Oracle's pledges on MySQL are 'purely cosmetic', say critics

Oracle's latest commitments designed to address the European Commission's concerns regarding its acquisition of Sun Microsystems and the MySQL database are paper thin, and even if they were confirmed they wouldn't safeguard MySQL's future, said Florian Mueller, an outspoken critic of the deal, on Monday.

His comments followed an announcement by the Commission earlier Monday that Oracle has agreed to make a series of undertakings to customers, developers and users of MySQL, which the Commission described as "an important new element to be taken into account" in its antitrust investigation of the merger with Sun.

The Commission has held up Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun because it believed that the deal would harm competition in the database software market, currently dominated by Oracle.

Oracle made the new commitments during negotiations with Commission merger officials believed to have taken place over the weekend.

They include "binding contractual undertakings to storage engine vendors regarding copyright nonassertion and the extension over a period of up to 5 years of the terms and conditions of existing commercial licenses," the Commission said, describing the new undertakings as "significant new facts".

Among those dismissive of the database giant's promises was Mueller, who once worked for MySQL and is close to Michael "Monty" Widenius, a founder of the open source database company who objects to it being owned by Oracle.

Mueller described Oracle's proposals in an email as "purely cosmetic and totally ineffectual, not preventing the near-instantaneous cessation of innovation in and around MySQL because neither enterprise users nor storage engine vendors nor forkers -- developers of products derived from the MySQL code base -- would have a secure future and real incentive to invest."

The five-year extension of terms and conditions of existing MySQL licensees is insufficient, he added in a follow-up phone conversation.

"Five years isn't long enough because people wouldn't have a basis to make long-term investment decisions," he said. "The duration [of the extension of terms and conditions] is a big problem."

Oracle made ten promises, all of which will be withdrawn five years after the deal is sealed:

1. Continued Availability of Storage Engine APIs. Oracle shall maintain and periodically enhance MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture to allow users the flexibility to choose from a portfolio of native and third party supplied storage engines.

MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture shall mean MySQL's current practice of using, publicly-available, documented application programming interfaces to allow storage engine vendors to "plug" into the MySQL database server. Documentation shall be consistent with the documentation currently provided by Sun.

2. Non-assertion. As copyright holder, Oracle will change Sun's current policy and shall not assert or threaten to assert against anyone that a third party vendor's implementations of storage engines must be released under the GPL because they have implemented the application programming interfaces available as part of MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture.

A commercial license will not be required by Oracle from third party storage engine vendors in order to implement the application programming interfaces available as part of MySQL's Pluggable Storage Engine Architecture.

Oracle shall reproduce this commitment in contractual commitments to storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun.

3. License commitment. Upon termination of their current MySQL OEM Agreement, Oracle shall offer storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun an extension of their Agreement on the same terms and conditions for a term not exceeding December 10, 2014.

Oracle shall reproduce this commitment in contractual commitments to storage vendors who at present have a commercial license with Sun.

4. Commitment to enhance MySQL in the future under the GPL. Oracle shall continue to enhance MySQL and make subsequent versions of MySQL, including Version 6, available under the GPL. Oracle will not release any new, enhanced version of MySQL Enterprise Edition without contemporaneously releasing a new, also enhanced version of MySQL Community Edition licensed under the GPL. Oracle shall continue to make the source code of all versions of MySQL Community Edition publicly available at no charge.

5. Support not mandatory. Customers will not be required to purchase support services from Oracle as a condition to obtaining a commercial license to MySQL.

6. Increase spending on MySQL research and development. Oracle commits to make available appropriate funding for the MySQL continued development (GPL version and commercial version). During each of the next three years, Oracle will spend more on research and development (R&D) for the MySQL Global Business Unit than Sun spent in its most recent fiscal year (USD 24 million) preceding the closing of the transaction.

7. MySQL Customer Advisory Board. No later than six months after the anniversary of the closing, Oracle will create and fund a customer advisory board, including in particular end users and embedded customers, to provide guidance and feedback on MySQL development priorities and other issues of importance to MySQL customers.

8. 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, to provide guidance and feedback on MySQL development priorities and other issues of importance to MySQL storage engine vendors.

9. MySQL Reference Manual. Oracle will continue to maintain, update and make available for download at no charge a MySQL Reference Manual similar in quality to that currently made available by Sun.

10. Preserve Customer Choice for Support. Oracle will ensure that end-user and embedded customers paying for MySQL support subscriptions will be able to renew their subscriptions on an annual or multi-year basis, according to the customer's preference.

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