Does Oracle-Sun Help Open Source?

Tuesday Apr 21st 2009 by Sean Michael Kerner
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GIven that Sun is a leading open source vendor, its acquisition by Oracle may shake up the landscape.

Sun, Oracle, Java and Open Source
Sun is one of the world's largest open source vendors, making its acquisition by Oracle a development that will have repercussions throughout the open source world.

Despite the enormity of the news, however, many open source vendors that spoke with InternetNews.com said they are cautiously optimistic about the impact of Oracle's Sun acquisition -- and what it could mean for open source software, Java and Linux.

On the Java front, the Eclipse Foundation, which for years has had a Java development effort competitive with Sun's Netbeans, sees the Oracle buy as opportunity for the governance of the Java Community Process (JCP) to evolve. The JCP is the process by which Sun has led the governance of an open development process for Java since 1998.

"Oracle is a strong leader and contributor to both the Java and Eclipse communities," Mike Milinkovitch, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, told InternetNews.com. "The JCP needs to undergo a major reorganization to make it more open, transparent and, in particular, vendor-neutral. I hope that Oracle will take this opportunity to make the appropriate changes to allow the JCP to be an effective organization that leads the Java community."

A number of vendors last month told InternetNews.com they agreed that changes in the JCP are necessary. Milinkovitch added that having a revitalized JCP is good for Java and a healthy Java community is good for Eclipse.

Open source SOA (define) vendor MuleSource is also among those optimistic about the future of Java under Oracle ownership.

"I suspect that Java and the JCP will remain untouched by Oracle except for some strategic branding," Ross Mason CTO and founder of MuleSource, told InternetNews.com.

Still, not all of Sun's open source projects may fare as well. In particular, its Glassfish Java middleware server may not have a real future with Oracle, Mason said.

"It's difficult to guess how Oracle will view Glassfish, given that they have just spent 12 months slicing and dicing the BEA product suite," Mason said, pointing to Oracle's $8.5 billion acquisition of BEA and its Java middleware server in 2008. "IBM tried the Community Edition App Server with Geronimo with poor results, but Oracle may consider this an option if nothing else to get wider reach into the Java community."

Rod Johnson, CEO of SpringSource also noted the importance of Oracle's Java middleware as a factor in how Oracle will be viewed in the JCP. SpringSource develops a lightweight framework for Java that runs on Java middleware from a number of vendors including Red Hat JBoss, Oracle and IBM.

"For Oracle to retain the integrity of the JCP, they will need to maintain trust. That may be difficult to do," Johnson told InternetNews.com. "Sun was never a strong competitor in Java middleware; Oracle is very strong. It's easier to get away with making the rules if you're not a strong competitor in the game itself."

Red Hat is another vendor with a lot at stake in the Oracle-Sun deal. Oracle competes with Red Hat for Linux support as well as with Red Hat's JBoss Java middleware division.

Page 2: Does Open Source Benefit?

So far, however, Red Hat is remaining fairly tight-lipped about the impact of the acquisition.

"Red Hat has built its business on enabling the best performing platform across the widest range of applications and hardware choices. We will continue on this path," a Red Hat spokesperson told InternetNews.com. "Sun has some important open source technologies such as Open Office and MySQL. We are hopeful that these technologies will continue to grow and mature."

Good for Linux?

For Linux, the Oracle acquisition of Sun is also potentially good news. Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux foundation, blogged that in his view, Oracle is strategically aligned with Linux -- since Oracle is a Linux distributor, and develops and offers all of its products on Linux.

He noted that both Sun and Oracle are members of the Linux Foundation. But added that the reality is that it's always about customer choice and preference.

"Oracle is first and foremost an applications and business software vendor, meaning they need to support the OS that the customer wishes to deploy their software on," Zemlin wrote. "This acquisition makes a lot of sense for Oracle to fine tune Solaris for their products, but it certainly will not lessen the support or investment Oracle has in Linux. This isn't a zero-sum game."

"Much like IBM or HP, who continue to build out their Linux businesses while sustaining their Unix investments, it's about granting customers choice and making sure your software is optimized to run on the OS of their choice," he added.

Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth took a broader view of what the Oracle Sun deal means for his company and for open source. In terms of Java, Shuttleworth told InternetNews.com that his expectation is that there will be no reversal of the idea that Java should be widely available and available as free software.

Shuttleworth's firm Canonical has a strategic partnership with Sun dating back to 2006. Shuttleworth noted that over the last several Ubuntu releases, Java has become better integrated with Linux thanks, in part to Sun's efforts.

"The fact that Oracle has just announced a multibillion dollar acquisition of a company that describes itself as the world's biggest free software and open source company ... is enormously instructive," Shuttleworth said.

"To me, it suggests that it cements the idea that open source and free software are the big game in town," he added. "And everyone is trying to figure out what that means and how they integrate it. What they can't do is ignore it."

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com.

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