IBM, Oracle, Open Source: Mixed Motives Abound - InformationWeek

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12/10/2009
11:21 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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IBM, Oracle, Open Source: Mixed Motives Abound

The Oracle/European Union drama never stops. Now IBM's stuck their collective necks into the fray and said that Oracle's acquisition of Sun should go through if they make some positive open source gestures to all parties. Meaning what exactly, though?

The Oracle/European Union drama never stops. Now IBM's stuck their collective necks into the fray and said that Oracle's acquisition of Sun should go through if they make some positive open source gestures to all parties. Meaning what exactly, though?

IBM's comments come courtesy of Steve Mills, the head of IBM's software division, and were reprinted in a Financial Times article that went live yesterday. IBM doesn't seem convinced that MySQL is a giant threat:

"It's certainly not the most sophisticated database in the marketplace," Mr Mills said. "It's not used for sophisticated query and analysis things."

... He said Oracle should do more to outline how it would maintain the open-source aspect of MySQL's software, and he expected reassurances in this area to resolve the European concerns and lead to the Sun deal closing early next year.

Florian Muller, a persistent critic of the whole acquisition, sees IBM's motives as being suspect:

I've never been a big believer in IBM being sincere about open source. Now they try to belittle MySQL just because it's a competitor that affects them ever more. They would like Oracle to take care of the problem for them.

Funny thing is, IBM's comments make it seem like Oracle is overreacting horribly -- trying to gobble up a "competitor" that doesn't even compete directly with them, or IBM for that matter. I mentioned before that I saw something like Ingres as being more direct a competitor with Oracle or DB2 than MySQL. But what Oracle sees (and as Florian hints, by proxy IBM as well) is something that could over time be turned into a competitor if it's allowed to flourish.

So what are Oracle's choices at this point? They can lobby harder and keep MySQL all to themselves; they can spin off MySQL entirely as its own entity; or they could place management and control of MySQL into a foundation. The last approach is probably best, but it's also the one that Oracle has the least experience with -- and, from all I've seen, the one they want to have as little experience with as possible.

Is Oracle really likely to take a course of action very alien to their existing business, one which gives them that much less control over a product which (in their eyes, anyway) could be built into a formidable challenger, and which gives credence to a software development model they've had no truck with at all before they started dealing with Sun?

You know, I think I just answered my own question.

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