Oracle-Sun Merger Foes Head East

With the European Commission seen as virtually certain to approve Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems in just a week, those campaigning to prevent the deal encompassing Sun's MySQL database unit have shifted their efforts to regulators in Russia and China.

MySQL founder Michael 'Monty' Widenius said in a statement Monday that the Commission, Europe's top competition regulator, showed weakness when it struck a deal with Oracle last month that paved the way for an unconditional approval of the acquisition of Sun. Widenius left MySQL in 2009 and might have been part of a group of possible bidders for the unit should it have been ruled an impediment to the merger.

"The European Commission showed courage and competence during most of the investigation but looked very weak in the end," he said in the statement, adding that China and Russia "are powerful, self-confident and open-source-friendly countries and they have every right to do a better job on this than the E.U."

Oracle still has not obtained clearance from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). FAS said last week that it has extended the deadline for its ongoing probe of the deal.

Widenius' helpmysql.org campaign has over 600 supporters in China and more than 800 in Russia. Widenius said it will now work closely with its local supporters to support the work of the competition authorities in those two countries and will step up its efforts to collect signatures from local MySQL users. Worldwide, the campaign has gathered 30,000 signatures of support since its launch on December 28.

Barring any last minute surprises, the European Commission is set to rule in favor of the deal on January 27. It said as much last month, after Oracle made pledges enforceable only through private lawsuits, not by the Commission, to protect MySQL as an independent open source database competitor to Oracle's core database product for a minimum five years.

Widenius argues that the Commission gave up trying to safeguard MySQL in order to save face. He dismissed the arguments the Commission gave for abandoning its initial concerns about the deal as "dishonest", and claimed that he and other opponents of MySQL's inclusion in the deal were ignored.

"Should Oracle get MySQL unconditionally, then I can only say that as a European I am ashamed of our regulatory system," Widenius said.

The helpmysql.org petition asks competition authorities around the world to block Oracle's acquisition of Sun unless MySQL is sold to a third party, or unless it is granted a so-called "linking exception", that releases MySQL under the Apache Software License 2.0, an open source license.

The petition states that Oracle's recent MySQL-related promises to the European Commission "can at best have a transitional effect (if any) but cannot ensure true innovation related to MySQL and safeguard MySQL as a major competitive force."

It also says Oracle would have a fundamental conflict of interests between MySQL (and its different editions and storage engines) on the one hand and Oracle's high-priced products on the other.

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