Pure Danger Tech


So Oracle is buying Sun…

20 Apr 2009

I woke up this morning to the news of Oracle’s agreement to buy Sun and I naturally have to wonder about what this means for Java and Java 7. Oracle has been focused on Java as the common language for enterprise software for a long time so I think this makes great strategic sense for Oracle. It raises lots of questions though.

First, what is the future of Java as a language and a spec? If you think of enterprise computing and Java you can’t help but come up with another big blue company with similar interests. IBM and Oracle clearly have staked out the same territory and bet on the same language. Surely Oracle will want to derive all the strategic value they can from the acquisition and subsequent control of the JCP. I can’t imagine that they would be willing to give up that control of the JCP in favor of a more open organization.

That’s a shame as I think all parties would be served in the long run by having a truly open Java run by a truly open organization. I’d love to see Oracle give up the reserved seats and allow the JCP to be truly democratic (or as democratic as any standards organization run by companies with competitive interests can be) but I just don’t see that happening.

It is possible that Oracle will have a different position on the disagreement with Apache regarding the field of use terms Sun has been blocking on for years now. For one thing, that would allow the disagreement in the JCP to finally be resolved and maybe unstick the Java SE 7 JSR. Getting Java 7 back on track does seem to be in Oracle’s interest so maybe we can hope that this is a turning point in that battle.

Regardless of the field of use issue, I can only imagine that an Oracle acquisition means that Java 7 will be delayed. Integrating into a new company is a painful process and involves time to formulate strategies, reorganize lines of business and teams, possibly layoffs and almost certainly people leaving of their own accord, switching to new IT, HR, and other systems. All of that means time away from building software and the goals for Java 7 already seemed tight to me. I can only imagine that this slips the timeframe 3-6 months. Maybe a miracle occurs though and Oracle breathes new resources into it to keep things on track. After all, adding more people always makes things ship faster, right? ;)

Thinking outside the language, what about the JVM? There are really only three companies doing significant innovative work in the JVM world – Sun, Oracle’s JRockit, and IBM. Here we are seeing Sun and JRockit come together. I sincerely hope they both stick around. They use very different approaches and I think there is room for both to survive. However, I’m sure the pencil pushers at Oracle may see things differently. Due to the importance of Hotspot and its centrality as the reference implementation, I think I’d bet my money on it to survive vs JRockit. But maybe the two teams can actually share resources and take the best of both worlds. In any case, I hope John Rose is still present and pushing things forward. And how does IBM respond to this? Do they soldier on with their JVM or give up? I have such a strong belief in the importance of VMs over the next decade that I hate to see any source of innovation in the VM world decline.

It’s hard to say what this means for the future of dynamic languages on the JVM. Clearly, Charles Nutter seems pretty committed to the success of JRuby regardless. I suspect that Oracle can be pretty on board with this. Java is their market right now but they always need to be creating the “next wave” of stuff to sell more product. I’m sure dyn langs are another possible option there. I can’t see any reason why they would wish to slow down those options. It will be interesting to see if the JVM Language Summit does actually get held this year and how the Oracle influence will change the direction, if at all.

And what about app servers? Oracle is still trying to get its arms around integrating all the stuff from BEA. Is Glassfish a goner? Or will Oracle just “donate” it to Eclipse or Apache? In many ways, Glassfish has really been doing some fascinating work so I’d hate to see support for it dropped. Maybe donation to an open source community would be its best possible chance to thrive.

Oracle now owns MySQL of course. Many people see MySQL as the open source alternative to Oracle so I’m sure this change is going to be hard to take. “All ur database belong to us.” I wonder if this will drive forks of MySQL or an uptick in Postgres use. I guess it really depends on what Oracle does with it but it’s hard to see any way this makes the MySQL community happy.

In happier news, I think this will probably be a nice boon for OpenOffice. I use it all the time and while it’s a little fugly, I am pretty happy with it as an alternative to Microsoft Office. Seems like Oracle could use it as a real competitor against Microsoft and maybe improve the quality a bit. I’d love to see any attention paid to it.

It certainly will be interesting seeing what Oracle does with all this stuff and how IBM will respond to the threat.