Mark Shuttleworth Now Sees Oracle As a Big Open Source Kahuna

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 20, 2009

Dana Blankenhorn at ZDNet has an interesting post up on comments on the Oracle/Sun acquisition from Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and Ubuntu Linux. Speaking at a press conference to launch the Ubuntu 9.04 upgrade, Shuttleworth reportedly characterized the deal as making Oracle the largest open source player. “I’m sure Oracle has carefully thought through everything it committed [itself] to [and] there will be no reversal of the idea that Java should be widely available and available as open source,” Shuttleworth is quoted as saying. He also characterizes open source as "the profound driving force in software today." The acquisition doesn't necessarily mean that Oracle is fully and completely embracing open source, though.

In an update to a post I did this morning on the implications of the Sun acquisition for MySQL, Ross Turk, director of community at SourceForge, told me this:

"How this will affect MySQL, which is more competitive with Oracle's flagship database product, is less clear. Oracle says they intend for MySQL to augment their existing suite of database products, but not elaborating further leaves a lot to the imagination. Oracle could conceivably decide to invest heavily in MySQL, perhaps even integrating Oracle technology that's currently unavailable to the community. On the other hand, they could let it gradually flounder or - worse - be strategically reduced to a lead-generation mechanism for the Oracle database."

I agree that there is a lot left to the imagination in this acquisition. And, Oracle could indeed let MySQL flounder after all the years that it has competed with it, or just use MySQL as a lead-generation tool for its existing databases. In my opinion, the best quote from the ZDNet piece (quoting Shuttleworth) is this:

"...Open source is dominating the innovation pipeline. It cements the idea that open source and free software is the big game. What [SAP, Microsoft and other large proprietary software companies] can’t do is ignore it.”

That is undoubtedly true, but companies buy other companies for many reasons. Sometimes they want to just shut down a competitive business, other times they want to tweak a business to benefit their own product pipelines and performance.

GigaOm has a good piece up on the acquisition. Among the good points made there is that Sybase, which has a lot of customers on Solaris, could face trouble as Oracle takes over Sun. The GigaOm article also cites others saying that Oracle may simply treat MySQL as a way to steer new customers to its existing databases. We'll see how truly open Oracle wants to keep things.