Ellison Just Gives Me the Creeps

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2010-09-22 Print this article Print

So the leadership, most of whom were getting nice payoffs in the transaction, also was thinking about the Sun workforce and how they would fare in the acquisition. And, given IBM's record of quiet-but-legendary rounds of layoffs in recent years, that was a legitimate concern. Yet, leading up to the announcement of the totally merged Oracle/Sun company there were several rounds of layoffs, Gosling said.

However, in Gosling's case personally, he may have fared better at IBM, where technical savvy is generously rewarded. For instance, when IBM acquired Rational Software they saw value in Rational's chief scientist Grady Booch, co-creator of the UML (Unified Modeling Language), and made him an IBM fellow and more. And although Booch does his share of onstage rah-rah stuff - partly because he is good at it and he loves it - he also is a key liaison between IBM's software group and its research organization, and he is keenly involved with innovation. Gosling might have shared a similar fate. Who knows?

And the micromanagement Gosling says he felt may have been less of an issue at IBM. Specifically, Gosling says he felt the hand of Larry Ellison in nearly all the decisions affecting Java. Certainly IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano would not personally get his hands into the goings on with an acquisition, even a key one like Sun. But then IBM is not the house that Sam built like Oracle is Ellison's creation. There is a major difference in that.

From this reporter's view, Gosling paints the picture of Ellison being like a sports magnate from his sister city, Al "Just Win Baby" Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders, who continually hires coaches and drafts talent only to run the show himself. But unlike Oracle, Davis and the Raiders have not had a winning season for awhile - not since my Baltimore Ravens flattened their hopes and the shoulder of quarterback Rich Gannon after a vicious pancake tackle by Tony Siragusa on the way to a Ravens' Super Bowl winning season in 2001.

And although Gosling said he never had direct dealings with Ellison, "He's the kind of person that just gives me the creeps," he said. "All of the senior people at Sun got screwed compensation-wise. Their job titles may have been the same, but their ability to decide anything was just gone."

Making his point about the "creepiness," not only with Ellison but with Oracle's power structure, Gosling said he sparked a notion to try to improve morale amongst the Sun faithful who endured the Oracle acquisition. He said the company decided to rent out the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, Calif., and allow the Sun folks to have a day of fun. Scott McNealy and Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz signed off on the project that came in well under budget and all systems were go, Gosling said. Except a few days before the event was to occur, Oracle Co-President Safra Catz got wind of it and put the kibosh on the thing.

"Safra found out and had a fit," Gosling said. "The word came down that Oracle does not do employee appreciation events. So she forced the thing to be cancelled. But they didn't save any money because the money had been spent - so we ended up giving the tickets to charities. We were forced to give it up because it wasn't the -Oracle Way.' On the other hand, Oracle sponsors this sailboat for about $200 million."

Meanwhile, speaking to the "savagery" McNealy alluded to from Oracle, Gosling said Oracle's lawsuit against Google over the use of Java in the Android mobile OS is the kind of thing they expected. Indeed, in a blog post, Gosling said Oracle's lawyers' eyes lit up when Sun talked about its Java patent situation.

However, Gosling said despite the legal wrangling and how it will result, he cannot say that Google was malicious in its intent, or whether they were "like a young Microsoft," just zealous to take over the world using the tools at hand. Nor does Gosling denigrate any of the former Sun employees that went to Google and likely had a hand in the creation of Android.

"We were pretty ticked off with what they were doing and the way they were doing it," he said of Google. "But getting into litigation is phenomenally expensive, not just in terms of money but in the time of senior people. The U.S. vs. Microsoft trial pretty much destroyed a year of my life."

Besides, "Google has the PR aura about it as being the universe's love child," and suing the universe's love child was not necessarily a position Sun wanted to take, he indicated. In another blog post, Gosling explains further how Sun tried to handle the Android phenomenon.

Despite deciding he had no business working at Oracle under the hand he says he was dealt, Gosling said he has no concerns about Java's fate under Oracle.

"I'm actually not very concerned about Java at Oracle, because Java's really acquired a life of its own," Gosling said. "There's only so much damage Oracle can do, because so much of their business depends on Java. It's in their best interest to treat it well."

However, "It's going to be rocky for awhile," he said. "There's a lot of arrogance on the Oracle side, some of which got smacked out of them very quickly. They said they could root out the problems with the JCP [Java Community Process], but the JCP remains at loggerheads."

Mik Kersten, developer of the Mylyn task-oriented framework and CEO of Tasktop Technologies, said, "There is some concern for the future of Java as a platform. For companies and organizations building on the platform, the comfort comes from the fact that Java is bigger than any single vendor."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel