Oracle and Open Source: A List of Grievances

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Oracle and Open Source: A List of Grievances

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For the seven months that Oracle has owned Sun's technological assets, they have welcome contributions and roadmaps for their inherited open source projects.  However, the company has also made several crucial missteps in its handling of OSS projects and their respective communities.  Given their bureaucratic PR process and virtual radio-silence on some issues.  Here are the top five grievances against Oracle that have not been properly resolved for the open source community:

5.  Pulling the Plug on Postgres Servers 

Last month Oracle cut off a couple of servers that Sun had allowed the PostgreSQL project to use for development.  This wouldn't have been as big of a deal if Oracle had given the PostgreSQL developers prior warning.  True, PostgreSQL is a competitor to both MySQL and Oracle's proprietary RDBMS, but with no warning and no communication about the move whatsoever, we can only assume that this is just Oracle being inconsiderate and silent, or just a spiteful move against a competitor.  The cost to Oracle to maintain those servers was insignificant, and PostgreSQL is still way behind MySQL in DB market share.  Sun seems to have cared more about the open source community as a whole, even by helping its competitor.  This incident is one of many that shows how little Oracle cares about the open source community (at least those who are in charge at Oracle, it seems).  The recent increase in Oracle-to-PostgreSQL migrations might be causing concern at Oracle.

4.  Squandering of Talented Sun Developers, Especially Gosling 

We saw scores of talented developers leave Sun before the acquisition was even approved.  The list was a virtual who's who of famous Java and open source developers.  The exiles included Simon Phipps (an Open Source director), Charles Nutter (inventor of JRuby), Kohsuke Kawaguchi (inventor of Hudson), Tim Bray (co-inventor of XML), and James Gosling (inventor of Java).  Gosling's departure was especially disturbing for the Java community because he subsequently made increasingly angry comments concerning Oracle in his blog.  Tim Bray, like all the other departures, seemed to be sworn into silence by Oracle's lawyers, and in talking about his reasons for departure he said, "I'll maybe tell the story when I can think about it without getting that weird spiking-blood-pressure sensation in my eyeballs."

3.  Killing OpenSolaris

A recent internal memo shows that the OpenSolaris project is probably finished, and it will be folded into a more closed model in Solaris 11 and Solaris 11 Express.  Oracle gave little warning about this move as well, but at least the community saw it coming.  The OpenSolaris Governance Board, which included Simon Phipps, was ready to dissolve when an Oracle manager couldn't even keep his commitment to attend a meeting after months of hearing nothing.  Thank goodness the Illumos project has arrived to rebuild the OpenSolaris community and continue an open path for the technology.  Yet another case where Oracle isn't very concerned about Sun's open source communities, and the resentment that it creates against the company.

2.  JCP and Harmony Proposal Backpedalling 

Remember in 2007 when Oracle proposed a resolution for reforming the Java Community Process?

"It is the sense of the Executive Committee that the JCP become an open independent vendor-neutral Standards Organization where all members participate on a level playing field with the following characteristics:

    •    members fund development and management expenses
    •    a legal entity with by-laws, governing body, membership, etc.
    •    a new, simplified IPR Policy that permits the broadest number of implementations
    •    stringent compatibility requirements
    •    dedicated to promoting the Java programming model

Furthermore, the EC shall put a plan in place to make such transition as soon as practical with minimal disruption to the Java Community."

It's funny how the new "steward" of Java hasn't made an effort to push this resolution now that the "level playing field" doesn't benefit them in their currently strong position.  The company has also apparently backpedalled on their previous support of Apache Harmony's position against Sun.  Now that Oracle owns the Java licenses, Apache Harmony is in their way.

1.  Suing Google

Now the big one.  The news that has completely broken the trust (for some, it wasn't much) that Java and open source community members had in Oracle.  If they can sue Google over what seems like general Java-related patents, why can't they sue several other organizations like Red Hat, Eclipse, or smaller Java OSS groups?  Before last week, most developers seemed to grudgingly accept Oracle's stewardship of Java, but now many wish that the Java licenses were in the hands of IBM.  The damage from this will be hard, if not impossible to repair.

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