Oracle's business model in recent years has been to roll-up (buy-out) its competition and then charge monopoly rents.
This has worked, for Oracle, with big customers. If you need big databases, backed by professional support, you really have two choices these days -- Oracle and SAP. To call that an open market is like saying Coke and Pepsi are an open market.
They're not. Coke and Pepsi represent a duopoly. Prices are nowhere in line with costs. A can of fizzy water costs pennies to make yet sells for $1 or more. This is true in many industries -- I mention Coke mainly because I live in Atlanta.
I also mention Coke because its duopoly is under attack. There are some forces that can't be controlled anymore. Nationalism, for one. WalMart, for another.
Open source represents the same kind of problem for Oracle. Oracle, of course, also has an open source strategy, which includes free downloads of code, and it's a strategy, not a giveaway.
This has many people in the open source community worried.
Last week, for instance, Business Week reported that Oracle is trying to end the threat by buying open source competitors. It owns InnoDB, popular for injecting data into mySQL. It's reportedly after Zend, JBOSS and Sleepycat.
But would that kill the threat? Not really. IBM is moving in the same direction as Oracle with DB2. A February 2005 survey of developers and database administrators found that 64% use an Open Source database. And you don't have to inject data into a mySQL set-up with InnoDB.
In the end open source is a bit like water. It flows no matter what you do. Oracle is going to learn that, but it will take time.