Open source projects need big companies to thrive, Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison reportedly said at a conference last week.
Ellison claimed that the majority of the development work on Linux is done by developers employed by large companies, according to an article on Australian news site LinuxWorld.
"There's [sic] a lot of romantic notions about open source," Ellison reportedly said at Oracle's OpenWorld conference in Japan last week. "That just from the air these developers contribute and don't charge. Let me tell you the names of the companies that developed Linux: IBM, Intel, Oracle — not a community of people who think everything should be free. Open source is not a communist movement."
He also claimed that the success of open source projects is dependent on the support of large IT companies. "Every open source product that has become tremendously successful became successful because of huge dollar investments from commercial IT operations like IBM and Intel and Oracle and others," he reportedly said.
Oracle, which recently acquired open source database company Sleepycat Software, employs more developers to work on Linux than Red Hat, according to Ellison.
The free software community is likely to strongly disagree with many of Ellison's comments. Although larger vendors have got involved later in the lifecycle of some open source products, much of the initial development of these products was down to the community. Also, many open source projects have reached a considerable degree of success without the involvement of proprietary vendors, including JBoss, MySQL and SugarCRM.
Although most people would accept that large IT companies have played an important role in the development of open source software, some have criticised them for taking advantage of the community.
Jesús Villasante, the head of software technologies at the EC's Information Society and Media Directorate General, said at a conference last year that big companies such as IBM, HP and Sun are using the open source community as "subcontractors" and called on the community to develop more independence from large companies.