Oracle Users and Customers Back Oracle at the European Commission

Blogged by IOUG President Ian Abramson on December 13, 2009

As I have been discussing over the past few days; I have been deeply involved in helping Oracle respond to objections that were made by the European Commission surrounding the loss of competition in the database market place by Oracle acquiring Sun. The experience has been one that has proven to me one important factor; computer people are passionate. Sure we may not know how to say hello to a girl, but when it comes to the software we work with on a daily basis, we now how to get passionate for that.

I became involved about a week ago after receiving a call from Oracle's CCO; Jeb Dasteel, from there, the experience began. I have already talked about some of the anticipation and if you have been following on Facebook, you would have seen commentary I provided during the entire experience, as much for the Oracle community as my kids who are busy studying for finals at McMaster University. Give me a break, I'm a proud Dad. So how did things go?

It all began Wednesday afternoon in Brussels, Belgium with meetings at Oracle's lawyer's offices, which conveniently were right next to the Conrad Hotel. (BTW, nice hotel and it just so happens that the Italian President was in to speak at the EC and he was staying on my floor, we had a quick spaghetti party on 6.) So, off to the lawyers to discuss and finalize our presentation for the next day. It was determined that since the IOUG and the UKOUG (represented by Chairman Ronin Miles), were both there that we should combine statements. So for the entire afternoon we reviewed the updated materials and took it even further. I expect to have the slides posted in the next few days.

You should understand that these hearings are held in private and without the media. However, I asked the folks at Oracle if they felt this might be an issue and they did not. I can provide you information on what I said but not what I learned during the hearing as they are confidential.

So we were now ready. The power team that had been brought together to address these concerns were all top-notch. Oracle brought its President Safra Catz and the top legal minds inside and outside of Oracle (could have been 20 lawyers in the room, just on Oracle's side). There was the leadership from Oracle EMEA with Loic le Guisquet, the person who runs the entire practice in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and a couple of other very senior people who really helped me directly on getting our message together, There were economists on both sides. Not sure what economists really do, but they had a lot to say. On top of all the Oracle and legal muscle, there was Miles and me representing the great user community as well as a number of Oracle's biggest and brightest customers.

The session room was filled to near capacity.

It included the Competition Commission and the case team working on this file. In addition to what seemed like 100 people associated with Oracle, there were people who were supporting the objection. Some of those groups included: Microsoft, SAP and MariaDB. There also were representatives from 11 member states of the EC and one guy from US DOJ. I assume they all were here to watch this historical purchase work through the process. All of these had a stake in the decision, but for different reasons. Rumors were even swirling that SAP might announce that it now runs on MySQL. I never heard if it does as they spoke on Friday, and I assume they were announcing that it was certified to run on that database platform. I only attended the session on Thursday when Oracle made its primary case along with Sun. They did a great job explaining how the MySQL product really works and why this objection may not make sense. The first was the idea that the EC's objections are based on an interpretation of facts. One concern that I heard and stated at the session was that the commission had questioned the validity of the hundreds of letters sent to the commission by customers and users and user groups. I can reiterate again that the letter the IOUG sent was created by us without input from Oracle. They provided us a sample but our letter was done by the time we received the sample. Basically we used the address for our letter....over and over each of us pledged that we wrote these on our own without prodding. If it was like the IOUG, we began talks about objecting to the objection as soon as it was released, I expect most people were the same. Rumor even had it that this case may have garnered the most e-mail and direct mail support of any purchase/merger ever for the EC.

The discussions were definitely heated at times. Questions and answered were almost like bombs being thrown from one group to the other. The Commission asked great questions and Oracle's team were able to respond clearly and quite reasonably. There were many questions that included some emotional concerns; people need to remember that this is business.

As I said during my presentation to the committee, IT professionals are innovators and rebels and that nothing that Oracle would do with MySQL would change competition. If someone in IT sees the opportunity to create something new or create a fork of MySQL, the chances are that it will not be stopped.

I just found the whole process where your accusers are also your jury an interesting concept but this is how government works. I don't know how this will turn out, but I can tell you that it is far from over, and I expect Oracle will fight this until a just decision is made. Considering that we expected the deal to close in the summer, it is becoming a real issue. Decisions that need to be made cannot be, due to the uncertainty. People need to know what the company plans for its staff as it is integrated. This delay is costing people, companies and confidence. I hope that by being there as the President of the IOUG, a user group member, as a Thoughtcorp employee and as an Oracle customer and user, that in some way we have helped them see the light and let this deal go though.