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Spring daddy looks to Oracle's MySQL commitments

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Rod Johnson, open source Java pioneer and general manager of VMware's new SpringSource division, has welcomed the commitment European regulators appear to have squeezed from Oracle over the future of MySQL.

Rod Johnson, creator of the SpringSorce Framework, told The Reg that as the owner of MySQL's intellectual property, giant Oracle could have "constrained" commercial activity around the open-source database if it chose.

Johnson called it "legitimate" for the European Union to have investigated the deal, given Oracle's dominant position in the enterprise - and now - web database markets.

Oracle has 48.9 per cent of the RDBMS market, according to Gartner, while MySQL is a number-one choice for web developers and embedded systems makers.

Johnson was speaking Thursday after the EU gave its blessing to Oracle's ownership of Sun Microsystems and - therefore - MySQL. Johnson's own open-source company, SpringSource, was bought by another enterprise giant, EMC's VMware, last year. SpringSource was the commercial maintainer of the Spring Framework, used by millions of developers.

"The issue is not whether Oracle can do anything they please with open source intellectual property they buy," Johnson said of the Oracle deal. "The question is what are the implications of them being so dominant in the database market."

He pointed to the potential for Oracle to potentially withhold its MySQL product from embedded-systems OEMs.

"I think some of the commitments the EU got from Oracle might give some degree of comfort to [those] third parties," Johnson said, adding that: "they will be positive to the community. They don't hurt Oracle at all and are of benefit to the community."

Last December Oracle published a list of 10 commitments to customers, developers, and users of MySQL. The commitments came just after it was reported that Oracle was in talks over a compromise with the EU on MySQL.

In a statement Thursday, EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes specifically singled out Oracle's December commitment, saying it would let third parties continue to build storage engines for MySQL and to extend the database's functionality.

Kroes said: "Oracle has already taken action to implement some of its pledges by making binding offers to third parties who currently have a licensing contract for MySQL with Sun to amend contracts."

Johnson, active in open source Java, said it's important for Oracle to maintain the trust of the community. He noted that Oracle would lose the support of developers and MySQL would whither if it did anything damaging to the database.

Drawing on VMware's purchase of his own company, Johnson said there'd been no conflicts of interest similar to the conflict around Oracle's purchase of another database through its ownership of Sun with MySQL. He said SpringSource's integration with VMware had gone "very well," pointing to the release of new products such as Spring 3.0 and hinting at increased revenue from Spring plus resources from VMware.

Johnson, meanwhile, renewed his call on Oracle to make a fresh start with the Java Community Process (JCP), once dominated by Sun but now Oracle.

A long-standing issue has been Sun's unwillingness to open source Test Compatibility Kits (TCKs) so open source implementations of Java can be tested as complying with the official specs. Sun's refusal to open the TCKs leads a damaging and still-unresolved despite with the Apache Software Foundation (ASF).

Johnson, an advocate of a reformed JCP, called it "table stakes" for Oracle to resolve the issue of Intellectual Property in the TCKs in its relationship with the community.

This would be the first of some "some pretty big changes" Oracle would need to make in order to keep the JCP relevant as a source for new ideas and contributions to Java, he said. ®

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