Saturday, October 9, 2010

Oracle and Open Source

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Oracle's War on Open Source
Oracle has been in the news for the past few weeks not only because of its  stunning quarterly results but also its dealing with the opensource products it  bought along with Sun. Oracle claims it is world's largest OpenSource Company and does offer numerous Opensource products. Though Redhat rebuts the claim, based on number of products and sales, the claim is atleast in theory true. But again Redhat is right when it says, Open is not just seeing the code, but having a community of developers and not keep some part open and some part closed. Redhat goes further to say that Oracle doesn’t even qualify as an Open Source Company. Oracle's recent moves some how is substantiating Redhat's claim.
initially MySQL was feared to be the FOSS product that  will receive Oracle’s axe or indifference. Though MySQL seems to be safe atleast for now, Opensolaris is not. It is official and has ended months of speculation   and uncertainty. Opensolaris is dead. Oracle has made it clear that Solaris  will be its mainstay product to get the latest feature updates. The Solaris source code  will be released to “partners” after the product release itself and the brand  Opensolaris will cease to exist.
Java and Google
Then Oracle sued Google claiming its Dalvik VM implementation in Android infringes several of Oracle's Java copyrights and IPR. In oracle's words, Google "knowingly,  directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle's Java-related intellectual  property." Now in this case it seems Oracle has chance of winning the suit or Google will take the route of out-of-court settlement. Either way Oracle is going to squeeze good amount of money from Google. This case has indeed rattled many other IT biggies who have invested in Java as their  choice of platform for their products. They are slowly falling in line with Oracle. Take the case of IBM, which Oracle says its enemy number one, shifted gears and decided to collaborate with Oracle on the OpenJDK project thereby abandoning the Apache Harmony project. Looks Redhat and Canonical are on their own to back Harmony now, may be they too will choose to fall in line with Oracle eventually.
The other product that has been making news is or OOo, as the  Document Foundation has forked it into LibreOffice. Though Oracle has not done  anything from its side to result in this fork, the Foundation has decided that  this route is safe seeing the indifference from Oracle. I see the Document Foundation's point here but can LibreOffice survive on its own given the reach of OOo's brand name reach? Only time will tell.
Linux and Redhat
Finally Oracle stunned the world with its announcement in OpenWorld 2010. Going to extreme, Oracle has announced that it is forking the Linux kernel itself and has come up  with Unbreakable Linux kernel optimized for Oracle Database. This is perfectly  valid in Opensource world but it kind of hints what Oracle's intentions. It is clearly taking shots at Redhat. Its earlier attempt to undermine Redhat Linux with its offering of Oracle Unbreakable Linux never worked. Now Oracle will arm twist its customers saying the new Oracle kernel is better than one in Redhat's.
The above developments has sent shock waves across FOSS communities,  although not surprising, bringing in the question of what will happen to MySQL  eventually. It is very clear that Oracle wants to invest time and money only in  projects and products that will add value to both to its topline and bottomline. It wants to squeeze money out of all OpenSource products it owns, by all means. Though that’s understandable as a corporate responsible for provding value to its Shareholders, it should also should embrace the communities behind the projects rather than act as big brother dictating terms. But the question still remains, is this what always happen when a proprietary software company buys an  opensource company or product..? Especially when companies like Novell will be eventually up for sale and the industry heads towards consolidation. Not always true, but in most cases  unfortunately the answer is yes.