Oracle doesn’t care about open source – and neither should it

Oddly, I actually find myself agreeing with much of that attitude. Sun did indeed become something of a joke towards the end, desperately open-sourcing everything in sight while buying up other companies at inflated valuations (MySQL for $1 billion springs to mind) rather than actually working out how to make money in an industry where demand for very high-end servers – however fantastically well built – has fallen dramatically.

Oracle doesn't care about open source - and neither should it

Don’t get me wrong: I’m still hugely pro open source. Without it I’d be in a very different position right now, because the web company I co-founded in the mid-1990s certainly couldn’t have afforded to buy commercial web and database servers back then, and I wouldn’t be doing my current job teaching people how to process huge quantities of data using Hadoop.

Oracle needs to lock in its customers so they’ll continue to pay their licensing fees

But ultimately, a business is there to make money, and although there are plenty of companies – like the one I work for now – that make money by adding value to open-source software, Oracle isn’t such a company.

For Oracle, it’s all about selling its own proprietary software. Sure, the company wanted to own MySQL, but only, I suspect, to use it as a stepping stone to lure people into migrating to Oracle Database 11g, or else to start making a dent in Microsoft SQL Server’s dominance of database servers on the Windows platform. Oracle needs to lock in its customers so they’ll continue to pay their licensing fees.

What all of this means for the future of Java, heaven only knows. Even before its Sun acquisition Oracle had committed heavily to Java, using it for many of its back-end systems, so it definitely isn’t interested in destroying the language, but how much in the way of resources it’s willing to throw into future improvement remains to be seen.

Anyone who’s ever used Oracle’s browser-based database management tools will know that once a product works the company seems perfectly happy to leave it alone (the design is very 1995). My guess is there’ll be some kind of out-of-court settlement and that things will carry on much as before, but perhaps it’s time for open-source advocates (nearly said “zealots” there) to open their eyes just a little and notice that it’s a commercial world out there, and that companies will continue to pursue revenue above all else.

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