Who is trying to sabotage the Oracle/Sun merger?

Someone will surely benefit if the deal falls through, but it won't be MySQL customers

The European Commission claims it filed its formal objection to the proposed Oracle/Sun merger out of concern for MySQL. Let's not kid ourselves -- this development is not a victory for the MySQL community, and it's not a victory for open source.

Free-software advocate Richard Stallman wrote a letter to the European Commission (the EU's executive arm) claiming Oracle would "predictably limit the development of the functionality and performance of the MySQL software platform, leading to profound harm to those who use MySQL software to power applications."

[ Larry Ellison says Oracle won't spin off MySQL if the Sun buy goes through. | Relive Sun's glory days in InfoWorld's slideshow "The rise and fall of SunMicrosystems." ]

But not everyone in the open source community is opposed to the merger, nor is everyone in the MySQL community. In his own letter to the EC, former MySQL CEO Mårten Mickos said he doesn't believe it would be "a viable, likely, or contemplated strategy" for Oracle to use the merger as a means to undermine MySQL.

Mickos is a business manager, not a geek, but he's as canny an observer of the open source marketplace as there comes. What's more, he resigned his post as head of MySQL earlier this year and claims to have no financial stake in the Oracle/Sun merger.

So why couldn't he convince the EC? You can bet his and Stallman's weren't the only voices whispering in the commissioners' ears. Someone stands to profit by delaying the merger; the only thing certain is that it isn't Oracle and it isn't Sun.

Whodunit? As with so many mysteries, it can't hurt to follow the money.

The usual suspects
The first likely culprit should be easy to guess. IBM was close to its own deal with Sun until negotiations collapsed in April, but its motive to undermine the merger with Oracle goes way beyond sour grapes.

Many saw Big Blue as a better fit for Sun, but in truth IBM would have been interested in acquiring Sun for much the same reasons as Oracle.

Like Oracle, IBM is heavily invested in Java technology. Like Oracle, IBM wants to provide end-to-end solutions for enterprise customers. And like Oracle, IBM markets a leading proprietary relational database -- DB2 -- that is just as threatened by open source databases as Oracle is.

And what about Microsoft? Oracle and MySQL officials have said time and again that their respective databases don't compete, but MySQL is widely perceived as a strong alternative to proprietary low-end databases, such as Microsoft Access.

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