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12/14/2009
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Oracle Mobilizing MySQL Users

The European Commission investigation into Oracle's acquisition of Sun is turning into a political dogfight as MySQL users are writing letters supporting and opposing the deal.

Oracle has converted a largely closed European Commission regulatory process into a more open, political dogfight by mobilizing many MySQL users who are also Oracle customers to write letters on its behalf.

If the weight of numbers counts, then for the moment Oracle has gained the upper hand. The problem with this approach is that the other side is already mobilizing to do something similar. Oracle has acquired and sustained open source products in the past, so it has a defensible reputation. But it's also acted offensively toward open source targets that aroused its ire, such as Red Hat. In a short while, the numbers may weigh in on the other side as MySQL author Michael Widenius campaigns against MySQL remaining part of Oracle's $5.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

Oracle's lawyer, Thomas Vinje of the London law firm Clifford Chance, told Bloomberg News in Brussels that he had been able to dispute some of the commission's findings by citing support from companies that had been listed in a commission survey as negative on the acquisition. "There is a mountain of consistent evidence favoring every one of our key propositions. If we are successful on any of them, the case must go away," he told the financial publication.

On Dec. 13, the Sun Microsystems newsletter, System News, cited the Wall Street Journal as reviewing an Oracle legal filing in connection with the case and finding two customers whose responses to a survey were used in a Commission report against the acquisition, and who subsequently wrote letters favoring it.

The Deutsche Borse Group told commission staffers in late November that it was "concerned by the implication (in EC filings) that Deutsche Borse's views on the transaction, generally, are negative." Deutsche Borse's minutes from the meeting were cited in the Oracle filing, and said, "we do not see a negative impact of the Sun/Oracle transaction" so long as Oracle keeps developing MySQL.

In phone calls to customers, Oracle has pledged to maintain MySQL's development and it's used that pledge to solicit support. Oracle produced eight MySQL users to speak in favor of the deal at the Dec. 10 hearing before the commission and Oracle spokesmen say it has produced letters from 200 other MySQL users.

System News quoted Oracle attorney Vinje after the hearing as saying Oracle was "pretty damn confident" that it had rebutted objections to the acquisition. The Commission has said it will decide the case by Jan. 27.

Meanwhile, Widenius posted a blog that soon drew 20,000 page views urging MySQL users to state to the commission their concerns about MySQL's continued development. "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,'" he wrote. But that would leave Oracle in possession of the copyright to MySQL and make it difficult for another company to form behind it and provide development and technical support, he pointed out.

The blog has reportedly produced thousands of responses to the commission.

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