Thursday, December 17, 2009

So What Happens Now? Oracle and Sun

So after the announcement from Oracle yesterday, I think we all are starting to see that the Oracle acquisition of Sun may finally get done. I have quickly become an expert on the issues in the European Commission’s objections to the purchase, and feel that Oracle’s new 10-step program for MySQL seems to position Oracle and MySQL in a place that will be palatable for all parties.

The key for Oracle and for the MySQL community was to allow the community to continue in the spirit of the Open Source community. I mentioned in my personal comments to the hearing that I feel that IT professionals are innovators and rebels. Based on Oracle’s MySQL direction that they stated, it looks like MySQL will continue in a traditional manner and that Oracle will give customers the option to use it and support it as they need. This should satisfy the community (at least most of it), but should really address any concerns that the EC may have had related to the acquisition.

So it looks like the customers and users that got to be part of the process may have made some difference. I truly believe that we did make a difference and I expect that in some small way helped to form the Oracle of tomorrow.

I can tell you that the upcoming Collaborate conference will include sessions related to Sun technology and that its time to get on board, because I think this deal is on its way to finally becoming a reality.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oracle Users and Customers Back Oracle at the EU

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, including Doug Kehring and Wayne Waters. 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. Here is a view from my seat in the hearing room.

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. As well there were representatives from 11 member states of the EC and one guys 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. Rumours 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. There and was 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 may not be based on fact but in an interpretation or twisting 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. Rumour even had it that this case may have garnered the most email 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 professional 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 there and it will not be stopped. 

I just found the whole process where your accusers are also your jury an interesting concept but this how government work. 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 that the deal to close in the summer, it is becoming a real issue. Decisions that need to be made cannot 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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Adventure Begins

Today is the day that I have had little time to really mentally prepare for as my trip to the European Commission. I still find it amazing that I have this opportunity to speak as part of the government process to complete this multi-billion dollar deal. Somehow I am now in the middle of it and today is the day that I finally fly to Brussels.

The entire trip to Brussels is a first for me, I have been many places and seen many great things. I find that breathing in a great city from its architecture so important when I go to places with great history and Brussels seems to have held onto its ancient roots. As for my presentation. Another first, I have spoken in front of many audiences in my day but for most of those talks it has generally alright to open with a joke. I expect that after the team gets through reviewing my content they may decide to pull the joke and go with the more serious stuff.

I am actually very exciting to present some preliminary information about the types of databases that people are running. The IOUG along with Unisphere Research we have been conducting a survey on virtualization and we have some results already that are interesting. Turns out that of the people who took the survey close to 90% run Oracle as their enterprise database and of that almost 90% of those companies also run MS SQL Server and then 44% use MySQL. The results are interesting and deeper than this but some of it will form the basis of some of are existing arguments. I together with Ronin Miles, the Chairman of the UKOUG, will present the position of the user communities and it all begins in just a couple of days.

On the lighter side I was thinking about some of the great adventures and places that I have been part of my life already. And in no particular order:

  • Discovering Israel (wow….that’s history)
  • Exploring Rome
  • Living in London for 6 months
  • Exploring the ruins of Pompeii
  • St Petersburg
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • Attending the 1976 Olympic in Montreal
  • Meeting Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
  • Being at the 1994 NY Rangers Game 7 win in the conference finals
  • Nos Expos (enough said)
  • Attending 3 Stanley Cup parades
  • Being there as my home province of Quebec was considering separation; I heard one of the greatest speeches in Quebec history as Rene Levesque called on Quebecers to rally after the loss for the separatists
  • Seeing the kids grow up….that’s the greatest adventure
  • And now on to: Speaking at the EC

I am sure there are many others……it’s amazing to look back and see where we have been and how much we have already done. Of course there is still so much to go.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Another Day Closer to Brussels

Friday and another day closer to me going to Brussels to speak at the EU. In a way it seems a little surreal at this point in time.I continue to work on my presentation to get ready for next week and still have to do my day job to do and boy are things getting busy these days at Thoughtcorp as we build momentum in the Enterprise Data Group during this time of a BI explosion. Always good to be busy.

My logistics are done and I am looking forward to seeing Brussels if only for a short time. I’ve been to Belgium before. I plan to see what I can in the evenings, this is a country with long history and we are going to be in the core of Brussels close to the old city. There are a number of UN Heritage Sites in the city which I look forward to seeing during the holiday period. I always loved the way London comes alive during the holidays. I seem to always time my European trips during the Fall and Winter, not sure how it works out, but one day. A few years back I had the chance to attend the UKOUG conference in Birmingham and if I am not mistaken it rained 8 out 9 days. A perfect week in the UK in December, so hopefully it will be better next week in Brussels.

One thing that has been interesting to see the reaction of people when you let them know that you are going away next week. This must be important as I have to miss hockey next week and I don’t like to miss hockey. Being the goalie you need to be there. So I told the team last night, and this is a team where I am on the older side of the Bell curve and most of the guys are in their 20’s. When I tell the story of how I was going to speak at the EU, the reactions ranged from disbelief to amazement. I play hockey with these guys but they don’t really understand what I do in my job let alone the IOUG. I am still trying to figure out how I am going to be part of this process but one thing is that I am going to soak up the experience.

Right now my wife is planning her days while I will be sequestered at the EU. Belgium and Brussels of course is known for its chocolate. I think she plans a tour and tasting of each in the city. And Belgium has a connection to Canada via the poem that in Canada symbolizes the sacrifice of our soldiers have made for us and I can remember hearing it every Remembrance Day growing up. We even have a part of the poem on our $5 bill. Finally they tell me that I need to eat waffles, French fries and beer……so I look forward to a fun gastronomic experience.

So the wheels are in motion and the experience of a lifetime is getting closer. At least I have two hockey games between now and when I leave to keep my mind clear. The weekend pack and plan before I know it I will be looking in the souvenir shops looking to add to my travel snow globe collection.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Standing Behind Your Words

I am about to embark on an experience which I would never have imagined would have been on my path in life. Next week I will be going to the European Union’s Competition Committee to present the position of the IOUG on the pending acquisition of Sun by Oracle. As you may have already read previously in my blog; the IOUG’s leadership is of the opinion that the purchase will not affect competition in the database market. We feel that the technology community are innovators and they will respond to the needs and desires of the marketplace.

So I have been asked by Oracle, on behalf of the IOUG, to go to Brussels and be a part of their presentation to the EU. This has all evolved very quickly. I have to thank everyone at my company, Thoughtcorp, for their support during a hectic time. To me it illustrates the leadership that companies like ours can show in today’s diverse technology landscape.

So believe it or not I am flying to Brussels (Home of the EU) next Tuesday (arriving Wednesday morning) and then on to lunch and meetings…..wonder if they will be serving waffles?

This entire process is one that illustrates to me how you need to be prepared for anything when you make a statement. You need to be confident in yourself and the great team around you to make such a curveball into one of the great experiences of ones life. My segment before the commission will be around 15 minutes and basically present the position the IOUG published in our recent press release. I have to thank the Board and staff at the IOUG who all took part in building our position on the subject. I am ready to tell the EU why the IOUG made the statement that we did and why we support the deal, sometimes you need to stand up for what you feel is right and this is about as big a political stage they could find.

So here I go; I get to be part of something that for me may be a once in a lifetime experience. I am excited and anxious about how it will all come together, but I am confident in my knowledge and abilities to represent the IOUG community in a responsible manner. After all this is done, it would be nice to say that the Oracle database user community stood up and made a stand and helped to influence the direction of tomorrow’s technology landscape.

I look forward to sharing as much of my experience with you as I can; as Ian’s Excellent Adventure begins.