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Oracle gets EC go-ahead to buy Sun

The takeover of Sun will 'not significantly impede effective competition' in the European database market, the European Commission has decided
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The European Commission has given its approval to Oracle's takeover of Sun.

The commission, which opened an investigation into the acquisition in September 2009, said on Thursday that the open-source nature of Sun's MySQL database, along with the existence of credible open-source rivals to MySQL, meant the merger would "not significantly impede effective competition" in the European database market.

"I am now satisfied that competition and innovation will be preserved on all the markets concerned," EC competition commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement. "Oracle's acquisition of Sun has the potential to revitalise important assets and create new and innovative products."

Responding to the commission's ruling, Oracle issued a statement in which it said it expected to receive unconditional approval for the takeover from China and Russia, and "intends to close the transaction shortly". US regulators gave their go-ahead to the merger in October 2009.

In its statement, the commission noted that MySQL — purchased by Sun in 2008 — was the world's leading open-source database, despite having a low share of the market in terms of revenue. It also pointed out that while MySQL and Oracle compete in certain parts of the database market, they are not close competitors at the high end.

PostgreSQL, being a "credible alternative" to MySQL, could replace the latter's competitive force in the database market if necessary, the commission said.

"In addition, the commission found that 'forks' (branches of the MySQL code base), which are legally possible given MySQL's open-source nature, might also develop in future to exercise a competitive constraint on Oracle in a sufficient and timely manner," the statement read.

In December 2009, Oracle responded to the commission's concerns over the future of MySQL by saying it would offer a five-year extension of contracts between storage vendors and Sun, without changing Sun's existing terms and conditions. The business software maker also said it would continue to release future versions of MySQL under the GPL open-source licence.

"Oracle has already taken action to implement some of its pledges by making binding offers to third parties that currently have a licensing contract for MySQL with Sun to amend contracts," the commission said on Thursday. "This is likely to allow third parties to continue to develop storage engines to be integrated with MySQL and to extend the functionality of MySQL."

The commission also decided that broad adoption of Sun's Java development platform, along with its community-based development and revision process, will dissuade Oracle from denying its competitors access to Java-related intellectual property.

Oracle's takeover of Sun has divided some of those most associated with MySQL. In October, former MySQL chief executive Mårten Mickos sent a letter to Kroes, arguing that delays in approving the deal could harm Sun's businesses.

However, MySQL co-author Michael 'Monty' Widenius organised a campaign against Oracle's acquisition of the database, claiming that the deal would create a conflict of interest between MySQL and Oracle's rival database products. To date, his petition has gathered more than 14,000 signatures.

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