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Oracle to Sun open source users: Don't worry

Oracle promised to continue Sun Microsystem's open source commitment for MySQL, Open Office, and Solaris but open source users are skeptical.

Oracle promised during its five hour webcast Wednesday to continue Sun Microsystems open source commitment by throwing money and support behind MySQL, Open Office, and Solaris, promising to make each offering better. As expected, open source users are skeptical.

John Locke, who runs an open source consulting company called Freelocke Computing in Seattle is suspicious of Oracle's long term intentions for MySQL.

"The crucial question is how they will actually run MySQL: as a stand-alone asset with a huge market share that can benefit Oracle, or as a competitor to marginalize and methodically dismantle until it's no longer viable?" Locke said, "Promises aside, what counts will be their actions."

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Concerns about Oracle monopolizing the database market caused the MySQL community to try to block the acquisition and the European Commission objected in November, but the Sun acquisition deal was finalized last week.

With MySQL ownership being a sensitive topic, Oracle was careful to stress that MySQL will remain separate from Oracle's main products, "whereas most of the Sun products and technology are being sucked in," said Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata, Inc. analyst Gordon Haff.

Oracle's Chief Corporate Architect, Edward Screven, explained Oracle's strategy for MySQL, which he wasn't sure how to pronounce -- "My Sequel or My S-Q-L? No one around here is sure." He said Oracle's engineering processes and expertise will be applied to MySQL along with Oracle support. He also referred to MySQL as a natural extension of InnoDB, which Oracle purchased in 2005.

MySQL will be included in the Oracle stack and integrated with Enterprise Manager, Secure Backup and Audit Vault. MySQL will also become part of Oracle's open source Global Business Unit, but will remain an independent sales and development organization.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said Oracle intends to keep MySQL alive and separate, the same way its other database products are separated.

"MySQL is not the largest database; Berkeley DB is, and we own it and made it better," Ellison said. "We own many databases for various segments of the market, which we try to make better for those market segments."

Locke said he won't believe Oracle's promises to keep MySQL alive until the company proves it with actions such as actively marketing and selling MySQL licenses to increase the market share. He also hopes Oracle will keep all development public, with a publicly accessible source code repository and an active dialog with the community about the future development roadmap.

Locke also said the demise of MySQL will be evident if commercial versions become "supersets" of MySQL that add functionality but require paid licenses to use and if Oracle keeps parts of MySQL development from the open source community.

Dana Gardner, principal at Gilford, N.H.-based Interarbor Solutions, said Java and MySQL users have the same concerns about Oracle's intentions. "Oracle will have a tremendous amount of clout and they were worried how [it] would use it to either cultivate or stifle these products."

Haff said the gray area surrounds Oracle's open source contributions versus proprietary extensions.

"MySQL already had a model of offering things under a commercial license that weren't part of the GPL [general public license]. The question is whether Oracle will put increased emphasis on non-GPL parts," Haff said.

Concerns about the fate of MySQL under Oracle ownership started to affect the open source database market far before the deal was finalized, with users saying they would increase PostgreSQL adoption while distancing themselves from the MySQL.

MySQL share of the open database market is expected to drop from the 82.1% share it enjoys today to 78.7% by 2011, declining to 72.3% by 2014, according to a survey of 347 open source users late last year by The 451 Group, a New York-based technology research firm.

As for Solaris, Oracle plans to "invest significantly" in Solaris and Linux and optimize both OSes for Oracle's full stack, from applications to disk. According to Oracle, about 50,000 users run Solaris and about 4,000 run Oracle Unbreakable Linux.

Oracle also said it would continue to develop, promote and support OpenOffice, and the community edition. It will manage it as an independent Global Business Unit, using Sun's development and support teams.

Barbara Darrow contributed to this report

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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