Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

Summary: If proprietary companies like Oracle can buy up open source projects and then take back their open source status, how can an enterprise depend on open source software

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If proprietary companies like Oracle can buy up open source projects and then take back their open source status, how can an enterprise depend on open source software?

It is with the aim of creating this kind of FUD that Oracle has made its moves against Java and OpenSolaris. Most analysts now expect similar moves against mySQL and OpenOffice.

(To the right, a proprietary Dana, not the open source one. All will be explained.)

Why would Oracle destroy assets it just paid good money for?

Two reasons.

  1. It didn't really pay good money for them.
  2. It pushes enterprise buyers away from all open source.

Oracle paid $7.4 billion for Sun. Even with recent drop-offs in revenue (which can be made up) the company should easily clear $2.5 billion in hardware sales this year. If you can buy a viable computer hardware business for three times sales you're doing pretty well. Oracle got the software assets for free.

Oracle's moves against high profile open source projects like Java (and presumably OpenOffice and mySQL) also serve as a warning against enterprise dependence on other open source projects.

Open source companies practically live to be taken over. It's the pot of gold at the end of their rainbow. Oracle is telling their customers that could leave them high and dry.

We assume that the license status of open source is fixed, like baby names. But the status of baby names isn't fixed at all.

When I was born in 1955, most kids named Dana were boys. By 1970,  when the singer Dana Owens (Queen Latifah) was born, most Danas were girls. They will be when my grand-kids are born too. (Picture from Wikipedia.)

What Oracle is demonstrating with Solaris is that such status is not fixed. (Good news for boys named Dana.) Open source can be taken back. Which means that if you come to depend on open source, you may find yourself staring down the barrel of a large bill one of these days, if someone else chooses to be like Larry.

This has always been an Achilles Heel for open source businesses. They can't make people buy their stuff. They make up for the revenue shortfall with lower sales and distribution costs. But they still have that revenue shortfall.

Thus proprietary companies have a big advantage whenever an open source company wants to cash in. They're still the most likely buyers. With Solaris Oracle seeks to prove the rights enterprises think they have to open source code can be taken back.

If this can be seen to make financial sense -- if Oracle's strategy is copied even by Oracle -- then the corporate way forward for open source may be closed off. Enterprises may decide they have to buy licenses for their own protection, and the open source era ends.

That seems to be the plan, and it's a cunning one, because as I noted the assets Oracle is playing with were essentially free. All it had to do to get the crown jewels of open source was play a little poker, a game where you win by convincing others your hand is something it's not.

Open source is not dead, of course. Solaris and the other projects Oracle has bought could be forked. Or can they? Didn't Google fork Java for Android, and isn't Oracle now saying in legal papers its control of Java is protected by patents?

And if there's one thing an enterprise buyer wants to see less than a bill, it's a lawyer. Lawyers can scare Danas of both sexes.

Topics: Oracle, Google, Open Source

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  • Few open source projects are actually sustainable

    I have pondered this as well. <br><br>FLOSS is often peddled as a "fair" development method which makes software much less expensive.<br><br>This is because the savings goes to the customers and not to that big, evil proprietary vendor.<br><br>But there actually is a price that's too low, even for the buyers. If the development of the software asset is not sustainable, you are not paying enough. Eventually the software will be abandoned or - as in this case - bought by a company with few intentions of honoring the FOSS ideology.<br><br>I find it quite ironic that the old proprietary way of developing software is actually the most fair (socialist if you want): Those benefiting the most will have to pay the most as well.<br><br>What Google did with Dalvik was an attempt to reap the tremendous benefit of being a "Java" player - without being willing to contribute back and help sustain the development. Google has indeed benefited a lot from open source. When you are that big you can set up your own support. It is the small and middle-size players who will have to pay for "support" to help sustain the ecosystem.<br><br>The FLOSS model is flawed. At least for some types of software.<br><br>Sun was not profitable. They never were able to monetize Java. Except for Java ME for which they did receive a fair amount of licence fees from handset vendors. Until Google wiggled a way around that.<br><br>I believe that this is also why Microsoft has taken a lot easier on FOSS competition during the later years. They realize that they just have to sit it out. Sustainability of FOSS projects is rare and for a select few. Given enough time most projects will run into the ground or try to cash in selling to a proprietary vendor. The buyer *will* need to monetize the project and from then on the "open" part of the project will become a 2nd class citizen. Given enough time, customers will realize this as well. After the backlash we will still have FLOSS, but then with a more realistic face.
    honeymonster
    • wrong

      @honeymonster
      most FOSS projects are sustainable.
      Only proprietary companies go out of business taking the code with them to the grave.
      Linux Geek
      • RE: Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

        @Linux Geek
        Prove it. You can't. There are very very few pure-play (sell OSS directly) OSS projects that make money. Very very few. The few ones that do (like Red Hat) don't make that much relatively compared to even niche proprietary companies (for example Symantec's Norton AntiVirus alone makes far far more money than Red Hat).

        Companies that use OSS indirectly (IBM, for example, make their money through services).

        If you look at revenue from proprietary companies like MS, Apple, Oracle and IBM they are making tens of billions of $.

        Google's core search engine isn't open source.
        DevGuy_z
      • RE: Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

        @DevGuy_z

        "Prove it. You can't"

        GNU has been around since, what, the early 80s? X has been around about as long. Linux has been around since 1991.

        How many proprietary software projects from back then are still going?
        AdamWill
      • Many MANY more, actually...

        @awilliamson
        Can't count them all, but let's start with a few big ones and see where we wind up:
        - Windows (1985)
        - Mac OS (1984)
        - Norton Antivirus (pre 1990)
        - Great Plains Accounting (pre 1990)
        - Microsoft Word (1983)
        - WordPerfect (1980)
        - Photoshop (1990)
        - QuarkXpress (1987)
        - Filemaker Pro (1990)
        - Quicken (1988)

        See, the problem that Stallman and you have, is you forget one thing about Copyright and other intellectual property - it can be transferred. It is actually very rare for software to die with its developer, unless that software was a poor performer to begin with. In most cases, the torch is passed to another developer to continue to develop the software, as long as it makes sense to do so..

        Alternatively, in the Open Source world, indeed the source code is available for development, but unless those that need the software know how to program it, there isn't much value in having the source available if no developer has interest or incentive to do so for you.
        daftkey
      • RE: Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

        Oracle can buy up open source<a href="http://www.nerdysouthrecords.com/"><font color="light&amp;height"> about it</font></a> is bank that <a href="http://rabbiburton.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">website</font></a> attacked from the <a href="http://thescatterload.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">site support</font></a> from any soldier <a href="http://www.macnerdnews.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">site</font></a> to the light <a href="http://www.ventasyacom.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">home page</font></a> is great projects
        musdahi
    • Lies, damn lies, stats and FOSS

      @honeymonster That's the four levels of lies in the software industry. FOSS may save some ramp up cost but in the long run has the highest true cost of ownership.
      LBiege
      • TCO - Irrelevant from Oracle's perspective

        @LBiege
        Oracle is about making money. You can make money off open source through services (e.g. IBM) but since Oracle is primarily a software company and is not just a service company that doesn't work. There are very few pure-play (sell OSS directly) that make money and those that do do not make all that much. Red Hat is a good example. MS probably makes almost as much on Halo as Red Hat does.

        The only thing that Oracle cares about TCO is if customers buy their software or not, and they do. Same with MS, Apple.

        Note, regarding IBM. It sells lots of proprietary software too. And don't say "Google" it makes its money on search and that isn't OSS
        DevGuy_z
      • RE: Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

        @LBiege And here we are reading your post on Mozilla - Firefox, etc. You can NOT convince me that that has a high cost of ownership compared to MS's offerings.
        Westley52
    • daftkey your list is flawed

      lets start with Windows
      It has been abandoned & reinvented many times (next version will hopefully will be a better one), so when you put Windows is the same company but not the same software.
      Now mac OS, it was abandoned at 9.3 before switching to unix. Because that solid fundation it will be here, unchanged at the core, 15 years from now, same as Linux, same as FreeBSD. I wont elaborate on the remaining of your list, actually & use QuarkXPRESS, Adobe wares, FileMaker & I hope they will remain viable in the future.

      Now lets see FOSS:
      - Unix
      - Apache
      - PostgreSQL
      - Libreoffice
      - TCP/IP, DNS, Python, PHP, Javascript, HTML/CSS, the very foundations of internet. Nobody will buy that; is open & free
      - Postfix, Squirrelmail
      - many, many others...
      In fact, if commercial software disappears sudendly it will be a disruption to many; for me, I will keep computing as usual, I will regret Adobe, FileMaker can be replaced. Now if FLOSS disappears, it will stop the world: no more internet, no more unix/linux, no more routers, no more banking, etc.
      theo_durcan
  • I don't know what anyone expected...

    Oracle is a FOR PROFIT company and is competing in the market place. It would make no sense at all to continue supporting a competitive product.

    I just do not understand why some open source folks don't grasp the idea that it must be competitive or the belief that it should not be subject to market competition because it's "special".
    NoAxToGrind
  • If its

    if its really Open Source, it can't be taken over. If it has a critical mass of users a fork will happen since the source is out there.

    Java never has been open source, and thus all things dependent on it like Open Office, never really were either. There are some compatible Open Source java clones, expect interest in them to grow rapidly with this decision by Oracle.

    OTOH, I've never liked Java and if died tomorrow I wouldn't cry a single tear.
    wkulecz
    • Of course they can't take OpenSource. They'll just use it to spread FUD

      @wkulecz <br><br>The code is out there and protected with a proper license, there's nothing they can do about it, not even the meanest ugliest dirtiest evilest lawyer can do anything about it. That's a settled issue.

      But as Dana wrote, Oracle only needs to play a little poker, a game where you win by convincing others your hand is something that it's not.<br><br>I'd say this is all Oracle needs to put in place a very nice and elegant FUD campaign, one that will be very effective in delivering a powerful punch on software freedom. Remember, FUD is a hugely powerful weapon in the corporate world, FUD is hugely effective in any environment dominated by greed, fear and the forces of money.

      I'd say Oracle has a winner in its hands, all they have to do is play it well (and I'm pretty confident that they will, it's their game after all.)
      OS Reload
    • Incorrect....

      @wkulecz
      Sun released Java as GPL2 code, therefore Java is open source. It can be forked, modified,etc....What can't be done now is what Oracle is trying to do. SCO also release open source code and we have already seen where that got them....

      Keep it up (or is it down) Oracle!
      linux for me
    • True, but for all practical purposes...

      @wkulecz
      an OSS can be reduced to a historical curiosity rather than killed outright. I suspect Open Solaris is thus doomed.
      DevGuy_z
      • RE: Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

        @DevGuy_z
        (I think zdnet ate my last comment, sorry if this shows twice).
        OSS is not a historical curiosity, it is the original development model. When the market for software out-grew the availability of developers skill it was easy for businessmen like Bill Gates to control the supply.

        Now skill is plentiful (as well as idiots, and many purchasers cant tell the difference) open-source (not the same as not-for-pay) is the default model. There is no longer an advantage to keeping things secret - which is evidenced by the move to patent protection for software, an attempt to control the flow of ideas despite the large supply.

        However OpenSolaris is doomed anyway but only because no-one wants to support Oracle's idiocy. Oracle will find that all they can do is cut themselves off as the minds move elsewhere
        sam@...
  • clueless pundits

    if you want to read an in-depth analysis on the topic oracle vs google vs open source from someone who actually has some technical, historical and business understanding (other than the clueless idiots writing for this ridiculous blog here) go to: http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2010/08/14/how-oracle-might-kill-googles-android-and-software-patents-all-at-once/
    banned from zdnet
    • Speaking of 'clueless'...

      @banned from zdnet

      You and your chosen author must be pretty clueless to believe lines like his "Google is nothing but a series of infringements snowballed together."

      Once I saw that nonsense, I realized that everything he says about Google if fueled by his hatred for the company. Where that hatred comes from is still a mystery, but I don't really care.
      mejohnsn
    • RE: Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

      @banned from zdnet
      The easiest way to remove the idiot from this site is for you to stop posting here.
      happyharry_z
    • RE: Oracle aims to destroy open source software industry

      @banned from zdnet

      *yawns*. NOBODY knows what's going to happen for a while, that's the only true statement here.
      DonRupertBitByte