Java Developers Say Better Oracle than IBM

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-04-20

Java Developers Say Better Oracle than IBM

Oracle's $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems means a new home for Java, and Java is doing just fine.

Indeed, if Sun could not remain independent and IBM dropped its bid for the system maker, the next best place for Java to land was Oracle.

Oracle is no stranger to Java and Java developers, and not only because of its Java-based middleware stack. Oracle has long supported Java with tools for developers and support in several industry attempts to advance Java and open technologies, such as Eclipse and other efforts that were not as successful. However, Oracle has done with Java what the company has always done best-gone its own way.

As industry observer Tony Baer said:

Now that it "owns" the origins of the Java stack, we expect Oracle to provide counterweight to IBM/Eclipse, but as mentioned earlier, it will be one [born] of nuance rather than religion. You can see it already in Oracle's bifurcated Eclipse strategy, where its core development platform, JDeveloper, is not Eclipse-compliant, but the recently acquired BEA stack is. In some areas, such as Java persistence, Oracle has taken lead billing. Anyway, as Eclipse has spread from developer to run time platform, why would Oracle give up its position as a member of Eclipse's board.

This also begs the question of what Oracle will do with the Sun NetBeans open-source development tools platform, which competes with the Eclipse platform.

Meanwhile, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, said, "Oracle's acquisition of Sun is unequivocally good for Java. Erasing uncertainty about the future of Sun as a business does the same for Java. Historically, Oracle has been a vocal supporter of a more open Java platform. Hopefully that will quickly translate into action on that front."

Click here to read more about the Oracle-Sun acquisition deal.

Some developers agreed with Milinkovich's assertion. Eugene Ciurana, a Java development guru and cloud computing enthusiast who had been leery of IBM acquiring Java, said, "I believe this is overall a very good thing for Java technologies. Oracle is more aggressive than IBM at marketing and they are more technology-savvy, plus they have the clout to fight IBM's hegemony in the Java Community Process to speed things up. Bringing GlassFish into their offerings makes Oracle an option for small, medium and large companies deploying Java applications. Big clients will use WebLogic, smaller shops can have GlassFish ... Overall, a better option than IBM for Java."

A developer and executive at an ISV in the Java ecosystem who requested anonymity said he believes the Oracle-Sun deal is good for Java. "Sun never figured out a way to make money on Java," the developer said. "And Oracle likely won't even try. I like the idea of having 'not IBM' controlling Java so there is a yin-yang balancing act for the technology. Oracle fighting with IBM at a peer level is actually better than the current balance of a dying Sun fighting with IBM. The tension will ensure that Java stays relatively on track. Everyone's infrastructure depends on Java EE app servers, so I don't expect Oracle will upset the apple cart. The fact that Sun licensed the Java source as GPL [General Public License] keeps anyone from doing anything interesting with it without signing a deal with Oracle anyway."

Meanwhile, another Java expert who requested anonymity said of the deal, "I think it's great. I was really worried [about] if IBM could handle it, and what it would have meant to the future of Java if IBM was the buyer. Oracle should have done the deal 'with' IBM to give IBM the hardware business and jointly owned or 'opened up' the Java/Solaris/software side of it, since it so greatly benefits both IBM and Oracle. In truth, IBM has the optimal business to benefit from Sun's hardware business, but only Oracle has the heft to deal with Sun's Java business and responsibilities."

What Oracle Means for Java


Sacha Labourey, former CTO of Red Hat's JBoss division, said he believes he knew what to expect from IBM as the steward of Java, but is not quite sure with Oracle-although he will give the company the benefit of the doubt.

Said Labourey:

IBM's commitment to a truly open JCP [Java Community Process] was a given; they've shown that for a long time by having all of their recent JSRs [Java Specification Requests] led in a truly open way. Oracle is obviously a different beast and their business practices have had more to do with vendor lock-in than creating equal playing field ecosystems. That being said, I think Oracle really understand[s] the vital need to revive the Java ecosystem as a whole and, unlike Sun, will know how to leverage the related side effects to their benefit. Consequently, the big question is whether Oracle will be credible in this new role of the Java referee. Since it will be very hard for them to alleviate those fears-it is hard to get your virginity back-a good solution would be for them to cooperate very closely with well known, good, open citizens such as Red Hat and IBM. Otherwise Oracle will look like a boxer in a tutu.

Oracle's acquisition of Sun also could help reconcile the company's approach to the OSGi (Open Services Gateway initiative). Eric Newcomer, former CTO at Iona Technologies and current co-chair of the OSGi Enterprise Expert Group, said, "From my point of view as OSGi EEG co-chair, I know that Oracle has been a strong supporter of the enterprise OSGi effort, and as this effort bears a strong relationship to the future direction of enterprise Java, I think it's good news. Sun had shown a division of opinion on OSGi, embracing it in GlassFish but undermining it in Project Jigsaw, and I am hopeful Oracle's acquisition of Sun will resolve this issue in a positive way."

 In an e-mail to Sun employees, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz said:

Oracle's interest in Sun is very clear-they aspire to help customers simplify the development, deployment and operation of high value business systems, from applications all the way to datacenters. By acquiring Sun, Oracle will be well positioned to help customers solve the most complex technology problems related to running a business.

To me, this proposed acquisition totally redefines the industry, resetting the competitive landscape by creating a company with great reach, expertise and innovation. A combined Oracle/Sun will be capable of cultivating one of the world's most vibrant and far reaching developer communities, accelerating the convergence of storage, networking and computing, and delivering one of the world's most powerful and complete portfolios of business and technical software.

During a news conference announcing his company's deal to acquire Sun, Oracle CEO and founder Larry Ellison said there were two software products that were instrumental in Oracle's decision to acquire Sun: Solaris and Java.

"Java is one of the computer industry's best-known brands and most widely deployed technologies," Ellison said. "Oracle's Fusion middleware is based on Sun's Java technology, and we can increase investment in Java technology that is critical to our success in middleware. Java is the foundation of Oracle's Fusion middleware and is the single most important software asset we have ever acquired."

Charles Phillips, president of Oracle, said he expects Oracle to take advantage of inroads Sun has made with Java in embedded systems development, as well as to capitalize on the Java developer ecosystem after having inherited "the largest software development community in the industry."

Mark Shuttleworth, CEO and founder of Canonical, the commercial sponsor of Ubuntu Linux, said, "My expectation is there'll be no reversal of the idea that Java should be as open and as widely available as possible. What is really interesting to me about this deal is that it really cements that open and free software are the major drivers in the industry today. The software ISV marketplace is consolidating at an extraordinary pace. Part of the reason for that is open source is dominating the innovation pipeline." 

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