MySQL co-founder: Oracle should sell it

Michael "Monty" Widenius says the European Commission is right to be concerned about the Oracle-Sun merger and urges Oracle to sell MySQL to settle antitrust issues.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

MySQL co-founder Michael "Monty" Widenius is leading a chorus of voices expressing growing apprehension over the proposed Oracle-Sun merger.

In a statement posted on his blog on Monday, Widenius said the European Commission is "absolutely right to be concerned" about the $7.4 billion takeover of Sun by Oracle, and he urged Oracle to sell MySQL to clear up any antitrust issues.

Although the deal received the thumbs-up from the U.S. Department of Justice in August, the Commission opened a probe in early September, citing fear that Oracle's ownership of MySQL could pose a competitive threat.

In his blog, Widenius asked Oracle "to be constructive and commit to sell MySQL to a suitable third party, enabling an instant solution instead of letting Sun suffer much longer." The famed MySQL developer, who departed Sun earlier this year, said that he wishes Sun "all the best, but MySQL needs a different home than Oracle, a home where there will be no conflicts of interest concerning how, or if, MySQL should be developed further."

Another voice uneasy about the Oracle-Sun venture is Florian Mueller, an EU policy expert who is a former MySQL shareholder and adviser. Mueller had helped Widenius' new company, Monty Program, urge the EU to investigate the anticompetitive effects of a MySQL owned by Oracle.

"Letting Oracle have MySQL is worse than putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, because the hens are no threat to the fox, while MySQL makes Oracle lose customers and forces it to grant discounts to customers threatening to defect," Mueller said in a statement.

Monty Widenius
Monty Widenius MySQL/Sun Microsystems

"Every day that passes without Oracle excluding MySQL from the deal is further evidence that Oracle just wants to get rid of its open-source challenger, and that the EU's investigation is needed to safeguard innovation and customer choice," Mueller added. "This is highly critical because the entire knowledge-based economy is built on databases."

Though several analysts have questioned the EC's motivation for probing the deal, Mueller firmly backs the commission.

"It's inappropriately arrogant for some interested parties to suggest that the EC has yet to understand the case," he said. "The EC is really doing a great job under huge time pressure." In August, Mueller helped write a position paper (PDF) on MySQL that Widenius' Monty Program gave to the EC.

And in yet another condemnation, Richard Stallman, founder of the free-software movement, wrote an open letter to the EU on Monday opposing an Oracle-owned MySQL as a threat that would hinder its further development in the open-source community.

Other prominent names, though, disagree. Earlier this month, MySQL ex-CEO Marten Mickos urged the EU to OK the deal, arguing that by delaying the merger, the EU is hurting the very competitive atmosphere that it claims to want to protect.

Major database players, including HP and IBM, have already reportedly taken advantage of the delay to win over customers from Sun.

In the meantime, Sun continues its downward spiral. Late Tuesday, the company confirmed that it would lay off another 3,000 employees, about 10 percent of its total workforce, over the next year. This latest round is in addition to 6,000 jobs cuts announced almost a year ago as part of the company's restructuring plan.

On Oracle's part, CEO Larry Ellison said last month that despite the EU's probe, Oracle has no intention of spinning off MySQL.

Clarification at 9:35 a.m. PDT: Widenius is a co-founder of MySQL, the company.