Oracle Pledges MySQL Support, EU Warms Up

It was a weekend of holiday shopping for many Americans and Europeans, but in Brussels, Larry Ellison’s troops were making their pitch to the European Union on why Oracle’s purchase of Sun should be allowed to go through.

And now, it looks like their argument may be finding some support ahead of the EC’s January 27 deadline to make a decision on the merger.

Over the weekend, Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) made a lengthy, 10-point list of commitments that it said would help maintain and enhance the viability of the Sun-owned, open source MySQL database at the heart of its dispute with European regulators.

In the document, Oracle makes some significant promises. One of the list items said the company would spend more on research and development for the MySQL Global Business Unit “than Sun spent in its most recent fiscal year (USD $24 million) preceding the closing of the transaction.”

It also pledged future releases under the GPL public license, as well as committing to synchronized releases of the Community and Enterprise versions of MySQL.

Additionally, Oracle promised to change Sun’s current policy and not assert or threaten to assert that any third-party vendor’s implementations of storage engines must be released under the GPL if they have implemented the APIs available as part of MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture.

Perhaps the largest commitment is Oracle’s unilateral promise that for the first five years after the merger, it will refrain from threatening legal action against any third party that chooses to implement MySQL’s Pluggable Storage Engine (PSE) architecture without distributing code for that implementation under the GPL. The PSE enables database admins to pick a storage engine of their own choosing.

One of the most important plug-ins to have been released for this architecture came last year from InnoDB, an open source company that Oracle purchased in 2005. The InnoDB storage engine has been the default storage engine for MySQL’s Windows Essentials package.

In response to the list of commitments, the EC seemed pleased.

“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 organization said in a statement issued on Monday.

Oracle faces off against its critics

That response caps a weekend of progress in what is turning into a very long merger attempt by Sun Microsystems and Oracle. After having been announced in April, the deal passed U.S. regulators’ government approval in August, but then became held up by the EC over concerns about the future of MySQL.

The hold-up has prompted numerous public complaints and open letters urging the EU to let the deal go through, with support for the deal coming from sources ranging from developers to former MySQL president Marten Mirkos to a bipartisan group of 59 U.S. senators — the latter of which prompted EC chair Neelie Kroes to fire back publicly, telling the lawmakers to quit interfering and go work instead on America’s health care system.

This weekend’s promises from Oracle came after the first of a two-day session before the EC to convince it to clear the Oracle/Sun merger. As part of its case, Oracle brought in eight customers to defend its support of open source software and the market in general. These included Vodafone, the UK’s National Health Service, Ericsson, Sabre Holdings and Spain’s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBV).

Opposing the merger was an odd pairing: Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), which itself has come under anticompetition scrutiny by the EC and paid billions in fines as a result; and MySQL creator Michael “Monty” Widenius, an avowed critic of Oracle’s ownership of the open source database who over the weekend launched an 11th hour appeal to “help save MySQL“.

“Oracle have to lower prices all the time to compete with MySQL when companies start new projects,” he said in a post on his blog, although he didn’t mention any customer cases. “I don’t trust that Oracle will take good care of MySQL and MySQL should be divested to another company or foundation that have everything to gain by developing and promoting MySQL.”

However, he softened his tone later in his post, adding, “I think that Oracle could be a good steward of MySQL, but I would need EC to have legally binding guarantees from Oracle.”

Many of Widenius’s demands were met by Oracle’s list of promises, but in an addendum to his blog post, he added that they weren’t enough.

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