Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

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.

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TOPICS: Open Source, Oracle
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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

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30 comments
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  • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

    Is anyone really surprised?
    justthinking
    • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

      @justthinking I am not.
      DanaBlankenhorn
    • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

      Oracle for a few<a href="http://fpdaily.net/"><font color="light&amp;height"> about it</font></a> is bank that <a href="http://www.marketinge.biz/"><font color="light&amp;height">website</font></a> attacked from the <a href="http://www.commerce21.org/"><font color="light&amp;height">site support</font></a> from any soldier <a href="http://andyoctavian.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">site</font></a> to the light <a href="http://www.hawkeyereview.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">home page</font></a> is great months
      gorians
  • Are you seriously deluded

    Where exactly is it written that a commercial entity is obligated to pour money into an open source product? Talk about a delusional understanding of the laws of economics.

    This is the core of open source hypocracy. To create meaningful software you need more than just some guy living in his mom's basement. You need a team of programmers, technical writers, testers, etc. These people won't work for free.... so you need a rich corporation to fund the project.

    Regarding Java specifically, truth be told Java needs to die just like Flash. If Oracle can kill that crap left over from the Web's primordial origins, we can all move forward. If some open source software gets caught in the crossfire, so be it.
    croberts
    • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

      @croberts Open source isn't written by individuals in their moms' basements. It's written by, and supported by, communities, often with a commercial entity as the sponsor.

      The interests of those communities should not be treated as ordinary corporate assets. Communities don't get a choice on where their corporate sponsor goes, but they can vote with their feet. And my concern is they'll vote to stop supporting open source.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • To my recollection MySQL was written by a company.

        @DanaBlankenhorn: <i>It's written by, and supported by, communities, often with a commercial entity as the sponsor.</i><br><br>Specifically MySQL AB. IT was then sold to Sun for approximately $1B. Do you think everyone in the open source community who contributed to MySQL ever saw a dime of that money? Do you even think everyone who worked for MySQL saw any part of that money?
        ye
      • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

        @DanaBlankenhorn Corporations are communities as well. Open source is no different from closed source in that. It takes a lot of time and money to integrate the large projects such a mySQL. If they can't pay for themselves, then the Larry Ellisons of the world come in and take the juicy parts. It is evolution in action.
        hayneiii@...
    • Wow, can you be that naive?

      @croberts You really underestimate the strength of the human spirit, you know that. Economics is has always been a gimmick of taking from others to gain more yourself, and as long as you understand that, you succeed in economics. But sometimes the only way you can take what the other guy has, things like market share, is to throw money into something that you give away for free, or at least don't make a profit off of.
      Also, economics has a huge deal to do with the psychology of the human mind, and so if you make it look like you're trying to do things for the benefit of the whole, you can win a lot of people over. Oracle needs to keep the whole illusion of support for open source going because if they don't, the get the negative pr of being the bad guy that killed open source.
      (Also, you can create meaningful software with just one guy in his mothers basement. That's how almost all of the computing revolutions we see to day get started, a single person getting sick of the status quo and breaking out on their own, its keeping relevant and enticing market share that cost the real money.)
      sehamon
    • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

      @croberts : Wow! Are you ever allowing yourself to be deluded! MANY great applications are the results of ONE Person's coding efforts. I'd say you either have your head in the sand or still have a lot of experience to be gained.
      twaynesdomain-22354355019875063839220739305988
  • No need to worry!

    As long as Oracle is fighting the M$ beast, they are fighting the good fight and we should always side with Ellison over Ballmer.
    The layoffs are nothing more than Oracle regrouping and playing elastic defense since thousands of volunteers are ready to replace these acceptable losses and mount a crushing offensive against proprietary thugs like M$ and Apple.
    Linux Geek
    • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

      @Linux GeekAre you kidding. Oracle i crazy proprietary.
      rrogacki@...
    • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

      @Linux Geek
      So, let me guess - in your spare time, you write North Korean propaganda? The syntax and rhetoric are so eerily similar.
      thetwonkey
  • Not as bad as it could have been ...

    It could have been MS or Apple instead. Especially Apple. Either case would have been worse. At least its just Oracle. Not perfect, but passable. Sun itself was no model open source citizen. Oracle has to play hardball to keep up with those mentioned above. One has to understand that. Not all is ashes. Oracle is making a major investment in things like btrfs. I think they will come through in the end on the things that really count. The good health of open source is in their interest. They know that. Things will work out OK in the end. Not perfect, of course, but OK.
    George Mitchell
  • I think most of us smelled trouble.

    I wanted to give Oracle the benefit of the doubt, and I haven't totally given up on the idea that they might at least continue working on MySQL, but the truth is as soon as the acquisition a lot of people started looking to alternatives and a lot of other open source projects are rolling along with more momentum now as a result. Although the immediate benefactor was probably Postgres, a lot of that attention has been going to what I see as the future, which would be nosql systems like CouchDB.

    I've loved working with MySQL for years, but at least with the current state of the community, there are tons of alternatives if Oracle pulls the plug, and some of them are starting to look better than MySQL anyway.
    javecantrell
  • Sun failed to monetize

    Oracle has to find a way to monetize off Open Source and that is going to be painful. Sun was also losing an awful lot of money so its not surprising that Oracle will have to shed a lot of personnel to get the costs under control. You just have to hope that they are being bargin-minded as they figure out who to cut and who to keep.

    Remember, at the end of the day, projects like Java and MySQL are under GPL licenses and the community can continue to innovate on them just like any natural Open Source project. Mozilla definitely spent years in limbo before recalibrating itself as the active and vibrant project it is today.

    I am very curious to see how Ellison's experiment works out. I would think he is savvy enough to understand that access to intelligence is the key driver for really big contracts more than locking everything up in licenses. They can continue to mature the opensource solutions and charge for access to intelligence if they play their cards right. A success around that model will benefit Oracle as well as the community.
    ean-zdnet@...
  • Yes and No

    Yes; I and many off my colleagues were all sceptical of the Sun buyout. As you say, it looks like we were right.

    No; There is no similar conclusion to be reached between the BP situation and that of Sun/Open Source/Oracle. The former is accidental, the latter wholly intentional. DEAD workers as opposed to Laid-Off workers. No comparison, no similar conclusions.
    ArnoldZiffle
    • Sometimes curmudgeons go hyperbolic

      @ArnoldZiffle You make a good point. I'm just so sickened by both the spill and public reaction (drill baby drill) that sometimes it comes out in unexpected ways.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • Sometimes curmudgeons go hyperbolic

        @DanaBlankenhorn Regrettably we must (drill baby drill). Current technology isn't remotely able to supply our energy needs. This is off topic but... it all falls back to simple physics. There is NO power source currently available in ANY form that delivers the stored energy of the Sun contained in gasoline. So we should cut back right? Um, that's gonna cost a lot of jobs and destroy current life styles. Remember the recent report, as I recall it said there are 6.8 Billion people on Earth now, and 5 Billion of those people have cell phones. We can't go back to covered wagons now. We have to continue to use those dirty fossil fuels until energy technology catches up. In the 22'cd Century! I'm not kidding either.
        ArnoldZiffle
      • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

        @DanaBlankenhorn Drilling for oil save lives. Low cost energy is the basis of wealth, and poverty is the leading cause of death. The real problem is that we have driven the oil wells away from the land and shallow waters. Wind power, solar power, biofuels, etc. are good in theory, but are far more expensive. Changing to them will not make them price competitive, the physics just is not there. Drill, baby, drill is still an economic and public health necessity.
        hayneiii@...
    • RE: Has Oracle broken its promises to open source?

      @ArnoldZiffle
      Sadly, BP was no "accident" as you state. It is a case of bean-counters cutting corners in an attempt to save a few millions of dollars by ignoring "expensive" engineering solutions that this deep well needed and with which they had no experience to guide them. It has cost them 11 lives, the livlihood of many thousands, and a nightmare that will take a very long time to heal, and many "billions" of dollars when they could have prevented it for a few "millions."
      Tholian_53