Ellison: We won’t spin off MySQL

Oracle CEO urges approval of Sun acquisition, says Oracle's database does not compete with MySQL

Undaunted by European Union concerns over Oracle's proposed ownership of the open source MySQL database, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison insisted Monday that he would not spin off MySQL to get EU approval of Oracle's planned acquisition of Sun Microsystems and that Oracle's database does not compete with MySQL.

Ellison, in an interview before a gathering of industry dignitaries in San Jose, Calif., also laid out his vision of Oracle following in the footsteps of one-time IBM President Thomas Watson Jr.'s IBM and serving as a complete systems company.

[ In addition to the EU, some user are nervous about Oracle owning MySQL. | Relive Sun's storied history in InfoWorld's slideshow "The rise and fall of Sun Microsystems." | Learn why attendees at the JavaOne conference were skeptical of Oracle's buyout of Sun. ]

Appearing at a Churchill Club event and interviewed by former Motorola and Sun executive Ed Zander, Ellison emphasized that Oracle competes with databases such as Microsoft SQL Server and IBM DB2 but not MySQL. "We never compete against MySQL. [Oracle and MySQL] are both called databases; they address different markets," Ellison said.

"No, we're not going to spin it off," even if asked to by the EU, Ellison said. The EU is concerned about Oracle simultaneously owning MySQL, the leading open source database, and its own Oracle enterprise commercial database.

U.S. regulators have found the merger to be pro-competition and already approved it, Ellison said. "I think once [EU regulators] do their job, they're going to come to the same conclusion," he said.

Ellison expressed the urgent need to complete the $7.4 billion merger, which was announced in April. "Sun is losing $100 million a month," Ellison said. "We'd like to get this done." He stressed that Oracle wants "to save as many jobs as we can" via the merger.

With the Sun acquisition, which marks Oracle's major foray into computer hardware, Oracle hopes to mimic the dominance of Thomas Watson Jr.'s IBM, Ellison said. Watson Jr. was elected president of IBM in 1952, later became chairman, and stepped down as chairman and CEO in 1971.

"That's when IBM was really the dominant software company," Ellison said.

Oracle, he said, does not wish to compete with the likes of Dell. "We have a deep interest in the systems business," delivering hardware and software combinations that can be the backbone of most enterprises in America and the world, Ellison said.

"We're very interested in running airline reservation systems and we're very interested in running banking systems and telecommunications systems and that require both hardware and software," said Ellison. IBM is the company Oracle wants to compete with, he said.

He pledged to keep the multitude of Sun technologies that Oracle would acquire, including x86 technology, Sparc processors, tape, and storage. Ellison also lauded Java and the Solaris Unix OS. "The Java [platform] already is the lingua franca of network computers," Ellison said.

"Sun has been a national treasure for the last couple of decades," he said.

"Solaris is way better than [IBM's] AIX," Ellison said. He added that Sun machines "will outrun the IBM machines running the Oracle database." Oracle also remains "a big supporter of Linux," but Solaris is the more mature OS, said Ellison.

Ellison covered several other topics in the interview, including cloud computing, Microsoft, and the economy.

Asked about the concept of cloud computing, Ellison dismissed the notion that the cloud computing is a new concept. "It's a computer attached to a network," he said.

"Cloud computing is not only the future of computing, it's the present, and the entire past of computing is all cloud," he said.

The cloud still requires components such as databases, operating systems, and memory, said Ellison. He pointed out the seeming absurdity in which cloud computing previously was called the Internet, software as a service, and on-demand computing.

Ellison also described Microsoft as a "very consumer-centric company" that focuses on the Xbox game platform, Zune music-playing technology, and on Google.

"I see them and all of their energies going into being successful in the consumer space," even if Microsoft also is in the business space, Ellison said.

Ellison also stressed there is a bright future for flash storage, saying it allows for a vast acceleration in database performance.

Commenting on politics and the economy, Ellison said he voted for President Barack Obama but added that all of the president's spending programs, including universal health care and cap-and-trade, would be very expensive. Tariffs on imported goods will be needed if cap-and-trade is approved, Ellison said.

He expressed surprise at the high level of spending and added he believed there would be no rapid economic recovery.

He also objected to plans for government to regulate who pays what in regards to the Internet as part of "Net neutrality" rules. "In general, I  believe in free markets and I think this is a case where government regulation is not necessary," said Ellison.

Ellison also dismissed any suggestion that Oracle was a company driven by sales and marketing. "Ninety-eight percent of our sales or more are to existing Oracle customers. If we don't have the right product, people don't buy more," he said.

"The company is all about engineering. It's the only thing that works," said Ellison. "The one part of the company that's always reported to me is engineering," he added.

As far as his continuing service at the 32-year-old company he co-founded, Ellison said he would serve for at least five more years, as part of the company's latest five-year plan, and then evaluate things after that.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.