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9/3/2009
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Oracle, MySQL Not Competitors, Says Ingres CEO

Sun's ownership of the MySQL open source database is being viewed as a potential anti-competitive issue by the European Commission.

A European Commission investigation will delay Oracle's takeover of Sun but not stop it, predicted Roger Burkhardt, CEO of Ingres Corp., supplier of the open source Ingres database system.

"In the end, it will go through, I think," said Burkhardt upon hearing about the Commission's announcement of a Phase Two investigation into Oracle's $5.6 billion purchase.

Sun's ownership of the MySQL open source database is being viewed as a potential anti-competitive issue by the commission, the administrative body of the European Union. But Burkhardt said MySQL rarely competes head-to-head with Oracle in the existing database market.

"Oracle makes money by being the corporate transaction processing system, the mission-critical production system. It's not realistic to say MySQL is a competitive database with Oracle. It's not like the commission can make that argument," he said.

MySQL got its start as a relational system that specialized in the high speed serving of Web pages and was implemented on several leading Web sites, including eBay, Facebook and Slashdot.org.

Gartner analyst Donald Feinberg said April 29 that "non-mission critical applications are the best choice for us with open-source DBMSs," citing the open source systems MySQL, Postgres Plus Advanced Server from Enterprise DB, and Ingres from Burkhardt's Ingres Corp. With 25 years of history in transaction processing, Ingres "is the exception" and could be implemented in place of a commercial system, if the customer was willing to, Feinberg wrote. In addition MySQL's code is issued under the GNU General Public License and exists in many hands besides Oracle's. Oracle cannot stifle distribution and use of the database, even if it chose to, despite its prospective ownership of Sun, he added.

Alternative versions of MySQL exist outside of the MySQL unit of Sun, one of them under the guardianship of Monty Widenius, one of the original authors of MySQL. He founded Monty Program to promote the use of MariaDB, a version of MySQL that can work with a variety of storage engines. One reason MySQL doesn't compete directly with Oracle is that it needs an add-on system to store newly acquired data.

Burkhardt said MySQL produced $40-$50 million in revenue a year at the time of its acquisition by Sun. That is less than one percent of Oracle's total. Unless the European Commission decides to count numbers of users as part of MySQL's value, it's difficult to construct a case that either existing or future commercial database users will be impacted competitively by the deal.

When the U.S. Justice Department examined the deal, it was primarily concerned with the impact on competitors of Sun's ownership of the Java programming language, not competition in the database market, he added.


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