Java mutiny in the making

The Apache Software Foundation’s latest statement on the Java Community Process highlights continued dissatisfaction and dissent from Oracle’s stewardship and involvement in open source software.

This comes after some ups and downs for Oracle and its oversight of Java and other open source software that was previously under the auspices of Sun Microsystems. Oracle started off on a rough path when it sued Google over its implementation of Java in Android without preemptively or clearly stating that it was not attacking open source. At about the same time, it let OpenSolaris die a slow, somewhat confusing death. Oracle won a point when IBM came out with its support in favor of the JCP and OpenJDK over Apache Harmony, and this contributes to the adversarial positioning between Oracle and the Apache Software Foundation. However, Oracle has also seen an erosion of open source support and confidence as OpenOffice.org developers have migrated away from Oracle, many to contribute to the new Libre Office project.

Oracle’s moves illustrate the company’s lack of complete understanding of open source and the value of open source software communities. While it appreciates and leverages open source as an effective, efficient software development approach, it does not truly see the value of providing software to a community and attaining benefits of efficiency, reach and innovation as a result. This is not to say that supporting an open source software community will automatically translate into commercial and community success (not the case with Symbian, for example), but Oracle does not appear to support community as a priority in its proprietary and admittedly successful software strategy.

MySQL can be an example of Oracle doing things right with open source, though we may see similar dissatisfaction and defection as Oracle moves further toward commercialization and further away from free, community software. Still, Oracle at least showed it could continue and contribute and support a successful open source project in the case of MySQL. The same may not be said for OpenSolaris, OpenOffice.org or, increasingly it appears, Java.

VMware-SpringSource about cloud, competition, open source in that order

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water … another blockbuster open source software acquisition, this time virtualization leader VMware looking to the future, and seeing itself in need of a more integrated, application-centric position. That position, according to more than $420 million in cash and stock from VMware, apparently comes from acquisition of SpringSource. SpringSource itself has grown by acquisition, first for Apache support vendor Covalent in January 2008, then Spring-like Groovy and Grails supporter G2One in November 2008 and most recently in May 2009, systems and application monitoring and management vendor Hyperic, which also focused heavily on cloud computing.

VMware is clearly in need of a story beyond virtualization, even if we are still relatively early on in enterprise adoption. Still, looking into the future, it sees clear skies, and that does not fit with the multi-billion dollar opportunity shaping up in cloud computing. Thus, VMware is willing to invest a significant amount in SpringSource, which does represent a crossover in customers without much, if any, crossover in competition.

VMware is working to address its increasing competition from all sides. While it may seem somewhat odd for VMware to want to get involved in enterprise Java application development and deployment, it may want to take advantage of SpringSource’s relatively quick climb in the enterprise Java development and support business. VMware may also be looking to offset any gain in enterprise Java influence and control by Oracle, which may do so with its more than $7 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

VMware is also facing increasing competition from OS vendors, including Microsoft, Novell and Red Hat, which is among SpringSource’s biggest competitors with its JBoss business. Again, SpringSource may not seem the most likely suitor for Java application development, but VMware may see this as an area where it can most effectively integrate its own technology and talent to differentiate in virtualization and cloud computing.

Although SpringSource’s open source nature has been critical to its developer reach and success, this is likely not as important to VMware, which may view SpringSource more as a subscription software company than as an open source software company. Either way, it seems VMware, similar to Oracle, may have somewhat limited vision when it comes to open source software, seeing it for its development and time-to-market advantages, but missing other community benefits — including user and customer communities, feedback and contributions — that help make things work. This is not to say VMware is doomed with its plans and integration for SpringSource. It made it quite clear on a conference call today it plans to keep the SpringSource team in place as much as possible. Still, it will face the difficult and recurring challenge of a proprietary software vendor taking over an open source software vendor.