Oracle's anti-OSS stance

Is Oracle starting to show its true feelings for open source software?

August 19, 2010
Oracle's anti-OSS stance

It’s taken a few months but the effects of Oracle buying Sun Microsystems are starting to become obvious. And among them are a series of blows for open source software.

Oracle first announced it planned to buy Sun in April 2009, a deal it finalised in January this year. In taking over Sun, Oracle acquired a number of key technologies including a number in the open source software space. Among those were Java, the MySQL database and OpenSolaris.

Initially there were questions about how Oracle would treat its new open source properties. Gradually this is starting to become clear.

OpenSolaris

The first to feel the pinch was OpenSolaris, the open source version of Sun’s Unix operating system. The OpenSolaris board, frustrated by a lack of communication with Oracle, issued an ultimatum to the company saying it would go it alone if a liaison person was not appointed by Oracle to the board.

This was ignored and now Oracle has announced it is effectively turning its back on the open source operating system. In an email the company said that Solaris alone must be the preferred OS for Oracle’s customers and OpenSolaris has no role in this. Oracle also told developers that they would no longer have access to development code for Solaris and would only receive finished code after major releases. Previously code was shared daily with developers.

PostgreSQL

The next to fall victim was the PostgreSQL database. Although not owned by Oracle, the open source database software is a competitor to MySQL, now owned by Oracle. Sun Microsystems was contributing servers for the development of PostgreSQL, but at the end of July Oracle shut these down, leaving PostgreSQL work in limbo, and raising further questions about Oracle’s commitment to open source.

Java

The third move from Oracle was to sue Google for allegedly infringing on Java patents now held by Oracle. Java itself is open source software, having been made so shortly before the sale to Oracle. What isn’t entirely without restriction are many of the Java specifications.

Google and Sun initially negotiated the use of Java for the Android operating system. When the two failed to reach an agreement Google turned to its own Dalvik virtual machine, which recompiles Java code for Android. It was a way of getting around the limitations of licensing Java from Sun. At the time that would have annoyed Sun but they were already in negotiations with Oracle so were willing to move on. There are even suggestions from insiders that the possibility of suing Google were part of the negotiations with Oracle.

Despite these moves against open source software, Oracle says that it is committed to open source. In the company’s recent magazine Oracle’s Edward Screven says that open source is part of the company’s overall strategy.

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