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DOJ Probe Of Oracle-Sun Deal Gives OSS Proponents A Voice

When Oracle late last month said the Department of Justice wanted more information on how Java is licensed before signing off on its agreement to acquire Sun Microsystems, it mainly went under the radar.

Oracle indicated in its disclosure that it doesn't see the inquiry as a barrier to closing the deal later this summer. Burton Group analyst Ann Thomas Manes agrees. "It just means they are not on the fast path, it will just delay things -- that's all," she said.

But it also underscores discontent over how Sun currently oversees the Java Community Process (JCP), said Ovum analyst Tony Baer. "No one was overjoyed about Sun's leadership of the JCP and it's not like Oracle engenders a warm and fuzzy feeling either," Baer said.

In the latest twist, MySQL founder Monty Widenius has stepped into the picture. Widenius, who jumped ship from Sun Microsystems and recently formed the Open Database Alliance, is urging those that fear Oracle might abandon the open source framework of MySQL to weight in with the DOJ.

Widenius has some clout. DOJ officials interviewed him last week for the second time, in particular how the deal might impact open source software, notably MySQL and Java. In a blog posting last week, Widenius said he has been approached in recent months from MySQL customers concerned about its future.

"From this it's clear that most MySQL users are very interested to know what Oracle is up to, but those that have tried to inquire Oracle about this, myself included, have been met with complete silence," he wrote in the blog posting, where he gave the following advice:

"For those that are worried about the future of OSS software as part of the Oracle / Sun deal, and the affect (both good and bad) it may have on their business, the U.S..Department of Justice is encouraging companies that are dependent on MySQL / Java to contact them and tell them how the deal may affect their business," he noted. "The more information the department gets, the better equipped they will be in deciding what their recommendation for the deal will be."

Manes pointed out that if Oracle decides it is not going to give away the run time for free, or if it were to bring back the source code and no longer make it available, or in a worst-case scenario the company decided to dismantle the JCP, it has that right. "That's because Sun retains all governance rights to Java," she said. "Now I seriously doubt Oracle would do something quite so stupid, because it's certainly in their business interest to facilitate the Java market. When I talk to various government organizations regarding the acquisition, I have made that quite clear."

As a Java developer, what's your take on this? Do you think the DOJ should put restrictions on the deal? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on July 13, 2009