SAP and open source: it's about Oracle

Matt Asay has written a piece about SAP's 'sudden' love affair with open source:What is surprising is that it is SAP, the bastion of proprietary software, that delivers this message.Irony, thy name is SAP.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Matt Asay has written a piece about SAP's 'sudden' love affair with open source:

What is surprising is that it is SAP, the bastion of proprietary software, that delivers this message.

Irony, thy name is SAP.

SAP, after all, is hardly the most open-source or open-process friendly company on the planet. Despite early involvement in Eclipse, some interaction with MySQL (MaxDB), and a new commitment to the Apache Software Foundation, SAP remains a firmly proprietary company.

Dude - IT'S ABOUT ORACLE. The big clue comes in the quote in Matt's piece from Vishal Sikka, SAP's CTO where he says:

To ensure the continued role of Java in driving economic growth, we believe it is essential to transition the stewardship of the language and platform into an authentically open body that is not dominated by an individual corporation.

Matt added the emphasis but didn't spot it. Truth is SAP is scared witless about Oracle's intentions regarding Java once they (presumably) acquire Sun. As I understand it, the way the T's and C's are written for Java in commercial environments, Oracle has or could have a right to charge for the SDK, an essential piece of the Java puzzle for big vendors like SAP. Oracle already benefits to the tune of some $1 billion a year from SAP being an effective Oracle DB reseller. Adding in the pain of $??? for access to the SDK would stick in SAP's craw.

I can imagine Oracle would be delighted to invoke a charging clause. Especially if it meant sucking more blood from its arch rival. Heck - it beats filing law suits.

More seriously, if Oracle could and did levy a charge, SAP would have no real way to pass it on to customers. It's open source innit so in the minds of buyers anything SAP has to deal with becomes a cost of IT doing business.

SAP could argue cost increase ergo pass it on but then that runs counter to Sikka's charm offensive and risks SAP truly living up to the 'pot, kettle, black' monker Matt applied to the article. But there is another side to this.

SAP has been trying to get the influential SAP Mentor group onside with open source. That's probably one of the easiest tasks it has. Geeks love open source and care little for commercial issues. And the Mentors are extremely good geek advocates for what SAP does. Marketing wise it's an internal SAP community slam dunk for SAP. But...SAP has also made clear that IT doesn't believe open source means 'free.' Mentors may not be concerned about that from a development viewpoint but I'm pretty darned sure they'd get antsy if the license bills came at deployment time.

As an aside, I have practical experience of running the SAP IP gauntlet. If SAP is truly committed to open source then this will relieve a lot of the pressure on developer groups. However, that's not a certainty.

I note that Matt is presenting to SAP later today. I hope he has time to read this. It might give him something to consider?

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