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Can't stand it any longer ...
I thought for a long time about writing this article. I didn’t want to talk about it as it’s a little bit problematic to write about this issue as an employee of Sun. But this weekend my anger reached the threshold i’m able to stand without saying a word. The reaction of Mr. Mueller to the dossier of Mr. Moglen was only the last disgusting drop. I simply can’t stand this infamy, i simply can’t stand this twisting of facts and i simply can’t stand the downplaying of the roles of people that really did a great job of defending open source.
Just to make it clear
At first i should say: I’m biased, i’m heavily biased. I’m working for Sun and thus i’m not neutral. Just for the people who don’t know who i am. Thus this text isn’t an analysis, it’s an blog entry about observations of the last few weeks and month. It’s a personal opinion. Just to make it clear: It’s nowhere the opinion of Sun, Oracle or anyone else. It’s just my own humble opinion as the entity “Joerg Moellenkamp, private person”, not .. repeat not the entity “Joerg Moellenkamp, employee of Sun”. Honestly i don’t know what my reaction would be if Oracle instead of Sun would have acquired Mysql. I assume i would have reacted in the same way like today, but that’s just speculation. Perhaps i would write against such a merger, don’t know, but don’t think so. I just write this, because from time to time some people think i have the official job to write here. It isn’t. I’m just an unimportant PFT from Germany, who has a louder voice than others, because i was able to write things interesting for Solaris/Sun admins in the last years thus was able to gather a larger audience for the stuff i’m saying. Further i won’t speculate about the reasons that lead to the demise of Sun from everybody’s darling in 2000 to the current situation. You have your theories, i have my theory. You have your look from the outside (which has advantages), i have my look from the inside (which has advantages as well). But we have one thing in common: We are armchair CEOs, thinking to be able to explain the world with the small and fragmentary knowledge we were able to gather from our point of view The beginning
When Sun and Oracle made the joint announcement, that Oracle would acquire Sun i was somewhat astonished, albeit they were on a short list of companies in my thoughts about companies that would be bad for Sun, when Sun is in the need for an acquirer. After all Oracle and Sun are both californian companies (From my observations there is a large gap between US companies and californian companies). There is an ongoing joke i’ve heard in several californian companies that the east coast divisions would like to be a part of EMEA, instead of the americas just because of the mindset. I didn’t heard something like that from my colleagues in the US, but i’m sure Sun is not that different there. Why do i tell this to you? Because IBM is an east-coast company. Thus i was really glad, that this negotiation fell through. I don’t wear blue suits and i would work for IBM just in the case nobody else wants me. Being the playing ball
However since the beginning of this year Sun was just a playing ball for the interest for the personal interests of some people. In all this discussions about the EC and Mysql, we shouldn’t forget that it was an IBM employee that disclosed the story of the talks between Sun and IBM to public and that was the moment when everything went downhill somehow. This report at the WSJ was the start of an horrible year. At the beginning of this year i was really optimistic about Sun. But the light at the other side of the tunnel turned out as a train. When the world went downhill
I even remember all the bad jokes when i went into my vacation to California, about being an astronaut whose country disappears while in space. From the hindsight: What a joke. Given the problems a small database makes there were no way to that IBM/Sun merger would have the slightest chance to get through. Since this moment our competitors try to reiterate the bullshit about our dusk, sunset or what pseudo-comical word games with sun they could find. And they did this with some success. However i tend to think: Okay, let them the fun … we will fight back with a vengeance when the merger found the acceptance of the European Commission. First signs were already visible: Shortly after the announcement of the Exabyte V2 IBM announced Purescale. Sorry, this product shows all signed of an forced early start … when i look at this stuff it isn’t a product, it’s a service, because you can’t get it with Global Services. However at a certain point i just stopped to comment about the economical situation. This aren’t normal times, normal patterns don’t explain what had happened in the last months. And honestly I had no explanation for many occurrences. I saw no need into reiterating numbers that were real but made no sense. Starting from the thing, that i didn’t understood what idiot talked about the talks despite he must knew that this wouldn’t be good for Sun. At least the disclosure of the massive insider trading scandal explained some of the occurrences of this year. I really hope this ex-IBM employee will serve quite a time in a jail for putting so many jobs at risk. Something like that must be prevented in the future. But i leave it to the courts to find the truth and the correct punishment in the case the accusations are correct. Thus i won’t discuss about that here anymore. The other interested party
There was another single person with large economical interest. Do you really believe that this discussion about Mysql is about the competition in the database market? When i’ve heard about the merger and the acquiring company several products were on my list of possible roadblocks on the way to a combined force in the market. But Mysql wasn’t on my list. I’ve always thought of the database market as a market with one of the fiercest competitions, partly due to my own experiences (I’ve purchased database licenses in 2000 and it was amusing to look at the battle between the vendors) and otherwise due to the observations i’ve made while working with customers at Sun. But somehow the the EC thought otherwise about this situation. Roadblock
I thought a long time, how Mysql could get the role as a roadblock. But after reading the press release of Mr. Widenius everything got clear in front of my eyes. I’m still not sure about it, i can’t give you proof for it, but it sounds reasonable. It’s just about personal interests again … and perhaps about the misestimations about the influence of certain groups of people. The perversion in this situation: I wouldn’t wonder if Mr. Widenius pays the his lobbying work with the money Sun payed to the owners of Mysql AB. At the moment this person tries to use Mysql as a coin with a thread to haul it out of the vending machine. At least this is my personal impression. Just disgusting … but i wont about the Of course Sun and Oracle has made an error here from my point of view. They underestimated the uncertainties surrounding the handling of open source product. With Mysql it’s the first time the EC has really to assess the impact of a merger onto competition with an open-source tool. Normally the EC has to work with other problems as the ongoing dispute about credits/research money for Airbus/Boeing, the ongoing problems between GM and the european subsidiaries and preventing a starting subsidies war between the countries of the european countries. And we are still not through the economical crisis. My person opinion: We’ve ain’t seen nothing … and everybody thinking that we won’t hear the chattering of teeth to the highest mountains after the next elections in germany because of the massive cuts everywhere is just naive. We will pay dearly for the current keynesianism-to-the-max as no government on this planet learned that you have to bring down the the deficits in the prosperous times. Additionally i think that money is too important to leave it in the hands of people just with an eye profits. The idea of a separated general banking and investment banking was a good idea. Damned … quite a diversion … that’s a different story i don’t want to discuss now. Somehow this was used to introduce a poisoned opinion into the EC. This just works as long this opinion isn’t corrected by more knowledgeable persons. Eben Moglen did exactly this with his letter to the EC and it’s obvious that Florian Müller had to downplay this to keep the poisoned opinion in the system. At the moment i just hope that the EC will weight the opinion of a lawyer that fought through cases to enforce the GPL more than the opinion a hired gun fighting for economic interests of a single person. So i don’t see Mr. Ellisons announcement to fight for unconditional approval for the merger not as downplaying or negating the importance of the European Commision. It’s about throwing the gauntlet to people that try to use the uncertainties of this unprecedented situation for their own advantage. A thought about competition
But let’s just assume for a second that the objections of the European community are correct and an Oracle/Sun merger would be harm the competition in the database market. I’m tempted to say that the impact to competition on the database market can be sacrificed to protect the competition in other markets. I tend to think that IBM and HP/EDS need a strong third competitor, even a fourth one to prevent a duopoly in he market that is much worse for competition than the horror story introduced by interested people about the disappearance of a small database product with many alternatives. This merger situation plus the financial disaster lead us in a place between a rock and a hard place. But i’m really looking forward to the merger with Oracle. The harder our competitors try to convince consumers that Sun will disappear, the harder or competitors try to prevent the merger directly or indirectly, the more i know that Oracle and Sun are really capable competitor to the other larger conglomerates: IBM and PWC, HP and EDS. I really think that the world needs the third variant with Oracle and Sun. Third variant? A hardware vendor and a consulting company, a hardware vendor and a services company, a software company and a hardware company. And there are already some speculations about a fourth conglomerate: Two software vendors … Microsoft and SAP. Not at as merged company. But as two tightly connected partners. Fairy tales of killing Mysql
Some interested parties try to make the impression, that Oracle would try to kill Mysql after an acquisition. I think this is totally nonsense out of a multitude of reasons: Starting at “Really bad PR” and ending at “Getting some state attorneys in the house because of anti-competitive behavior”. I will just pick two of the reasons i can think of. The first one can be summarized with “Oracle don’t dislike Mysql, they just hated that they wasn’t able to make money with it”. Let’s face it: Mysql and Oracle RDBMS doesn’t play in the same market. The markets are totally disjunct. Oracle didn’t have a product in the market segment of Mysql. Mysql will be the entry of Oracle to this market. It would be a dumb decision to kill it. People decided to use Mysql not because of the name Mysql, they decided to do so because it is/was good enough for their needs and it costs them nothing. Killing Mysql wouldn’t bring a single new customer for Oracle licenses, but it would give you many disgruntled customers never buying a single Oracle product again in the future when the company got bigger and they are in need for a bigger database (for example for the ERP system). Not after forcing them to another database an fork. The other reason i want to describe prevents them from raising support or licensing costs as well as preventing them from killing it. Markets hate a vacuum as nature hates a different of saline concentrations in liquids. Killing Mysql or making Mysql unattractive would open an opportunity to another database, reducing the influence of Oracle to this market. They would lock themself out of the market and allow other to earn money. And there we are back at the first reason. And at the end Mysql is open source, so the toothpaste analogy is valid: You can’t put back toothpaste back into the tube (Would like to see the poor soul with the job to remove the red stripes from the paste to put it back in the pockets at the side of the tube). And you can’t remove the source from the public. Real fears
Perhaps the real fear of Mr. Widenius that led him onto this crusade is a different one: With Sun owning Mysql he had a chance to fork Mysql and establish MariaDB as an alternative. He even could leverage his role as one of the primary developers and tout MariaDB as the real Mysql. And he could have really got away with that because Sun is the company of hardware and Solaris, not a database company. But Oracle is the 600lb gorilla of databases. When there would be only one company knowing how to do databases, this would be Oracle for sure. Mr. Widenius may be afraid of what could happen if Mysql get the full support of this 600lb gorilla, showing that his baby doesn’t need him anymore making him just yet another consultant, one of many … just with the difference that he could tell everybody that he nursed this baby in the first years. But that doesn’t really help to make a flourishing business as this wears of in a few month. So i perfectly understand why he tries to prevent this merger. However, Mr. Widenius has made the error of many people: Thinking tactical instead of strategical. Of course it’s tempting to use another 600lb pound gorilla to deny another one the access to your market. When he really thinks that Oracle will Mysql, he should allow Oracle the playing field, let them trying to kill it just to see that this isn’t possible, taking the fragments and build a flourishing business from it. The last thought is another piece, why i really think that this interested parties aren’t afraid of a malicious Oracle trying to kill Mysql, they are afraid of a benevolent Oracle behaving as good citizen of the open source community. Because for the commercial interests of Mr. Widenius this could be a much larger problem than his horror story. Just imagine what a company with the resources of Oracle could do for Mysql. Perhaps it could even get a place, where it’s really a competition in the market for ERP et al. The question … do we want and need another database in this market besides of Postgres? I would like to to see Mysql to fortify and extend it’s stronghold in the database market. The night is darkest just before dawn
That was a long text about my thoughts. I’m (as an employee at Sun) at a difficult situation now. How will all this end? I don’t know. I just hope that the next weeks will bring this situation to an end. Because the current situation doesn’t help anyone but IBM or HP by enabling them to spread FUD. And nobody can have any interest in strengthening IBM. And this happens at the moment. At the end: The night is darkest just before dawn. I’m pretty sure that this deal will go through at the end. I don’t know how, i don’t know what concessions has to be made at the end and i don’t know when. But i know that Sun and Oracle in combination can fight with the both other huge IT conglomerates at eye level and thus i see a good future for Oracle and especially Sun. And i see a good future for competition at large.