The chill between Oracle and the European Commission may finally be thawing.
European antitrust regulators have been playing a wary bouncer to Oracle's planned takeover of Sun Microsystems, and they've been especially attentive to the software maker's intentions regarding Sun's MySQL operations. In November, their concerns about the future of the open-source MySQL database software led to a formal thumbs-down to the acquisition.
But recent discussions between Oracle and the EC have apparently been fruitful, as Oracle on Monday pledged 10 "commitments to customers, developers and users of MySQL."
Among other things, the company pledged to spend more cash than Sun did on MySQL development and to set up advisory boards to include MySQL customers. Oracle also said it would not require paid support to get a commercial MySQL license and that it would offer flexible support contracts to customers.
in addition, it addressed licensing and copyright issues relevant to third-party developers of MySQL storage engines, promising to maintain the openness and flexibility of MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture and not require commercial licenses to use the storage engine APIs.
In response, the European Commission on Monday issued a statement suggesting that it's warming up to the idea of a Sun-Oracle combination.
"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 the ongoing proceedings," said the EC in its statement. "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."
EC Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes expressed optimism for a satisfactory outcome, one that won't hurt the competition in the European database market.
But according to the Reuters news agency, critics of Oracle aren't impressed with Oracle's latest promises.
"This is purely cosmetic, totally ineffectual. Neither storage engine vendors nor 'forkers'--developers of derived versions--nor enterprise users would have a basis on which to invest in MySQL-related innovation," said Florian Mueller, a spokesman for MySQL co-founder Michael "Monty" Widenius, who has been one of the loudest voices in opposition to the deal.
Fearing that Oracle will try to weaken MySQL to strengthen its own database products, Widenius has been intent on drumming up support among the faithful, asking them to urge the EC to stop the merger for good.
The battle for Sun began in April when Oracle's $7.4 billion bid won over Sun's board. Subsequent approval by shareholders and the U.S. Justice Department seemed to solidify the deal.
Summarized below, Oracle's 10 commitments outline how the company intends to keep MySQL alive as a competitive database product.
- Continued Availability of Storage Engine APIs. Oracle promises to maintain and enhance MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture, which gives users the ability to select from a variety of different storage engines that can plug into a MySQL database server.
- Non-assertion. As copyright holder, Oracle will change Sun's current policy and will not assert against anyone that a third-party vendor's implementations of a storage engine must be released under the GPL (GNU General Public License) because they used the APIs that are part of the Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture. Further, Oracle will not require a commercial license from third-party storage engine vendors to implement the Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture's APIs.
- License commitment. When current MySQL OEM agreements with storage vendors end, Oracle will offer an extension up to December 10, 2014, with the same terms and conditions.
- Commitment to enhance MySQL in the future under the GPL. Oracle promises to enhance MySQL, including version 6, under the GPL. Oracle won't update MySQL Enterprise Edition without also updating MySQL Community Edition and will make the source code of Community Edition available to the public at no charge.
- Support not mandatory. Customers won't be required to buy support services from Oracle to get a commercial license for MySQL.
- Increase spending on MySQL research and development. Oracle promises to spend more money than Sun did to continue to further develop MySQL, both the commercial and GPL editions.
- MySQL Customer Advisory Board. No later than six months after the anniversary of the closing, Oracle will create a customer advisory board to offer guidance and feedback on MySQL development. The board will include end users and embedded customers.
- MySQL Storage Engine Vendor Advisory Board. No later than six months after the anniversary of the closing, Oracle will create and fund a storage engine vendor advisory board for guidance on issues important to MySQL storage engine vendors.
- MySQL Reference Manual. Oracle will continue to update and provide a free download to a MySQL Reference Manual similar to the one currently available from Sun.
- Preserve Customer Choice for Support. Oracle will make sure that end-user and embedded customers paying for MySQL support can renew that support each year or every few years, depending on the customer's preference.