MySQL Campaign Heats Up

The open source database's author urges users to object to deal that would give Oracle ownership of MySQL.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

December 17, 2009

3 Min Read

MySQL author and former owner Michael "Monty" Widenius is continuing to object to Oracle gaining ownership of MySQL and is urging MySQL users to continue to send their concerns to the European Commission's Office on Competition.

"The most significant fact (from Oracle's list of 10 points of commitment to MySQL) is that everything is limited to five years. After that period, Oracle is free to do anything, including to stop developing an open source version of MySQL," he wrote in a Monty Says blog Wednesday.

Oracle called eight of its customers who were also MySQL users as witnesses before a hearing of the commission a week ago to say they supported Oracle as the prospective owner of the open source system. Oracle becomes the owner when it completes its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, but to do so it needs the go-ahead from the commission. In addition to the eight witnesses, Oracle has prompted about 200 customers to write to the commission.

At the same time, MySQL users number in the hundreds of thousands around the world, and thousands of them have registered their objections with the European Commission's Competition Office, according to Florian Mueller, an advisor to Widenius and veteran public opinion campaigner on European Union issues.

Widenius urged his blog readers Dec. 12 to contact the Office on Competition "to help save MySQL from Oracle's clutches. Without your immediate help, Oracle might get to own MySQL any day now," he wrote a day after the hearings ended on the case. A counter at the Web page titled, "Monty Says: Help Savign MySQL," showed that 8,883 messages had been sent as of noon Pacific Dec. 17.

Europe's antitrust authority is getting "many thousands" of emails from MySQL users every day, asking regulators to protect the open source database, said Florian Mueller, a former MySQL shareholder and adviser to Widenius, in a message to InformationWeek.

Email, even thousands of emails, may not have the same impact as individuals representing substantial European companies. Nevertheless, it appears the commission will hear from some fraction of the hundreds of thousands of MySQL users around the world.

In citing the five year limit to Oracle's promises, Widenius raised a background issue that may concern MySQL users. "After five years, Oracle can demand storage engine vendors to buy licenses," he wrote in his blog.

MySQL doesn't come with a storage engine the way standard relational databases do. MySQL users are trained to make use of an add-on, such as InnoDB, first produced by Inno Oy in Finland. Oracle purchased that company several years ago. Executives at MySQL AB, prior to the firm's acquisition by Sun, said they were talking to the makers of Berkeley DB as a backup alternative when Oracle acquired its owner, Sleepy Cat, as well.

MySQL needs an embeddable storage engine to do all the work it does on many Web sites, and both InnoDB and Berkeley DB remain open source code and freely available under Oracle's ownership. After five years, however, Widenius noted, what happens next is unknown.

Meanwhile, the office of European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has issued a statement after Oracle's appearance before the commission that appeared to indicate she thinks Oracle's five-year commitments meet her demand for continued development for the database system.

"Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes recalls and confirms her statement of 9 Dec. that she is optimistic that the case will have a satisfactory outcome, while ensuring that the transaction will not have an adverse impact on effective competition in the European database market," she said in a statement issued by her office Monday.

"Today's announcement by Oracle of a series of undertakings to customers, developers, and users of MySQL is an important new element to be taken into account In particular, Oracle's binding contractual undertakings to storage engine vendors regarding copyright non-assertion and the extension over a period of up to 5 years of the terms and conditions of existing commercial licenses are significant new facts," the statement said.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights