Oracle’s recent announcement about the discontinuation of commercial services for JEE’s reference implementation GlassFish has caused many reactions in the community involved with JEE. The reactions reach from:
- Markus Eisele’s rather pessimistic outlook on JEE’s future in general
- Adam Bien’s constructive (or cynical? With Adam Bien, you can never be sure) suggestions of moving GlassFish over to GitHub
- Tomitribe’s pragmatic review on what Open Source really is
- Stephen Colebourne’s claims that “removing one leg makes the whole thing wobble”
- A lot of interesting tweets between Eberhard Wolff, Oliver Gierke, Stefan Tilkov, Markus Eisele, and Anton Arhipov
- An authoritative take by Bruno Borges clarifying a couple of things from an Oracle point of view
This event seems to have a big impact on the whole Java ecosystem as many of the above people are key players and influencers in our community, and they neither agree nor know what this step by Oracle means for the future of JEE.
The most interesting point of view among all of the above, in my opinion, is tomitribe’s, looking at things from a mere business point of view with respect to Open Source. They’re saying:
Open Source Isn’t Free
Or in other words, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. And to quote tomitribe even more, a very interesting thought they’re setting out is this:
What this says to me is that we as an industry still do not fully understand Open Source.
We most certainly do not understand Open Source. I’m an Open Source software vendor myself. I believe that Open Source is:
An excellent marketing tool
People look at Open Source as something “generally good”. When I talked about jOOQ at conferences and when it was an all-Open-Source piece of software (not yet dual-licensed), I got lots of opportunity to do free advertising.
A good tool enabler
I get free access to
- Source control, such as GitHub or BitBucket
- Distribution channels, such as SourceForge or Maven Central
- YourKit, Atlassian licenses
- Many more…
The truth is: Open Source is a business strategy
It really is. And it seemed to have worked well for RedHat or Pivotal in the past. Has it worked for anyone else? We don’t know yet, as most other larger companies have such huge amounts of revenue in “classic” fields that they can simply “afford” Open Source. In fact, they’re so good at investing manpower and innovation into Open Source, it keeps the commercial competition in check, as it is hard to write a better and more complete JEE implementation than Weblogic or Websphere.
No matter what the impact of the commercial unsupport of GlassFish on JEE will be, we’re only at the beginning of fully understanding what kind of impact this large scale “freemium” model will have on our world. This isn’t just about the software industry. The whole Internet has brought us “free” stuff. We get:
- “Free” standards (compare W3C, IETF standards to ISO standards!)
- “Free” Facebook and Twitter and GMail accounts
- “Free” newspapers
- “Free” music and films
- “Free” commodity services for all sorts of work
- “Free” work force as we can offshore anything to low-wage countries
This has been picked up recently by Tim Kreider, the author of “We Learn Nothing”, where he depicts how writing “free stuff” for the New York Times helps building “exposure”, and how that’s just nonsense as all this hard journalist work doesn’t pay anymore.
Does building “exposure” ring a bell?
Yes, I can build “exposure” by writing free Open Source on GitHub, and by answering complex questions for free on Stack Overflow. I personally use both tools to advertise my work, no doubt. So I get a service (advertising) for a service (content). My deal appears fair to me. But loads of GitHub and Stack Overflow users contribute … just for the sake of contributing. To whom? To GitHub and Stack Overflow. And why? I don’t know.
- technological progress
- increased productivity
- scientific revolution
Absolutely! There’s no way that productivity can get any better than by having loads of software developers world wide produce better and better tools (growth, progress) for nothing more than … for free!
So, don’t be a pawn of others’ Open Source strategies
So, instead of contemplating what Oracle’s move away from supporting the Open Source reference implementation of JEE means, become active yourself! Don’t just blindly consume Open Source, make it an option like any other option by consciously deciding in favour of Open Source or commercial software, depending on your specific needs.
Stop advertising their cool products for free at conferences, unless you pull out your own advantage from such an advertisement. Open Source is just yet another business model.