Open source needs backing to succeed

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison dispelled the myths of open-source software, noting that open-source databases need commercial support to gain traction.

SAN FRANCISCO--Open-source databases will not succeed without commercial support, says Larry Ellison, CEO of major database company Oracle.

Ellison noted that open-source developers without commercial backing will face limitations in building new products. "But I'm not saying that you won't find (good) open-source products," he said, addressing an audience at Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. "Some open-source databases are good in caching and database queries, but not in (complex) transactions."

"One of the myths of open-source is that it's built by a bunch of guys who work at RadioShack."
--Larry Ellison
Oracle's CEO

"One of the myths of open-source is that it's built by a bunch of guys who work at RadioShack (a U.S. electronics store). And when they get home at night, they log on to the Internet and write codes," he said. "The largest investor of Linux with the most number of Linux engineers is from a little RadioShack-related company called IBM."

The other big investors in Linux are Intel, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard, who have given Linux commercial engineering support, he added.

Most open-source databases such as MySQL and Ingres, have little commercial support, he noted. "But it's interesting to see what will happen in future."

Ellison also gave his take on why Oracle's new software support plans only apply to business applications and not databases. "If I'm not mistaken, I don't think there are a lot of people who run Oracle version 5 databases," he said. The company's database is currently into its tenth iteration.

He added that businesses do not typically modify their databases, noting that "it's not a piece of software that you'd adapt to suit your business". Moreover, it is easy to upgrade from one Oracle database version to another, he said.

"There isn't the cost of upgrade that's usually associated with applications," he noted. "I don't think there is a similar desire amongst our customers to run older versions of our database. Supporting a 10-year-old version of our database is not something they have raised with us."

ZDNet Asia's Aaron Tan reported from San Francisco, USA.