In the months since it completed its takeover of Sun Microsystems, Oracle has remained painfully silent over its plans for much of Sun’s treasure trove of open source assets. In the meantime, there are an increasing number of companies stepping up to shepherd Oracle’s lost sheep.
The Sun takeover only won final EU approval when Oracle publicly committed to future enhancement of MySQL under the GPL licence. Indeed, a recent survey of its own community members by business intelligence software vendor Jaspersoft suggests that 75% of respondents felt that MySQL development would continue at the same pace or improve under Oracle. For Java, where it must be said Jaspersoft has a vested interest in painting everything as rosy, the survey’s figures were even better, with 80 percent of respondents believing the Java process will improve or stay the same (Note: Java has never been fully open source).
Regardless of how representative Jaspersoft’s survey really is, life for Sun’s open source poster children is certainly better than for the host of assets now apparently consigned to Oracle’s home for unwanted FOSS projects.
Oracle inherited a host of open source projects that in some way conflict with parts of Oracle’s massive, monolithic enterprise products. Having already chosen the OSS alternative, customers with these products are extremely unlikely to migrate to Oracle. However, Oracle, given the EU’s concerns of its intentions towards Sun’s OSS assets, cannot be seen to kill these projects off. The solution, it would appear, is to ship them off somewhere cold, dark and out of the way, and pretend they don’t exist.
Perhaps the loudest of these open source orphans has been OpenSolaris. Sun’s dreams of building an open source server operating system to rival Linux seem a distant memory. The project’s new, icy stepmother only seems interested in its favoured, proprietary twin. Oracle has just announced a new deal with Hewlett Packard and Dell to sell the closed Solaris 10 on their respective ProLiant and PowerEdge servers. OpenSolaris, meanwhile, has been cut off completely, with all its attempts at long distance communication ignored.
Recent discussions on the mailing list of the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB)
have been terse,to say the least:
“The OGB, in particular, was created ‘to manage and direct an OpenSolaris community in its efforts to improve upon and advocate in favor of OpenSolaris, so that the community may long endure,’” commented John Plocher, OGB board member and former Sun Employee, on the mailing list. “Since Oracle bought out Sun, we’ve seen their commitment to the above dry up almost completely. In the three months since this OGB took office, we have had no Oracle/OGB Liaison, no Oracle employees on the OGB, no Oracle website support for our new constitution, no community-driven distro and no real communication between Oracle and the OGB.
At a recent board meeting the OGB even threatened to disband itself, and rumours are rife from within the OpenSolaris community that there are plans to fork the project away from Oracle control under a new organisation.
OpenSolaris is far from alone in the orphanage. However, there are several organisations showing an interest in helping Oracle’s unwanted stepchildren. Since the takeover was completed, Sun’s former chief open source officer, Simon Phipps, has been involved in setting up ForgeRock, a company which provides a new home for a host of Oracle’s apparently unloved and unwanted open source projects.
“We established the company to become a full service ISV working within open
source communities on so called ‘triple A’
Last month also saw the launch of Whamcloud. The company has raised $10 million of venture capital to provide support and development around the Lustre massively parallel file system. Lustre, a technology which Sun itself acquired when it bought Cluster File Systems in 2007, is used in around half of the top 500 high performance computing clusters globally.
One thing is sure, there are a lot of interesting open source developments arising out of Oracle’s takeover of Sun. And the thing about orphans is that many emerge from their troubled origins with exactly the kind of fighting spirit it takes to become the next Larry Ellison.