EU tilting at windmills
OK, I confess. I didn’t expect the EU to worry about the Oracle-Sun takeover. At least, not more than it is obliged to do by virtue of the sheer size of the companies. Unlike the once-rumoured IBM-Sun deal, there are few areas of major overlap between Oracle and Sun, and none in which the companies are so dominant as to smell of monopoly. The US competition authorities raised no concerns, and I’d’ve expected the EU ones to do likewise.
Well, OK, there’s Java, over which some have concerns. And there’s the database. It’s true: Oracle and Sun own two market-leading databases: Oracle leads in the enterprise, while Sun (MySQL) leads on the Web. This latter is what apparently causes concern to the European Commission.
So what’s the worst that could happen? Oracle lets MySQL wither on the vine and supports only a proprietary derivative at a high price, thereby depriving the MySQL community? Erm, that’s exactly what caused concern amongst some when the deal was first announced! But it’s hardly realistic: MySQL’s open-source heritage ensures it can’t be killed so long as it has a community of interested users. Indeed, there are already MySQL forks out there, and MariaDB, Drizzle, or AN Other could stand to take the place of the original amongst the community if Oracle were to try anything too dumb.
As could PostgreSQL, or maybe some alternative disruptive technology we haven’t thought of in this context.
I have no doubt Oracle is well aware of this, and that they didn’t get to be a 100-billion-dollar company by shooting themselves quite so spectacularly in the foot.
No, the biggest risk to competition lies in the cloud of uncertainty that prevails while the deal is in limbo. By worrying about an Oracle/Sun monopoly and delaying the deal, the EU commission could inadvertently come close to handing one to IBM.