How Will Oracle Handle Sun's Open-Source Commitments?

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-04-24

How Will Oracle Handle Sun's Open-Source Commitments?

With the April 20 acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle, there is an impending change of guard involving the open-source community and its largest enterprise supporter.

Sun has harbored more open-source projects and developers-and had developed a larger outside community-than any other mainstream IT company. Thus, there is a great deal of trepidation about what changes the new boss will make in innovative IT enterprises.

Most people contacted by eWEEK on this topic said they believe that wholesale changes are in the cards, no matter what. A number of MySQL database administrators revealed a mixed bag of opinions on this topic April 23 to eWEEK.

High-visibility open-source projects such as MySQL, Java, OpenSolaris, GlassFish and NetBeans have been written about often in the week following the announcement of the acquisition, which is due to close in the summer of 2009. But not much has been said about a dozen or so smaller open-source projects (see list on the next page) being hatched at Sun Labs-projects that could very well one day grow up to be a Java or MySQL.

So what's going to happen to all this R&D?

"So far, Oracle has been fairly quiet about their intentions regarding Sun's open-source projects," OpenSUSE Community Manager and former Linux Foundation evangelist Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier of Novell wrote eWEEK via e-mail. "Given Oracle's history in open source, I'm skeptical that the company would continue the same level of involvement in promoting open source that Sun has pursued.

"In the next few months, I don't think much is going to change. However, I don't see Oracle continuing OpenSolaris as actively as Sun has, and I'm not sure how this would affect Java. I would like to think that Oracle would continue moving Java forward as an open-source project, but for the most part, Oracle has largely been a participant in FOSS [free and open-source software] projects where it suits the company's interests and not so much a leader in FOSS."

If it fits into the strategy, it may stay

Where it's strategic for Oracle to continue a project as open source, or simply too controversial to discontinue, Oracle will continue to participate, Brockmeier said.

"In the end, though, I think this will be a net loss for the community in terms of contributions. My gut feeling is that involvement in projects like GNOME will decline," Brockmeier said.

How trusted, in general, is Oracle by the community? Its biggest connections have been through Java, OpenSolaris and Red Hat.

"Generally, I think Oracle is viewed fairly neutrally," Brockmeier said. "They contribute to some projects and haven't been actively hostile to open source, but Oracle is pretty quiet most of the time. It's certainly not the first company you think of, or even the 10th, when you hear 'open source.'"

Oracle's "Unbreakable Linux" strategy is not encouraging for the prospect of the company maintaining Sun's existing levels of FOSS contributions, Brockmeier said.

"It seems the company is willing to contribute where it's absolutely necessary, but it's also not interested in doing some of the long-range heavy lifting that many FOSS vendors do to move open-source forward," Brockmeier said. "Maybe an infusion of Sun DNA will encourage Oracle to step up and be a more active player in FOSS. If not, it's a net loss for the community."

There's a lot of watching and waiting going on.

"IBM buying Sun seemed like a mixed bag, but likely a net positive for the community. I think there's some skepticism that Oracle will step up and become a more active FOSS contributor, but one hopes that Sun's FOSS commitments will live on after the deal," Brockmeier said.

Suns Open-Source Project List

Here is a list of open-source projects currently in development at Sun.

Project Celeste

Project Celeste is building a distributed, masterless, peer-to-peer, byzantine and fault-tolerant mutable data store made up of nodes in which no single node is responsible for an operation. Nodes are heterogeneous, they come and go arbitrarily, and they participate with other nodes by communicating through a P2P overlay network. This large-scale, distributed storage system is designed to work not only in dedicated data centers but in open and potentially hostile environments such as the Internet.

Project Darkstar

The video game industry's first enterprise-grade, high-performance, fault-tolerant and highly scalable server technology for online multiplayer games. Written in Java, Project Darkstar has been designed from the ground up to handle almost any kind of online game imaginable.

Electric VLSI Design System

A complete, Java technology-based circuit design package that handles schematics, IC layout and even textual hardware description languages.

Project Fortress

A new programming language designed for HPC (high-performance computing) with high programmability. It is intended to be a modern replacement for FORTRAN. The Fortress design has not been tied to legacy language syntax or semantics; all aspects of HPC language design have been rethought from the ground up.

JVoice Bridge

Software written in Java that handles VOIP (voice over IP) audio communication and mixing for tasks such as conference calls, voice chat, speech detection and audio for 3D virtual environments. This versatile software adapts depending on remote user bandwidth connection, and supports a range of voice qualities from telephone to CD-quality.

Sun Labs Lively Kernel

A new Web programming environment that supports desktop-style applications with rich graphics and direct manipulation capabilities, but without the installation or upgrade hassles. Written entirely in the JavaScript programming language, a language supported by all the major Web browsers, the system can run in commercial Web browsers without installation or any plug-in components and can function as an IDE (integrated development environment), making the whole system self-sufficient and able to improve and extend itself dynamically.

Project Maxine

Project Maxine Research VM, a virtual machine for the Java language, written entirely in Java, gives researchers a more productive way to explore new software technologies. The Maxine Research VM has the potential to greatly improve productivity by reducing implementation time frames and maintenance costs, while giving researchers more flexibility to explore innovative technologies, according to Sun. Already well-integrated with powerful development tools (NetBeans right out of the box, IntelliJ, JBuilder, Eclipse), the Maxine VM will be fully compliant with the JDK (Java Development Kit) within the next few months.

Project Maxwell Assembler System

The PMAS (Project Maxwell Assembler System) is a collection of Java 6 packages that implement several assemblers and disassemblers, automated testing for both and an extensible framework with generators for all of the above. The currently covered ISAs (instruction set architectures) are SPARC, PowerPC, AMD64 and IA32.

Open Media Commons

A community site for projects to develop unencumbered solutions for digital media. Current projects include Project Dream, a Java technology-based open-source, royalty-free and open standard DRM (Digital Rights Management) solution independent of transport format. Other open-source community projects are developing royalty-free codecs technology and streaming media services.

Project Squawk

An open-source research virtual machine for the Java language that examines ways to expand Java into the microembedded space. Written entirely in Java, Squawk aims at a small footprint, and is Java-compliant and CLDC 1.1-compatible.

Project Sun SPOT

An open-source technology based entirely on Java, the Project Sun SPOT open-source release includes the eBones hardware architecture, software libraries, drivers, a networking stack and the Squawk Virtual Machine.

Project Wonderland

A Java technology-based 3D tool kit for creating collaborative virtual worlds. Within those worlds, users can communicate with high-fidelity, immersive audio and share live applications such as Web browsers, OpenOffice documents and games.

Experimental Stuff

Experimental Stuff is operated by Sun Labs for the purpose of sharing experimental technologies and services with the Web community. The technologies and services available from this site are experimental. They are not Sun products, nor are there plans to offer them as products.

Rocket Fuel