Oracle Puts the Squeeze on Open-Source Software

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-08-17 Print this article Print


We still don't know whether Oracle's lawsuit is aimed at ultimately killing off Android, but it's a sure thing that Oracle will do whatever it can to make life miserable at Google. And if the company can't win outright, it'll try to wear it down with hundreds of other suits, many against the developers of Android apps.

Since those are in many cases small companies without Google's resources, they'll likely fall under an Oracle assault in short order. The final blow to Android may come not in the death of the OS itself, but rather from an empty app store. Why buy an Android device if there are no applications? 

Now there's the next question: What do you do to keep your company from being caught up in the Oracle Wars? First of all, you should examine how you're using Java, and make sure that it's in line with the exact wording of the GPL. Then, start thinking of other languages you can use, so when Oracle finds a way to pull the plug on Java, you won't go down the drain with it. 

Second, examine how you're using Linux. While it's unlikely that even Larry Ellison can kill Linux, it's very likely that he'll find a way to effectively get Red Hat Linux out of open source by making his Unbreakable Linux a closed environment. Yes, I know the GPL doesn't allow that, but I don't think that the GPL anticipated Oracle's scorched earth practices.  

Finally, you'll need to examine your dependence on open-source applications. While Oracle probably can't do much directly to the companies that write them, the company can poison the environment they need to survive, if only to make sure they also lose. 

If it looks like I'm painting a very bleak picture of what can happen to the open-source movement after Oracle pulls Sun out of it, you're right. Despite the fact that Oracle has benefited from the innovations of the open-source community, letting open source thrive doesn't square with Oracle's practice of making sure they win and everyone else loses. While Oracle won't kill open source, it'll do a lot to kill that innovation, and it'll do what it can to make life difficult for those who create those innovations. It's probably shortsighted, but then, focusing on making others lose has never been a long-term benefit to the industry in general. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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