Supposedly that’s why he wants an Apache or BSD license substituted for the GPL because, as Widenius told the EC, the “GPL license represents a particular obstacle not only to revenue generation by the fork vendor but also to the overall adoption and market penetration of MySQL, MySQL forks and MySQL storage engines.” And Widenius’ latest venture revolves around his MariaDB fork of MySQL.

Anyway, he says:

“I, Michael “Monty” Widenius, the creator of MySQL, is asking you urgently to help save MySQL from Oracle’s clutches. Without your immediate help Oracle might get to own MySQL any day now. By writing to the European Commission (EC) you can support this cause and make things much harder for Oracle....

“I have spent the last 27 years creating and working on MySQL and I hope, together with my team of MySQL core developers, to work on it for many more years.

“Oracle is trying to buy Sun, and since Sun bought MySQL last year, Oracle would then own MySQL. With your support, there is a good chance that the EC (from which Oracle needs approval) could prevent this from happening. Without your support, it might not. The EC is our last big hope now because the US government approved the deal while Europe is still worried about the effects.

“Instead of just working out this with the EC and agree [sic] on appropriate remedies to correct the situation, Oracle has instead contacted hundreds of their big customers and asked them to write to the EC and require unconditional acceptance of the deal. According what I been told, Oracle has promised to the customers, among other things, that ‘they will put more money into MySQL development than what Sun did’ and that ‘if they would ever abandon MYSQL, a fork will appear and take care of things.’

“However just putting money into development is not proof that anything useful will ever be delivered or that MySQL will continue to be a competitive force in the market as it’s now.

“As I already blogged about before, a fork is not enough to keep MySQL alive for all future, if Oracle, as the copyright holder of MySQL, would at any point decide that they should kill MySQL or make parts of MySQL closed source.

“Oracle claims that it would take good care of MySQL but let’s face the facts: Unlike ten years ago, when MySQL was mostly just used for the web, it has become very functional, scalable and credible. Now it’s used in many of the world’s largest companies and they use it for an increasing number of purposes. This not only scares but actually hurts Oracle every day. Oracle salespeople have to lower prices all the time to compete with MySQL when companies start new projects. Some companies even migrate existing projects from Oracle to MySQL to save money. Of course Oracle has a lot more features, but MySQL can already do a lot of things for which Oracle is often used and helps people save a lot of money. Over time MySQL can do to Oracle what the originally belittled Linux did to commercial Unix (roughly speaking).

“So I just don’t buy it that Oracle will be a good home for MySQL. A weak MySQL is worth about one billion dollars per year to Oracle, maybe more. A strong MySQL could never generate enough income for Oracle that they would want to cannibalize their real cash cow. I don’t think any company has ever done anything like that. That’s why the EC is skeptical and formalized its objections about a month ago.

“Richard Stallman [head of the Free Software Foundation] agrees that it’s very important which company owns MySQL, that Oracle should not be allowed to buy it and that it can’t just be taken care of by a community of volunteers. http://keionline.org/ec-mysql.

“Oracle has NOT promised (as far as I know and certainly not in a legally binding manner) that:

“ - They keep (all of) MySQL under an open source license
“ - Not add closed source parts, modules or required tools.
“ - To not rise MySQL license or MySQL support prices
“ - To release new MySQL versions in a regular and timely manner
“ - To continue with dual licensing and always provide affordable commercial licenses to MySQL to those who needs them (to storage vendors and application vendors) or provide MySQL under a more permissive license
“ - To develop MySQL as an open source project
“ - To actively work with the community
“ - Apply submitted patches in a timely manner
“ - Not discriminate patches that makes MySQL compete more with Oracles other products.
“ - To ensure that MySQL is improved also in manners that make it compete even more with Oracles’ main offering.

“From looking at how Oracle handled the InnoDB acquisition, I don’t have high hopes that Oracle will do the above right if not required to do so:

“For InnoDB: “ - Bug fixes where done (but this was done under a contractual obligation) “ - New features, like compression that was announced before acquisition, took 3 years to implement “ - No timetables or insight into development “ - The community where [sic] not allowed to participate in development “ - Patches from users (like Google) that would have increased performance was not implemented/released until after Oracle announced it was acquiring Sun. “ - Oracle started working on InnoDB+, a better ‘closed source’ version of InnoDB “ - In the end Sun had to fork InnoDB, just to be able to improve performance.

“It’s true that development did continue, but this was more to be able to continue using InnoDB as a pressure on MySQL Ab. “

Note that Oracle’s development on the Linux kernel is not comparable with MySQL, because:

“ - Oracle is using Linux as the main platform for their primary database product (and thus a better Linux makes Oracle’s platform better)
“ - The GPL code in the kernel is not affecting what is running on top on it (because of an exception in Linux).

“Because we don’t have access to a database of MySQL customers and users the only way we can get the word out is to use the MySQL and open source community. I would never have resorted to this if Oracle would not have broken the well-established rules in anti-competitive merger cases and try to influence the EC by actively mobilizing the customers.

“This is very critical to this AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as EC, depending on what Oracle is doing, needs to make a decision either on Monday (2009-12-14) or within two weeks. Because of the strict deadline, every email counts!

“What I want to ask you to do (until 2009-12-19):

“ - Forward this email to everyone that you know is using MySQL or open source/free software and to all email list where you know there are people present that use or care about MySQL and open source (please check first that this email hasn’t been sent there before)
“ - Alternatively send emails with information about this and tell them to read http://monty-says.blogspot.com/2009/12/help-saving-mysql.html
“ - Add links on your web site to http://monty-says.blogspot.com/2009/12/help-saving-mysql.html with the text "We are using MySQL, help save it", for the duration of the next two week.
“ - Blog about this (feel free to include this text or just link to my blog)
“ - Call by phone (don’t contact by email, this is urgent) your boss or VP and ask him to read this email and send a letter to the EC Commission ASAP!
“ - If you don’t have anyone to contact above, send an email to the EC! “As we want the EC to get a correct picture of the situation, we want you to first fill in the upper part and then choose one of the proposed texts belove [sic] that best matches your view of the situation. Feel free to supply your own text and additional information if you think this will help the EC to reach a better understanding of how MySQL is used.
“Send this to: comp-merger-registry@ec.europa.eu.

“If you have extra time to help, fill in the following, if not, just skip to the main text. Name: Title: Company: Size of company: How many MySQL installations: Total data stored in MySQL (megabyte): For what type of applications is MySQL used:

Should this email be kept confidential by EC: Yes/No

Copy or use one of the below texts as a base for your answer:

a) I don’t trust that Oracle will take good care of MySQL and MySQL should be divested to another company or foundation that have everything to gain by developing and promoting MySQL. One should also in the future be able to combine MySQL with closed source application (either by exceptions, a more permissive license or be able to dual license MySQL under favorable terms)

b) I think that Oracle could be a good steward of MySQL, but I would need EC to have legally binding guarantees from Oracle that:

  1. All of MySQL will continue to be fully Open Source/free software in the future (no closed source modules)
  2. That development will be done in community friendly way. The manual should be released under a permissive license (so that one can fork it, the same way one can fork the server)
  3. That MySQL should be released under a more permissive license to ensure that forks can truly compete with Oracle if Oracle is not a good steward after all.

Alternatively: - One should be able to always buy low priced commercial licenses for MySQL. There should also be mechanism so that if Oracle is not doing what is expected of it, forks should be able to compete with Oracle c) I trust Oracle and I suggest that EC will approve the deal unconditionally. Let us prove to Oracle and EC that the Open Source community is a true force and we take good care of our citizens and we prefer to work with companies that does the same!

The future of MySQL is in your hands!

Thanks for the help! Michael Widenius Creator of MySQL

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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