Oracle wades into open source forum

Oracle has called on Sun to put Java into the open source community. A member of the original Gang of Four that promoted Java against Microsoft, Oracle said Java would develop faster if Sun loosened its control.

"Sun should still decide what goes into Sun-blessed Java, but if they open the process, all those freeware versions of Java would have a lot less momentum," said Kevin Walsh, vice president of Oracle's Intel Technologies Division, in an interview at Oracle Open World in San Francisco. "Linux is in many ways a reaction to Java. Open source is a different development model then what Sun has been pursuing, but it still merits consideration."

Walsh said he had not talked to Sun and didn't know whether Sun would consider his idea. Sun did not return phone calls seeking comment, although the company has committed to allowing non-licensees to help define Java and will announce details soon. Oracle, meanwhile, will port Oracle 8i to Linux, although Walsh said the Solaris port will come first.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds, who spoke at the conference, claimed Sun's missteps have caused Java to lose momentum. "Sun was way too scared of Microsoft, and as a result they created a contract that didn't help them. Java... is going into niche markets. The Unix marketing people were too concentrated away from the desktop, and when they gave away the desktop, everything else followed."

Torvalds said he saw Linux as a competitor to Windows NT and even Windows 98 over time, although he offered no specifics.

Intel and Netscape are also putting their weight behind Linux. Intel, which recently invested in Red Hat Software, is planning a comprehensive program for developers to get critical technologies onto Linux.

"Linux needs to scale, but to get it into the midrange and enterprise, you need more fault tolerance, systems management and those types of features," said Ken Shand, Linux program manager. "IT managers won't bet their business on Red Hat, but they will bet on big names like Oracle, Intel and Netscape."

Meanwhile, Netscape vice president John Paul said Linux has the most momentum of all the operating systems, despite Microsoft's marketing push behind Windows NT and Sun's marketshare with Solaris. "We've had quiet conversations with every system vendor about supporting Linux, and I think they're starting to understand that the value-add should be not in the operating system, but in the applications above it and the services around it."

Both Paul and Torvalds predicted many new applications, such as Adobe, on Linux during the first half of next year. Paul said, however, that Linux needs a better way to support customers.