Users and contributors differ on Oracle open source

Users seem quite satisfied with the Oracle stewardship of open source Java and mySQL. Developers on the Open Solaris Governing Board, on the other hand, are in revolt.

I got myself some Oracle software the other day.

I was breaking in a new laptop and downloaded OpenOffice.org. When I finished a pop-up said it was updating my Java. It was just another day in the neighborhood.

On the other hand my wife is a developer. Her needs are different. She has different needs in terms of support, deeper needs. (She is neither an Oracle nor open source developer.) Needs that Larry Ellison is not meeting, in terms of open source.

That's how I square the circle between the JasperSoft survey saying the kids are alright in terms of Java and mySQL, and the boardroom revolt now taking place at Open Solaris.

As CNET's Stephen Shankland reports, Sun's dream of "a vibrant open-source community for the Solaris operating system to rival the Linux collective" is evaporating. Oracle remains committed to the proprietary Solaris operating system, he adds.

The board's need is for greater communication over things like the timing of future releases, and the lack of an Open Solaris road map on which to work. If Oracle is going to treat them like mushrooms, they figure, why not just fork it?

Of course, the board itself may be as popular as Barack Obama at a Tea Party convention. As developer Ben Rockwell notes:

The body has been useless for a long time, but only because it has chosen to be. The majority of the (Open Solaris Governing Board) OGB's life its wasted by trying to restrict its own authority by endlessly debating and re-writing the constitution. Its never lead anything, and it isn't now.

Such boardroom drama may be great entertainment, but all the desktop user on the street wants to know about his software is whether the code is going to run on time.

According to the JasperSoft survey, conducted in April, many feel Oracle will be a better steward of the code than Sun was, because it has the money to support it and won't go through Sun's trips and dramas.

The numbers may be subject to different interpretation, of course. A full quarter of the mySQL customers surveyed said they either haven't committed to the software's future or are dropping it. (About half say they're sticking by it, and a quarter never cared.)

Or consider that same result this way. Of those surveyed who use mySQL about a third remain unsettled. And in another survey question just as many were as likely to dismiss it from their plans as seriously consider it. In gambling we call that a push.

Jaspersoft, whose business intelligence tool is built on Java, is optimistic and believes that stance is important for open source as a whole. "The fate of these two technologies...will in large part determine the pace of adoption of open source software in Global 2000 enterprises and government," their whitepaper states.

Maybe. As with democracy, I think the process means more than the fate of any one program. But if you want to do the happy-happy joy-joy dance, I won't object. The glass can be seen as half-full.

It can also be seen as half-empty.