What the Sun/Oracle Combination Means for Java and Open Source

First, everybody just take a deep breath. There has been so much Twitter-panic about this acquisition, it is tough to think objectively about this merger when everyone is forced to jump to a Twitter judgement in 140 characters or less. Seriously, everyone woke up on Monday and started reacting. Here are the major assumptions everyone is making:

  1. Oracle is going to somehow "ruin" Java: "Oracle is to Java as the Borg is to Picard." - We'll see. I don't think it makes economic sense to upset the Java ecosystem abruptly. Java is still at the center of most server-side development, Oracle doesn't want to give the community any reason to abandon it for something else (something new).
  2. Oracle lacks an "open source" culture. - Oracle might come from a different culture than a company like Red Hat, but they do participate in open source. Oracle has been a member of the Eclipse foundation from the start, and they've donated projects (Apache Trinidad) to the ASF.
Oracle and Java

I'm defering judgment, and waiting to see what Oracle does with the business. The first thing we can all agree on is that Java has not been maintained by a rational business for a few years, and that it might be a refreshing change of pace to see what happens to Java in a company that has a more rational approach to business. What do I mean by that? Sun has been focused on playing catch-up for years. They've been playing catch up with Eclipse and they decided that 2007 was a great year to dive into the Rich Internet and Mobile applications arena with Apple and Adobe. Even Sun's latest announcement about Cloud computing sounded like an "also-ran". They were consistently late to the party and under tremendous financial pressure.

Take a look at JAVA's quarterly income statement, and you'll see what the problem is. They didn't have room to make the necessary investments in the platform. In contrast, ORCL seems to have a bit more room to make an investment in the platform. In other words, Oracle's making money, they had more than 10x the net income than Sun Microsystems posted last year, and they don't have as much pressure to control operating expenses. Most Sun employees feel like they've been held hostage by management for years as the company suffers through a series of layoffs driven by the need to slash operating expenses. You can't expect people to focus in an organization that has multiple restructurings every single year.

What this means is that if Oracle wanted to make an investment in the Java platform, they could. They could pay a team of top engineers good money to calmly work on Java without having to wonder about impending layoffs and perpetual restructuring. Finally. Tthe "steward" of Java isn't a company that is hemorrhaging money. Despite Oracle's reputation as a company focused on proprietary software, I take some solace in the fact that they have the resources to support the platform. (Plus, I think it is too late to "close" Java, the genie is out of the bottle, and it wouldn't make economic sense.)

Pleading the Case with Oracle: FOU-less JCK

While Sun was playing catch-up and throwing non-Java related distractions like Neil Young at us. It was engaged in an endless battle over the TCK license in a long running dispute with the Apache Software Foundation. This dispute seems to be founded on the refusal to allow a BSD-licensed implementation of Java in order to protect Sun's Mobile revenue (and to make acquisition more appealing). This, to me, is the most important issue facing Java. If Sun had removed themselves as a barrier to progress, I think we'd see a much healthier platform.

In many ways the steward of Java in the absence of Sun is Google. At the last Google Campfire, I was standing around a group of Java developers many of whom left the JVM team at Sun to work for Google and all of whom are "household names" in the Java community. Google expends a great deal of effort to support the JVM/JDK, maintaining a team of engineers that work on OpenJDK. They have a vested interest in the health of the platform, and I was hoping that IBM would purchase Sun, fix the TCK license issue so that we could see companies like IBM and Google get behind a ASF-licensed distribution of Java. If this were to happen, we'd see more innovation and Java being used on more devices. (Hint: My theory is that Android is more than a mobile OS, but that's for another post.)

The big question now is what will Oracle do about the TCK license dispute. Will it get rid of the Field of Use restrictions? Or, will it carry the torch of obstruction? The jury is out, most of the Twitterati thinks that Oracle will opt to "control" Java, but Greg Stein struck a lone note of optimism.

gstein-twitter-fou.png

All we can do is wait and see.

How did the Sun set?

If you had said that Oracle would buy Sun within 10 years at JavaOne 2000 you would have been referred to a good psychiatrist. What happened? Sun is where it is today because it lacked focus. Sun executives felt comfortable to position themselves as competition to IBM, Apple, and Oracle. Top executives at the companies didn't identify problems with middle management (especially in Java). Sun still employs a large number of brilliant engineers, Sun's problem was never technical talent.

Oracle will likely take a step back and extract itself from some of the business that Sun had committed to. I could be wrong, but I don't think that Oracle purchased Sun because it wants to have a huge mobile presence, and I don't think it purchased Sun because it was about to game Adobe in the area of Rich Internet Applications. It purchased Sun because it will help it sell middleware and databases. We'll see what happens, but I'm not going to jump on the panic bandwagon just yet.


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16 Comments

The only thing I can say is that Sun is a dumbass to let Java die in this manner. Why in the past didnt let Java go to an ISO?!, Anyway Sun could not make enough money from Java, the more that they could do is to offer the Java control to the community.

Oracle-Sun deal sucks big time. Oracle will charge lots of cash to download a JVM. They are a propetary company, They dislike open source and free software.

Poor of Mysql and all the open source projects, Open source model have serious problems and flaws, You have the big proof of this with Sun and their Open Source Model.

Anyway, Guys Java is toast, I already decide to go with another solutions and I want to say with sadness so long Java, we will miss you!.

2c.

I don't see why Oracle would buy it to kill it. They are paying serious money for Java/MySQL and Hardware. If they kill the open source model for java they not only killing their investment in Sun but also hurting their recent investment in BEA. Surely the thing to do is to ensure java is properly open sourced and then compete with IBM with a much more considerable stack (i.e. hardware, OS and middleware).

I was surprised by the purchase but from what I have seen (and I deal more with IBM stuff than Oracle/Sun) but they seemed to do the right thing when they purchased BEA.

@OtengiM your response is full of the most reactionary FUD that was all over Twitter on Monday morning. Oracle didn't purchase Sun to kill Java. I think what was most evident on Monday was that people who have already discounted Java jumped on some sort of doomsday bandwagon for Java.

Some of the most critical, most important systems in the world continue to run on Java. The statistics that I see every day tell me that people are continuing to adopt Java as a platform. I find it odd when people start jumping up and down and talking about the end of Java.

why would Oracle kill java? it would be like throwin JDeveloper and half of OracleDB to bin. Solaris? java runs best on solaris, now oracle got software and hardware so they can make some tuning to make oracle not even more stable, but also faster... and at least dont forget dtrace,zfs and zones on solaris. i think oracle just will improve what has been allready build.

Only time will reveal the truth, but if I had $100 to bet, my bet will be that Oracle will find a way to corral the improved java/MySql/[other Sun detritus] into a pay-to-play sandbox, and leave the existing java/MySql/etc. stuff in Open Source.

Remember: Sun poured money into java, for free in essence, in order to sell Sparc boxes. Never worked out. Oracle now owns the Sparc boxes, but Sun had pretty much given up on them, going X86. Oracle is a software company. It will squeeze every penny out of every codebase it can. There is a history.

The notion that Oracle will spend money on java development just because it has more to spend than Sun did is wishful thinking. To make that argument, one has to assert a viable reason why doing so is in Oracle's interest to a greater extent than *not* spending the money. I, for one, don't see any reason.

@Tim, Life is crude, It is different of what software developers and more the open source ones belive. OSS is a flawed model it is a dream but I thionk that is over. The propetary corporations as all the fortune 500 and others wants to make money, no waste more times in belive on free ideas. Yes maybe Java will be with us for long time still but in the form of a propetary platform, Not as with the spirit of Sun and the OpenSource. To use Java you will have to pay big bucks to Oracle.

So What was my comment about it is that Java for the community is over. I dont see 1 deployment over OpenJDK since 2 years, for that taking off it will takes long time. So better I find another solution that is more safe for my development than to be waiting and see what happend to the Java platform.

So, So long Java, We will miss you!, Peace Out.

I guess Oracle will ask dev to register on their ODN and you can have free Java for develop/eval. once you want to move into PROD. you will have to pay big bucks.
One thing I'm wondering how Apache/JBoss/Spring will deal with Oracle in this case?

I am just wondering, as a developer. Being Oracle acquire Sun, does it add more value or worth in having a Java related training/certification qualifications?

Sun may have poured money into Java to sell SPARC boxes (debatable) and may have 'given up on them', but I think Oracle's perspective is going to be different. I think you need to trot down to your local data center and have a look at the badges on the machines there. I see a lot of IBM, and a lot of Sun machines running Solaris. I've yet to see a commercial deployment of Oracle on PC hardware. I think Oracle owning Sun is the only way SPARC has any chance of survival as there is NO WAY Solaris is going away now. Java may be the focus of this current debate, but I bet it's Solaris that has Oracle drooling!

Anyhow, who cares if Oracle wants to squeeze more money out of the codebase. The threat to our livelihoods doesn't come from Sun & others not giving us stuff for free (last time I checked Microsoft wasn't giving away it's software either), it's mismanagement by Sun that damages the platform. The issue with Apache is a case in point. It was irrational for Sun to keep that argument going. Apache isn't a charity, it is an engineering nexus. Oracle, Sun, IBM, others empower the talented engineers at Apache (and other open source groups) to run with the technology and then they can harvest the benefit themselves. They merely need to take steps to ensure that groups like Apache stay neutral with respect to commercial applications of the technology - which is not hard as the motivation of those involved with these open source groups is generally *purely* technical.

As for OtengiM's posts... well... no further comment or consideration is required ;)

I think that Oracle won't ditch Java nor MySQL, Java is a product of a considerable strategical value to Oracle, and, its Middleware runs on it, if Oracle is to made a move on Java it will be to improve it, to invest money in it to make it better.

Wait, I haven't finished yet, but to Oracle as a serious-business company, this investment, needs to be recovered, one way or another, so I think that the newer releases of Java, will be paid, improved, yes, but paid as well. Leaving a "community" version with less features.

MySQL is by far the most widely used in website development, a very popular database indeed, and a pain for Oracle, but remember that MySQL have an Enterprise Edition, with more features and capabilities, Oracle won't let that go, and will try to grasp that market for itself, so MySQL will remain the same, a community edition, with less features, and an Enterprise (paid) Edition, a fully loaded version.

As of Netbeans, it will fork to something else, since Oracle has been supporting Eclipse, it has no sense for them to embrace Eclipse's contender.

One thing that Sun have done well is to give Java away for free in order to promote it.

If Oracle make developers pay for Java Entreprise, I definitely will abandon Java, as well as the large community that choose Java due to its cost advantage.

We shall find other open source language to replace Java, leave Java died along with oracle.

>> If Oracle make developers pay for Java Entreprise, I definitely will abandon Java, as well as the large community that choose Java due to its cost advantage.

I believe it is fair to speculate that Oracle is betting that you would be a minority of one. Java still exists, from my experience, largely on the various servlet frameworks and web servers that were sucked up by the Fortune 500. Enterprise java is most of java. Phones may be second. Independent/small developers, a very distant last. The Fortune 500 folks can't abandon java now anymore than they could COBOL. And that was the whole point. Sun never figured out how to monetize the lock-in. Your can bet your bippy that Larry already has.

What's going to happen to MySQL?

MySQL has it's own auditory.
Mainly because of it's free.

I think Oracle is not going to make money. Oracle has a now a duck that can lay golden eggs. Oracle purchased BEA app server and gave up oc4j (see oracle 11g), made JDeveloper free of cost so that more and more developers can use it and port to oracle-based systems, developed a plug-in for eclipse so that developers can easily connect eclipse with oracle db. I think Oracle will give Java free to developers but not to companies, you know what I am talking about. Oracle'e ADF is superb, may oracle concentrate on Java+JDeveloper+ADF and give up Forms and report developer softwares. NOTE: Oracle will not kill mysql it will be there but for small org.
Let's see what happens
(Java developer, love opensource)

When I asked my professor why we were taught java he told me about ease of use, write ince,,,,,widespread adoption,VPS Hosting availability of information etc etc,....but he also mentioned that it's free and open source.Fantastico Hosting Will universities reconsider their position now? Python, ruby...

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