Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oracle and Open Source. NOT GOOD.

If you have been following the java news lately there is one theme that keeps coming back. It seems Oracle has declared open season on Open Source java and is trying to bully its way.

There have been a few incidents of late. First there has been the Open Office/Libre Office fiasco, where Open Office was essentially forked by its own community. Then there was the Java/JCP tantrum thrown by Apache, where Apache noisily left the JCP over spats with OSS licenses for the JVM (Harmony). And lately there are more, notably one with NetBeans. But one that is closer to home (and my wallet) involves a project led by an employee of Cloudbees.

Basically, if I understand the situation correctly the lead developer was a Sun employee when he started Hudson. So Oracle claims they own IP and brand, which very frankly is completely irrelevant since the license is OSS and the guys at Cloudbees can continue their work un-encumbered. And there is one thing left to do, which is basically to fork the project. And so it is... a lot of the OSS community is flipping the bird to Oracle.

But this outburst of belligerence is a sign of a deeper malaise within Oracle/SUN. I have had my own issues with SUN back in the days, when they wouldn't allow us to get certified. But by and large the attitude from SUN was one of "laissez faire". SOMEONE at Oracle has woken up and declared that all java assets were to be monetized and therefore there seems to be crackdown going on in the java open source community.

There is also a large dose of ignorance of how "things work" on the part of Oracle in how it approaches these problems. At the end of the day, an OSS project is lead by a few individuals that truly drive the community. If Oracle feels it "owns" certain projects but the work is done outside the company, then Oracle doesn't own shit. Point in case when it gets down to it in Hudson, it seems to me that Kohsuke Kawaguchi, also known as KK, and his friends do all the work, while Oracle just waves their arms wildly. A community without its community of developers is an empty vessel, and Oracle is about to learn this lesson.

It saddens me in a way, I was hoping Oracle would continue the benevolent dictatorship style of SUN when it came to things java. It seems bent on dictatorship alone. I doubt few will follow.
In a way, I can understand where they are coming from, after all Java is in maintenance mode and it is therefore time to derive maintenance revenue. The execution however seems tone-deaf and frankly clumsy. I am glad I am not the one having to be the corporate pitbull.

FORK YOU ORACLE.


19 comments:

Warren said...

You are a god amongst mere mortals marc, I think it's time you call Larry Ellison and give him a piece of your mind!

Anonymous said...

I think so ! Rare people on earth could explain to larry how big is his error. Call him please !

Alexis MP said...

I've been sadly following the Hudson situation from a distance and can certainly sympathize with your pov, but please don't generalize this to the broader Java at Oracle story. OpenJDK and GlassFish for instance are as vibrant as they've ever been and there has been no "monetize Java" decree.

Marcf said...

you are funny and naive. OpenJDK is under GPL, which means Oracle keeps getting the bundle of revenue on the VM dual licensing. How do I know? because the VP in charge at SUN asked me what they should do to monetize it back in the days. As for AssFish being vibrant, I will elegantly and swiftly move on... woosh.

But seriously, "not monetizing"? Oh, so Oracle is pissing off their java.net communities FOR NOTHING? FOR EGO? It wouldn't be the first time I see this in OSS but in the case of a corporate entity, that's just fucking dumb.

Marcf said...

I'll further say this: the crackdown on VM (Harmony vs Open JDK) ONLY MAKES SENSE FROM THE MONEY POINT OF VIEW. They make a ton on the dual licensing and are shutting down BSD alternatives, which allow corporations a free ride. MAKES SENSE.

I must also say that in this case, i kind of understand their position. SUN has invested a lot of money in java and I would be pissed off as well seeing the Android's of the world doing a cosmetic fork of java (libraries) and reaping all the rewards without paying anything back.

Alexis MP said...

Marc, you've missed my point which was simply to say that with a company the size of Oracle you can't draw conclusions from discrete experiences.

Every java.net community is different in so many ways, and I don't see how Oracle has upset openjdk community members (sticking to that example since the other one seems to strike a nerve). By committing resources to the project? Bringing in IBM and Apple?

Other projects weren't as lucky and got their share of awkwardnesses (like painful infrastructure changes) and maybe even some ego-driven decisions. Hard to dispute that.

Different projects, different experiences.

Marcf said...

I didn't miss it. I do state that there is a trend over the examples I give. In fact i don't think there is a clear strategy which is why it seems happy go lucky. And yes, from what i can tell the ego approach is failing. Sometimes low level employees can set the tone in the wrong way.

Donald Smith said...

Hi Marc,

So what are your thoughts on this:

http://blogs.tedneward.com/CommentView,guid,cb561282-8bf8-4a69-aa24-69870b790a65.aspx

Was the JBoss team wrong to defend the Hibernate trademark? Would your answer change if Gavin had gone to a startup after the Red Hat acquisition?

Marcf said...

Yes, my answer definitely depends on where the developers are. In the case of Hibernate, I support Red Hat's decision (with which I had nothing to do) to go after copyright infringement with 100% brutal force. In that particular case it was a bunch of free-loaders coming once the cake is baked and wanting a share. JBoss was built on brand and community. Both. At the same place.

This is, again, a key for me to analyse this situation. Oracle is saying "our copyright, our code" which is FINE, and probably TRUE (if one can enforce the unfair IP clauses in the SUN employment contracts, which is debatable) but they clearly are saying "OUR COMMUNITY" which doesn't mean anything. If your community is walking out of the door then your brand and copyright are worth absolutely nothing, imho.

It is a good question about "Gavin" leaving Red Hat. And I can't really comment since it didn't happen. but If he had, then the question would be "what happens to the community". Clearly brand and copyright would remain with RH but the community may not.

Which is kind of my point in a way, RedHat did NOT alienate the developer and community it was taking over. And had a thousand more rights to than ORACLE just providing servers to the efforts...

Marcf said...

And I agree... it is not easy...
Like I said I would hate to be the one having to run around bashing heads...

Donald Smith said...

Thank for the further insights. As someone trying to understand the evolution of open source, especially in a business context, this is definitely one to watch.

A pet peeve I have (not of your post, but generally) is that I have run across threads that boiled the Hudson conversation down to one sound bite -- "oracle is evil for not ceeding all rights to to hudson".

I actually think that's wrong - there's lots of other valid debate points, but at the end of the day I have to believe it's a rational business decision that any other organization would do.

Marcf said...

Well discussions in OSS tend to be emotional and a business "bottom line" discussion is usually difficult to have and hazy. I mean the more I think about the Hudson case (disclosure: I AM INVESTED IN CLOUDBEES, where KK works) the more I don't understand what Oracle is doing. While I can understand the JVM spat, as detailed above there is a lot of money involved there with GPL, this one is fuzzy.

Which brings me back to ego, whomever is enforcing this on Oracle's side should be fired. It doesn't make any sense.

Thotheolh said...

I think we, java developers, should consider stirring clear from Oracle stuff and go to something else that is better. Oracle has made too much mistakes as we know so Oracle shouldn't deserve the community's support anymore. The quality of Netbeans is getting worse when Oracle took over if anyone noticed.

Anonymous said...

If Sun/Oracle own "Hudson", then wouldn't they be entitled to say that the code was licensed incorrectly, and remove the open source versions? Just the same as any other copyright violation where the violator whacked a different license on something (like GPL->BSD/etc)

Marcf said...

1/ yes, in theory they could. If it is their property they can decide it was wrongfully licensed under GPL

2/ For that to happen they would have to first establish that it is in fact their property. From what I gather it is based on the fact that KK was an employee of SUN when he did this. The employment contract of SUN was a running joke in terms of enforcement. The "we own ALL YOUR THOUGHTS AND EVERYTHING YOU DO OUTSIDE THE COMPANY" approach is heavy handed and probably has no ground.

3/ Assuming 2 and 1 hold, then I would still argue that it is a completely braindead approach to the problem.

4/ No it is NOT like someone trying to relicense your work under a different license. (Which I had to fight) for the simple reason that the work was actually done by KK, and the community managed by KK. This is simply a case of Oracle waking and claiming it is all their property now that KK has made a success. So it is more akin to Oracle TRYING TO RELICENSE THIS FROM GPL TO THEIR LICENSES than the other way around. If you do not grasp that point, then clearly ... you do not gras that point :)

Marcf said...

Thotheolh, like I said I was hoping ORCL would be a bit smarter about OSS... I don't get it. Are the mySQL guys all gone?

Andrew C. Oliver said...

Sun was good at creating markets but bad at monetizing products. Oracle is great at monetizing (some) products but it tends to destroy markets in the process. They need to buy new companies constantly because they can't seem to grow the assets they have. Someone else has to do the hard work of adoption.

Bill BUrke said...

I have no problem with Oracle going after CloudBees, whoever, for Trademark infringement of Hudson. TM is about the only real asset an open source project has IMO. If Oracle owns it, they own it, whether or not the community leaves.

What I don't like is all the patent mojoschmojo. Its that back door to fuck open source. I wonder if it is possible to fork OpenJDK, upgrade it to GPL 3.0 (which I believe the license allows) and protect yourself from patents at the same time?

"If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation."

elavarasu said...

This is sweet news for me...because if oracle comes as open source it's growth will improve dramastically