The Post-Oracle Sun Exodus

It appears Oracle is starting to experience some high profile departures from ex-Sun employees now that the acquisition has been finalized. First came Tim Bray:

Today I resigned from Sun/Oracle — the official integration date here in Canada is March 1st, so I won’t ever have actually been an Oracle employee. I’m not currently looking for another job. I’ll write some looking-back and looking-forward stories when I’ve got a little perspective. I can’t say enough good things about the people at Sun – and outsiders with whom I worked – over the past few years. Thanks for enriching my life!

…then, Simon Phipps:

Today is my last day of employment at Sun (well, it became Oracle on March 1st in the UK but you know what I mean). I am a few months short of my 10th anniversary there (I joined at JavaOne in 2000) and my 5th anniversary as Chief Open Source Officer. I hope you’ll forgive a little reminiscence.

Followed by most of the Drizzle team, including Monty Taylor, Eric Day, Stewart Smith, Lee Bieber and Jay Pipes (although notably not including Brian Aker from what I can tell [UPDATE 3/9/10 11:44AM: Ilan has informed me that Brian mentioned leaving Sun during his Drizzle QA at SCaLE 8X. Confirmation here; "Now I work for myself. All opinions expressed are solely the opinion of me, myself, and I..."]):

Although a few folks knew about where I and many of the Sun Drizzle team had ended up, we’ve waited until today to “officially” tell folks what’s up. We — Monty Taylor, Eric Day, Stewart Smith, Lee Bieber, and myself — are all now “Rackers”, working at Rackspace Cloud. And yep, we’re still workin’ on Drizzle. That’s the short story. Read on for the longer one

So, what does this mean for Oracle? Well, obviously less than it would have meant for Sun. Whenever two large technology companies merge, you always expect some attrition… both voluntary and involuntary. That’s what makes M&A in this industry so difficult, especially when Open Source companies are involved. With an Open Source company, much or what you’re acquiring when you buy a company is the people. If those people start leaving in droves, much of the value of the company goes with it.

That being said, this situation is probably a little different. That’s in part because Oracle handles these situations a little differently than most companies and likely knew exactly what they wanted out of Sun when they made the acquisition. With many in the Open Source community already skeptical of Oracle, however, the fact that many of these early departures have been directly related to Open Source positions is not going to instill a lot of confidence. Like Sun or not, they had a huge number of critical Open Source projects under their belt. The stewardship of those projects will help dictate to what extent they flourish moving forward. How Oracle will handle that stewardship remains to be seen. They’re certainly more focused on profits than Sun was, but you can see some positive anecdotal experiences out of previous FLOSS acquisitions such as Sleepycat. My guess is that things will play out substantially different on a project-by-project basis here… and a couple forks and a couple abandoned projects are probably inevitable.

–jeremy

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