In April of this year Oracle announced its intention to acquire Sun Microsystems for $7.4bn. Not long afterwards the European Union raised objections to these plans on the basis that MySQL (a tiny open source component of the Sun business) might in some way be in breach of anti-trust legislation. Last week it confirmed this position by issuing a "Statement of Objections".
I wonder how much of the EU's (read: Taxpayer's) money and time has been spent on this decision? Almost nobody, other than the EU and a few ex MySQL guys, seems to believe there are any reasonable grounds for such an objection, yet meanwhile Sun's business continues to collapse in the uncertainty.
Rome is burning:
(OK, Brussels but you get the idea) the real shame here is not the debate over the merits of Oracle taking ownership of MySQL, but the fact that at the same time the EU wastes money on this issue, it is also spending gazillions of € on IT. A large slice of this spending goes towards buying more Oracle software and paying, with little or no bargaining power, the astronomical maintenance fees that Oracle annually pushes upwards to sustain its databases business margins (estimated to be around 80 per cent). I cannot think of another business of such scale that is able to drive such margins, except perhaps in the highly captive financial markets arena. In short, because of the way the EU and many other Governments buy and use technology, organisations such as Oracle can charge what they like.
If the EU was to put just a small fraction of the energy and enthusiasm invested in this anti-trust case into evaluating its IT procurement and contracting, it might find that there are plenty of far more practical ways to curb Oracle's dominant position and introduce healthy competition and greater value for money. Open Source might be one option, however I am sure if the EU levelled the playing field and pushed for real open standards as many individual Governments are, a whole raft of eager competitors would enter the game and its IT costs would come crashing down over the course of just a few years.
When I was thinking of how to close of this piece (and end my rant about wasteful spend of taxpayer's money) I thought thank goodness the private sector doesn't act like many Government bodies... but then I thought back over the past couple of years of my own experience with the private sector and now it has got me thinking...
... May be that will be the subject next time?
About the author:
Steve Shine - EVP World-wide Operations, Ingres Corporation.