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Friday,October 18,2019


State of Java Subjects as Oracle Wrests Sun Kingdom

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On the 20th of April 2009, Oracle announced it had entered an agreement to acquire Sun Microsystems. The acquisition however was subject to regulatory approval and the two companies would remain separate and independent. After launching an in-depth investigation the European Commission, in September 2009, had formally objected to the merger primarily citing their inhibitions about the possibility of Oracle claiming total control on MySQL, a leading opensource database. The investigation hoped to study the plans that Oracle, a software giant built on its proprietary database, had for MySQL. Following several back and forths, the EC finally approved the USD $7.4billion merger on 21 January 2010.

The European commission had also investigated the possibility Oracle might prevent access to Java's intellectual property rights, especially to its competitors. But the commission felt that Oracle would gain nothing from such an action as this would actually limit the growth of Java. The company would also be restricted in tampering with Java's intellectual property by the involvement from other technology companies in the Java Community Process (JCP), which helps build and update specifications for Java technology.

Image courtesy James Gosling

In an interview, Robert Shimp, VP for Technology Marketing at Oracle, said “You're going to see business as usual as far as the whole Java business goes. We are very much committed to open, standard computing. So we are going to continue to drive a lot of the open standards and opensource projects. We're also committed to customer investments in the Sun platform. So we're going to invest more than ever in SPARC, in Solaris, in Intel and Linux, too. I think customers will be very pleased with the product roadmap that they see coming out of all this."

Java is one of the computer industry’s best-known brands and the Java platform is one of the industry’s most widely deployed technologies. Oracle has said it plans to accelerate investment in the Java platform for the benefit of customers and the Java community. This move only seems logical as a majority of Oracle’s middleware business is extremely dependant on a healthy Java community. The revenue they would gain from maintaining a solid progressive community far outweighs the revenue they would generate from establishing a hostile ownership over the language.

The JCP has however taken plenty of heat in recent years from open sourcers and individuals who have complained its board is dominated by big companies who control the roadmap and intellectual property that goes into Java. In a blog posting last year, Vishal Sikka, Chief Technology Officer of SAP, had slammed the JCP for being "heavily dominated" by Sun to the detriment of everybody else. This outburst is understandable as Oracle being their chief rival now stands to take full control over the body.

Sun Microsystems played the role of a benevolent dictator when it came to Java. If Oracle intends to strengthen its control then Java, being the open source language that it is, would fork away from the main structure. This is primarily because Java developers do not have the dependency on the brand owner as they did five or ten years ago.

It is not time to hit the panic button just yet, however. For all you know Oracle just bought Sun to help sell its middleware and databases with no sinister intentions of dominating the Java world. At the same time it will not hurt to be a little cautious about the entire deal and pay attention to the finer details as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison lays out the updated strategy for Sun Microsystems.

  "Sun + Oracle = Snorcle ? Where else would Duke need a snorcle, but in an aquarium visiting a glassfish?"
Content and Image courtesy James Gosling

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