Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

Summary:Now that Sun has been inside Oracle for a few months I believe the skeptics are being proven right.

In the run-up to the Oracle acquisition of Sun, America's open source advocates were mostly on Oracle's side.

Oracle made big promises. They wanted the open source assets -- Open Office, Java, and mySQL among them. They said they would invest in those assets.

CEO Larry Ellison called predictions by one analyst of massive Sun lay-offs "irresponsible garbage." Anyone speculating in that direction should be ashamed of themselves, he said.

I wasn't ashamed. I believed Oracle bought Sun for its hardware business, not its software. I saw Oracle's promises as pie crust  -- easily made, easily broken.

Many Europeans were even more skeptical. People like Florian Mueller of FOSSPatents and mySQL co-founder Monty Widenius stirred up anger across the continent to the pending deal. The European Commission emerged as the key roadblock to the deal.

But trustworthy open source advocates, like Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center, were adamant. "For its own business reasons, Oracle will heavily invest in MySQL’s future," he wrote.

The deal was approved.

Now that Sun has been inside Oracle for a few months I believe the skeptics are being proven right. While some analysts say they're not surprised at recent job cuts, they are pretty deep, in line with the predictions Ellison called "garbage."  The Wall Street Journal has estimated the job cuts will cost Oracle $1 billion in severance. Sales are slowing.

Worse may be to come. Java is fragmenting. Solaris is increasingly being treated as proprietary, not as open source. Sam Dean of OStatic agrees with me that Open Office is drifting. CNET's James Urquhart sees mySQL as a minus, not a plus, for the cloud. The M in the LAMP stack is falling behind.

Larry Ellison's pattern with acquisitions is clear. He engages in asset stripping. He uses vendor lock-in with those he acquires to reach deep into their wallets. He pushes those customers toward proprietary Oracle technologies.

Nothing wrong with that, in theory. But when these assets are created by a community, not a company, when they are part of a commons, I think they deserve protection. They shouldn't be treated the way BP treats the Gulf of Mexico.

Why anyone expected something different with Sun and its open source assets is beyond me. Ellison verbally attacked all who questioned his motives, and his intentions, but his record had already spoken for him.

As it seems to be speaking in this case.

You may disagree. If you do, I want to hear from you.

Certainly there is an argument to be made that Oracle is increasing its investment in mySQL. But if open source is all about ending vendor lock-in, Larry Ellison is its worst nightmare. And since acquiring its crown jewels, I would argue, that nightmare has slowly come true.

How do the open source advocates who argued for this deal feel about it now?

Topics: Open Source, Oracle

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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