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The database wars: EC investigates Oracle and Sun deal to protect MySQL
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into the planned acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle Corporation. The Commission’s initial market investigation indicated that the proposed acquisition would raise serious doubts as to its compatibility with the Single Market because of competition concerns on the market for databases.
The Sun Solaris operating system is the leading platform for the Oracle database, Oracle’s largest business, and has been for a long time. With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle can optimise its database for some of the high-end features of Solaris.
The Commission’s preliminary market investigation has shown that the Oracle databases and Sun’s MySQL compete directly in many sectors of the database market and that MySQL is widely expected to represent a greater competitive constraint as it becomes increasingly functional. The Commission’s investigation has also shown that the open source nature of Sun’s MySQL might not eliminate fully the potential for anti-competitive effects. In its in-depth investigation, the Commission will therefore address a number of issues, including Oracle’s incentive to further develop MySQL as an open source database.
Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “The Commission has to examine very carefully the effects on competition in Europe when the world’s leading proprietary database company proposes to take over the world’s leading open source database company. In particular, the Commission has an obligation to ensure that customers would not face reduced choice or higher prices as a result of this takeover. Databases are a key element of company IT systems. In the current economic context, all companies are looking for cost-effective IT solutions, and systems based on open-source software are increasingly emerging as viable alternatives to proprietary solutions. The Commission has to ensure that such alternatives would continue to be available”.
Oracle is active in the development, manufacture and distribution of company software, including middleware, database software and business application software and related services.
Sun offers computing infrastructure, including server and storage solutions and middleware and database software.
The decision to open an in-depth inquiry does not prejudge the final result of the investigation. The Commission now has 90 working days, until 19 January 2010, to take a final decision on whether the concentration would significantly impede effective competition within the European Economic Area or a substantial part of it.