Monday, April 20, 2009

Candyland Gets Paved

I've been a big fan of Java for quite a long time, using it for nearly all my enterprise software development. Looks like I'm going to have to find something else now.

Today Oracle announced it would purchase Sun
Microsystems
, the company that had previously played host to a myriad of great technologies such as the Solaris OS, the Java programming language, the NetBeans integrated development environment, the MySQL database, VirtualBox for desktop virtualization, the GlassFish application server (not to mention an emerging JMS server) and OpenOffice.org for open-source enterprise office software. With Oracle's purchase pretty much a done deal, you can now expect most, if not all, of these technologies to wither on the vine.

I rely on NetBeans, Java, Solaris, OpenOffice and VirtualBox so that I can do my job on a daily basis. With those removed, I'm pretty much screwed.

Think I'm being alarmist? Maybe. I did play Chicken Little when Novell bought SuSE in 2003, and that deal appears to be working out somewhat better than anyone expected - even amidst poorly considered kinships with Microsoft. SuSE is slowly recovering, and Novell seems to attempt to be a good steward. But Oracle? Lessee... what's their track record for aquired technologies? They've turned Tangosol Coherence from a must-have element in a distributed software stack into a minuscule trinket tucked away in their closet. InnoDB has not progressed well and has caused continue enterprise issues. And WebLogic? It used to be the fastest Web service platform out there, now it remains largely ignored.

Tell me... what strategic value is Oracle going to find in VirtualBox? Or OpenOffice.org? Do you really think Oracle would have allowed projects such as Hibernate to exist when they want to make Toplink ubiquitous? Oracle will continue to neglect these projects, just like they've ignored previous projects they've acquired, until they decompose.

Seriously, are you going to trust a company who's had the same impossible-to-navigate site for fifteen years? A company who attempts to license its products using terms that require a slide rule and burnt offerings to figure out? Just look at the difference of how each company announced the acquisition: Sun created a micro-site that explains the deal and attempts to sell a bright side. Oracle could hardly be bothered to post a statement, showing their indifference to the acquisition that will most likely just mean a reduction in competition, not an enhancement to their portfolio.

Right now it seems there are two possible outs: hope that Apache Harmony can deliver on its goal of releasing its own open Java platform, or abandon Java as a platform and move to something like Qt.

Maybe I'm prematurely freaking out. Maybe I'm wrong about Oracle's apathy destroying the projects acquired from Sun. I certainly hope so. Still, I would wager that the capitalist will continue to decimate good ideas, digesting Sun's properties into a discarded pile alongside acquisitions of olde.

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