Oracle on Sun Java, MySQL, OpenOffice, and Linux

May 19th, 2009 by Jeremy Chone

If you are lucky, and curious enough, Oracle can be the best place to learn the enterprise software market. I have worked at Oracle for about seven years and, in my entire career, it is where I have learned the most about enterprise software. When Oracle announced it was buying Sun, I was actually not that surprised, and I thought it was to be expected after the IBM escape. Oracle is in a self-fulfilling prophecy to consolidate the enterprise software market and, after IBM turned down what could have been a great match for open source and Java, Oracle had to jump in. Larry Ellison and Safra Catz are great market strategists, and Sun should have been on their radar for a long time. Larry has also been good friends with Scott McNealy, and this topic must have come up many times over the years.

Anyway, now that this merger is almost done, the big question everybody has is what will happen with Sun software and open-source assets such as Java, MySql, and OpenOffice. There is also the burning question about Oracle’s commitment regarding Linux. Before going one-by-one, it is important to understand few things about Oracle:

  1. Oracle does not like GPL. They have been forced to coexist for their Linux strategy against Microsoft, but, they are isolating it as much as possible.
  2. Oracle does not care about desktop computing. While Oracle has some desktop applications (e.g., JDeveloper and Beehive Clients), it tends to mostly focus application model research and development on Web frameworks such as JSF and Fusion Middleware. In other word, no AIR will be coming out of Oracle anytime soon.
  3. Oracle has a very talented Linux group, headed by Wim Coekaerts, which has made significant Linux (GPL) contributions. However, overall, Oracle is still far behind IBM in terms of Open Source investment. IBM is the organization that gets and does open source better than anyone else.
  4. Oracle masters, better than anybody else, the art of selling software to enterprises. It has the most aggressive enterprise sales force on the market, and they know all the tips and tricks to maximize any single software sell.

So, now the burning questions are what Oracle will do with Java, MySql, and OpenOffice, and will it stay committed to Linux?

1) Oracle on Java

Java is probably the biggest topic, at least for developers.

On the language side, I think it will be business as usual. Sun Java linguists will probably stay at Oracle, and Oracle will probably keep them, as they are the core of one of the biggest part of their acquisition. Many developers are already considering the Java language to be in maintenance mode after JCP‘s repeated failures to adopt Java popular requirements such as closures. Therefore, the change in ownership will probably have little effect on the already-not-popular Java language evolutions.

Oracle might have a bigger effect on the server side of Java. EJB3.0/ORM and Portal specs and implementations should get a boost and, hopefully, JSF will get a re-lifting. However, changes in velocity will be hampered by the fact that everything will still have to go through the same JCP process.

Now, the client side is going to be the entertaining one. I think that first, Oracle will get confused and overwhelmed by JavaFX (who has not?). Then, it will be interesting to see what the Oracle people will do about it. My guess is they will let it be for a while (out of confusion), and then quietly deprecate JavaFX as they realize it is the failed compiled client/server model all over again with some flying pixels, a cute, but weird, Java-like-but-not-Java language, with very low client penetration.

On the tool side, the NetBeans vs. JDeveloper fight is going also to be fun to watch. Oracle has been very emotionally tight with its JDeveloper to the point of prioritizing it over BEA Eclipse-based IDE (even after standardizing on WebLogic middleware). The good news is that both NetBeans and JDeveloper are Swing-based, so a happy marriage is not out of the question (except if JavaFx wants to cause trouble).

Personally, I am a little concerned about Tomcat. Tomcat has become a very robust and reliable Servlet container and, with frameworks like Spring and Hibernate, can become the backbone for highly scalable SaaS enterprise applications. The good part is that Tomcat is governed by Apache, which hopefully will maintain a good continuation of the project. But again, if Oracle decides to stop continuing Sun’s investment in Tomcat, the product will untimely surfer.

2) Oracle on MySQL

Let’s get to business. MySQL acquisition is very interesting. It is important to note that Oracle has always tried to understand what it could do with MySQL, without giving it too much attention. This initiative became concrete in 2005, when they bought the innoDB. MySQL’s CEO, Marten Mikos, has also been relatively friendly with Oracle over the years. I actually think he would have rather been bought by Oracle than by Sun. But although this was a topic of discussions, it has never happened, because, as Larry likes to put it:

“I prefer to spend $1 billion and be right than $100 million and be wrong.”

Well, this is Larry’s business genius. He just spent $6 billion and he is probably right.

So, what Oracle will do with MySQL? The new MySql 5.4 has some features that could be considered quite competitive with the Oracle database. And now that MySql has the Oracle brand on it, Oracle will have to be even more careful about it.

My bet is that Oracle will keep the MySQL 5.4 Community going and slow down the development of 6.0 (in very subtle ways). Where Oracle might become aggressive is in regard to the MySQL Enterprise and Cluster editions. While an internal competition is always better than an external one, Oracle is going to want to control it. It has two options for doing this. The first is by price, basically aligning the MySQL Enterprise and Clusters editions to Oracle DB pricing (at least as a lower cost alternative for small to medium enterprises -see comment from Chris Arthur- ). The second is by product, by slowing down MySQL Enterprise product innovation and investment. My guess is that it will be the first one, which might result in a reduction of resources on MySQL community editions as well.

One thing I think won’t happen (at least for the next 5 to 10 years) is a merger between MySQL and Oracle DB. First, it would be a mistake from a business standpoint, as MySQL gives a great new channel to Oracle and, second, Oracle does not want to risk contaminating its crown-jewels database source code with the viral MySQL GPL one.

3) Oracle on OpenOffice

This is probably the sad one. I am a big fan of OpenOffice, and I am not sure of its viability inside Oracle. As mentioned above, Oracle does not really care about desktop computing. While there might be some interesting fit with some Oracle products (e.g., Oracle Beehive), an investment in OpenOffice would require an equal (if not greater) investment in Microsoft Office integration, which Oracle has never done. I am not sure the OpenOffice asset acquisition will trigger a change of heart. I think that in a year or two a spinoff will be inevitable.

4) Linux (vs. OpenSolaris)

Last, but not least, Oracle and Linux. Will this acquisition tamper with Oracle’s commitment to Linux? As far as technical contributions, I do not think it will change much. I think the Oracle Linux group will stay committed and funded to continue the Linux initiatives.

However, on a macro level, we might see some change. I think the real question is, “Will Oracle continue [some of] Sun’s hardware business?” If, yes, then, Oracle will have to push OpenSolaris to the market and that might take some juice out of their Linux marketing initiative. Otherwise, if Larry’s last commitment to Solaris and Sun’s hardware was just a gimmick for Wall Street (or a last favor to Scott McNealy), then, in couple of years, Oracle might be back, full speed, on Linux by acquiring a Novell or Redhat, for example.

Update 2009-05-20: My latest conversations on the subject lead me to believe that Oracle will probably end (i.e. silently put in maintenance mode) the Sun x64 solution (which compete directly with their current HP/x64/Linux/Storage solution), and will keep Sun’s Middleware for higher-end customers. This new hardware and OS division will allow them to effectively push their “DB Appliance” solution to large enterprises (with total control on the Operating System), and push Linux/x64 to the SMB market. So, Oracle might and probably should do both, Solaris and Linux.

So, here is it, my quick take on Oracle acquisitions and some predictions for the future. I really have the greatest respect for the Oracle executive team, Larry, Safra, and many others. I think they are great market strategists, and they are continuously shaping the enterprise software market. Very fun to watch!

Now, the next question is: What will IBM do about it? Buy SAP?

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Updates

  • 2009-06-02-JavaOne: Big commitment from Ellison to JavaFX. So, I might have been wrong after all. Oracle might want to get back to the client, NC 2.0. However, I am not sure that we can call Android Java Based. Android uses the Java language for developers to write their code, but it then get compiled to Android specific bytecode. No Java running on G2/HTC-Magic for example.
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15 Responses to “Oracle on Sun Java, MySQL, OpenOffice, and Linux”

  1. paul Says:

    Very interesting analysis.
    i’d like to go into details a bit further. For one Solaris is not tied to hardware.. technically equiped like no other to ride the cloud wave Oracle can utilize Sun’s systems knowledge without being dragged down by a legacy business.
    One thing i’d like to get your thoughts on, and that is Sun’s “next generation” integration platform Fuji or OpenESBv3. How about an integration platform which can be implemented in a distributed fashion, like a network of networks, using http clustering to spread over an IT landscape where appropriate ? Or utilize embedded message queues. All modularized and opened up for aspect-oriented injection of configurations, security, management… i’d like to see how you’d place this within the fusion roadmap..

  2. OtengiM Says:

    Don’t worry everything will change, Oracle wants to enter to the desktop and RIA business to crush Microsoft. Also Oracle gain a OS as Solaris and a programing platform than compete directly also with .Net., Oracle will win and we developers and users we will be happy. Oracle won a complete stack of solutions from hardware to software to compete to their primary enemy that is Microsoft.

    By the way lots of eneteprise and as Fujitsu loves Sparc and Solaris so I think is a good move of Oracle/Larry to push Soalris and Sparc.

    I think here is different point of view, I dont agree with your View.

  3. Pete Says:

    You’re way off the mark with respect to closures. No one can agree, in the context of Java, on a syntax or the intent, aside from adding syntactically simpler Anonymous Inner Classes. Anonymous Inner Classes, for me and many others are a (sometimes necessary) anti-pattern. They’re non re-useable, non unit-testable, and if used incorrectly can lead to memory leaks in ‘listener pattern’ scenarios.

    None of the closure proposals have succeeded by consensus in bolting functional paradigms onto plain old Java.

  4. Jeremy Chone Says:

    @Pete you said it “plain old Java.”

  5. Jeremy Chone Says:

    @OtengiM Web RIA perhaps, desktop RIA, not sure. I have been pretty involved with RIA over the last 4 years (at Oracle and at Adobe), and I have not seen any proof (or business rational) why Oracle would move aggressively to the desktop RIA space. Oracle is investing a lot on Web framework such as JSF though, that can use Flash, Java, and Silverlight on the client browser. Oracle is not (anymore) a religious technology company on a crusade to kill Microsoft on every front (e.g., MS Office, xBox, MSN, …). Oracle is very well focus on the enterprise and mostly on what they know how to sell which is Server Software (and now potentially Hardware).

    About Oracle and Solaris, perhaps. I can see Oracle investing in their Oracle DB “Appliance” by offering a Database to Storage solution based on Solaris. They are doing it today with HP and Linux/x64. It will be interesting to see how Solaris/Sun Hardware will fit in. One thing is sure, is that Oracle will not refuse any money from their customers.

  6. Chris Arthur Says:

    This is actually a better article than I was expecting. It shows insight and some thought about Oracle as a company. I wonder, though, at what changes this acquisition could pose to Oracle that Jeremy Chone hasn’t considered (or at least hasn’t mentioned). Here’s a little about what I mean:

    1) Java. Like Eclipse I am beginning to question the fragmentation. Its getting increasingly harder to decide which directions to go with Java and Eclipse. The Java space seems to be headed toward integration of many technologies while the development of the language has been compartmentalized. The result is that to do any serious work you have to know several dialects of Java. The collections framework is a good analogue for my point. For a time it was non-uniform and doing something in LinkedList was totally different than doing it in Vector. Oracle has the opportunity to possibly streamline this in the future. What I’d like to see is a uniform design perspective in each library. I don’t mean the pattern used but instead the way in which methods are named and implemented to stop the fragmentation occurring as new libraries are being added. This is a particular problem in J2EE.

    2)MySQL is definitely interesting and I think there is an opportunity there for a low to mid-level database strategy. MySQL was on its way to trying to compete on equal footing with Oracle, but I think its a mistake to treat it as an equal even though the technology may very well be there. I see MySQL as a lower cost alternative for small to medium enterprises whose budgets can’t meet the requirements of Oracle Enterprise database products. Let’s be honest here, Oracle charges a large amount of money for their products and small to medium businesses simply can’t afford it. MySQL is the answer. A database technology that fits the firms that need it for a lower price without sacrificing quality or performance. Its a win for Oracle. And there was very little up-front cost, the main expense is maintenance. By the way, slowing down development would be a massive mistake. A lot of people consider MySQL the underdog in the database space and Oracle would do well from an image standpoint to foster that perspective.

    3)I can definitely see your point about Oracle not caring about the desktop space. I can also agree for the most part. What I’m curious about is the opportunity that OpenOffice affords. You see OpenOffice has been gaining in popularity for quite some time and while those gains have been slow they are significant. If Oracle wanted to head toward the desktop, OpenOffice would be a good launch point. Its mature and stable and it is a direct competitor for Microsoft Office. The free availability aspect of it might be a sticky widget but this one could be interesting to watch.

    4)Open Solaris is a hard one to foresee. As for Sun’s hardware, that one is hard as well. There are firms out there reselling Oracle on Sun hardware running their developed software for multiple millions at a pop. So I tend to think that Oracle may stick with the hardware, but I could be wrong for sure. Hardware isn’t my expertise or really even much of an interest of mine. Truthfully in the server space, though, I think Sun had a large chunk cut out for itself. It would be a shame to miss out on the revenue that might offer, but Larry knows those things better than I do, that’s definite.

  7. Jeremy Chone Says:

    @Chris Arthur

    Very good additional points, here my quick take on them.

    1) Java Fragmentation: Yes, agree, there are a lot of fragmentations, but this is the cost of openness. However, I do not see how Oracle can change that.

    2) MySQL as a lower cost alternative: Yes, totally, agree, I might have been miss-leading in my post and I think that a low cost alternative is a better description than an “on-ramp solution”. I am changing the post accordingly with a reference to your comment.

    3) Agree with you on OpenOffice, and actually, when I worked at Oracle I presented a plan directly to Larry about just that, investing in OpenOffice to compete with MS Office. Now that Oracle owns it, it would be definitely easier. However, I do not see Oracle a religious company anymore, so, if they go this route it will have to encompass a big investment in MS Office integration as well. And I am not sure that the new ownership of OpenOffice will trigger this interest. This is my 2 cents from my Oracle Collaboration days.

    4) Open Solaris: Hardware isn’t my expertise as well, and never really understood why enterprises continued to buy expensive Sun hardware rather to use x64 commodity boxes (beside legacy system maintenance). My latest conversations on the subject, lead me to believe that Oracle will probably end (i.e. silently put in maintenance mode) the Sun x64 (which compete with their current HP/x64/Linux/Storage solution), and will keep Sun’s Middleware for higher-end customers. This new hardware division will allow them to effectively push their “DB Appliance” solution to the market (probably Linux for low-end and Solaris/Sun for high-end).

  8. Chris Arthur Says:

    @Jeremy Chone

    Its nice to know that someone agrees with me when I have thoughts like these from time to time. I work as a Software Engineer at a small company and a lot of times I don’t get much chance to express my opinions to anyone who much cares. Thank you.

    To state my point a bit further on the fragmentation of Java, I think what I’m really getting at is that Oracle might be able to guide things a bit more toward sticking with an overall scheme for development. Something like how the idea of Java beans permeates the language. If your packages have collections of some kind you need to use a standard interface for example. Things along those lines. That way the innovation that comes from an open development style continues, but the language feels more coherent on the whole.

    With that said, of course, I don’t know any details on how to make that kind of thing happen, I just see a possible opportunity. In this case I’m just bouncing ideas around.

  9. Nick Says:

    I think that the only real chance for OpenOffice is if Oracle decides to develop a Sharepoint competitor and incorporates OpenOffice in that.

    I’d be more interested in you think the chances are of Oracle releasing the Sun ZFS file system for Linux. They are already funding a competitor to ZFS so it kind of makes sense, but it would undermine one of the selling points of OpenSolaris.

  10. Jeremy Chone Says:

    @Nick I think that Oracle will not position Solaris against Linux, but more as a component of the “DB Hardware Appliance.”

  11. Kra Larivain Says:

    For the MySQL GPL code contaminating OracleDB, that surely will not happen since MySQL has always been dual license (whose sole purpose is to allow mixing proprietary and “free” code), and anyway Oracle now has the copyrights on MySQL since they bought Sun.
    I also believe transferring your copyrights to MySQL AB is mandatory if you want your contributions to reach the SVN, precisely so the company can change the code’s licence to whatever they want.

    Hence, Oracle can do pretty much what they want with MySQL’s code with risking any contamination.

    Doesn’t mean that they will do so, but license is definitely not an issue here.

  12. Jeremy Chone Says:

    @Kra Ok, you might have a point. However, how would it work when they receive GPL contributions?

  13. kra larivain Says:

    sorry, I forgot to keep track of this blog entry.

    Well, the answer is simple: the question is irrelevant, that doesn’t happen.
    When they receive GPL contributions, they just refuse them. Giving your copy rights on the code you submit is mandatory for your contribution to be integrated in the product. You basically are not able to decide anymore under what license your code will be distributed.
    Hence, they can licence MySQL as they want, may it be proprietary, GPL, BSD or WTFPL.

    It’s a very common case, Qt does the exact same thing (gpl/proprietary).
    GNU project also requests that all contributors give their copyrights to the FSF (so they can change to whatever new version of the GPL is out), actually, any big project that wants to control its license will ask contributors to give their copyrights.

    The main exception being the linux kernel.

  14. HP Jeschke Says:

    While I can agree with almost all things that were said, I do not completely agree with:
    “One thing I think won’t happen (at least for the next 5 to 10 years) is a merger between MySQL and Oracle DB. First, it would be a mistake from a business standpoint, as MySQL gives a great new channel to Oracle and, second, Oracle does not want to risk contaminating its crown-jewels database source code with the viral MySQL GPL one.”

    It does not make sense to buy something and let it sit for 5 to 10 years. At least not in this industry. I suspect that Oracle has some very specific plans and we will see some major changes beginning of next year already.

  15. PhilG Says:

    Quote: “Don’t worry everything will change, Oracle wants to enter to the desktop and RIA business to crush Microsoft.”

    It would be great to see this happen. I have used Linux for years, but it always seems to lag behind because there is no one single unifying force behind it.

    Oracle could do it, just like Open Office has become a valid alternative to MS Office.

    I am definitely looking forward to this.