Oracle buys Sun – consolidation and open source

by Alef ArendsenApril 20, 2009

The news couldn’t be missed today. Both Sun and Oracle commented on their respective website shortly after the news hit the press and many people on blogs, twitter and other channels followed.

It’s interesting to see how much consolidation has happened in the Java community in recent years. First there was the major acquisition of JBoss by RedHat almost 3 years ago. Next was BEA, being gobbled up by Oracle little over a year ago. And, while the news that talks between IBM and Sun had stalled still hadn’t faded, the Java powerhouse is being acquired by Oracle. This means there are only a few public companies left with a large and prominent involvement in Java EE, most notably Oracle, IBM and RedHat. I shouldn’t forget Google for all their involvement in Java, but then again, their main business is still in ads, not selling hardware, software and services.

It’s hard to draw a parallel between all these acquisitions. JBoss fit in nicely (at least, at first sight) with RedHat because of its open source nature. On top of that, RedHat wanted to move into the Java space and with JonAS (their previous attempt at adding an application server to their stack) they didn’t succeed. BEA and Oracle both only had proprietary stacks (although based on standards) and supposedly, Oracle bought BEA for their world-class application server (WebLogic) and the large customer base it had. Now there’s the Sun acquisition, which although the nature of lots of Sun’s activities is open source, it’s rumoured one of the main reasons for Oracle buying Sun is their hardware division (now they can finally compete with IBM on all fronts, hardware, software and services).

In light of consolidation, it’s interesting to have a look at what’s left. Clearly, outside of the proprietary product suites of the various commercial vendors, there are a few large open source bodies left, most notably products in the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), products in the Eclipse Foundation, products carying the JBoss name and last but not least, a broad set of products under the SpringSource umbrella.

With an involvement in many Apache and Eclipse projects and with doing the large majority of all work on the Spring products, I can’t help but agree with ex-colleague Joris Kuipers, who tweeted today: “Is SpringSource the Asterix of JavaEE companies or just next? ‘For there was one small company that kept resisting to the IBM/Oracle empire'”.

Robbert F. Kennedey once said: ‘There is a Chinese curse which says, “May he live in interesting times”. Like it or not, we live in interesting times…”. Well, whether or not it really is Chinese, and whether or not it’s a curse, I agree with Kennedy, interesting time they are!

Two parting notes: with a lot simplification still needed in the world of enterprise Java, I for one hope that SpringSource will continue on its mission for quite some time. Lastly, I firmly believe open source is the best model to developer the type of products all the companies mentioned above are building and in that light, I’m hoping Oracle will treat Java well.

Disclaimer: although I am no longer employed by SpringSource I still hold an interest in the company