Oracle Sun Merger Closes

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Oracle acquisition of Sun has closed. From MySQL and Java to OpenSolaris, OpenOffice.org and more; it’s difficult to understate the potential impact this will have on the Open Source community. Many people are skeptical of Oracle. This perception, correct or incorrect, may have the ability to negatively impact some of the communities that this acquisition affects. One point that is difficult to argue with is that Oracle is maniacally focused on profitability. That wasn’t always the case with Sun and I’d expect there to be some immediate changes as a result of this. Shortly after the deal closed, Oracle had a five hour webcast discussing Oracle’s plans. As Stephen O’Grady notes, “Between Ellison, Kurian, Phillips and the rest, we got our share of answers yesterday. But as is almost always the case in such situations, there was as much left unsaid as said”. A few tidbits from his very good Q&A:

Q: What’s the big picture of this transaction?
A: What was old is new again? A couple of years back, some of the best and brightest Solaris engineers began blurring the lines between what was hardware and what was software. This skunkworks project was called Fishworks, for Fully Integrated Software and Hardware…works. Basically the project was a storage device that blended features of Solaris (DTrace, ZFS, etc) with some impressive analytics, and an interesting storage hybrid incorporating both disk and flash storage elements. It’s hardware like this, I think, that is the future for Oracle.

Q: How do you figure?
A: As Cote covered in his excellent quick take, Ellison, in planning for the future, is looking to the past. Specifically, IBM’s past. “Our vision for the year of 2010 is the same as IBM’s for 1960,” as he says, meaning that you buy a single machine that has everything you want on it, preintegrated.

Will Oracle still sell you their database if you’re running on, say, Dell servers? Certainly. But will they also be telling you how much faster it runs on their integrated appliance, and how that appliance – through the magic of ZFS and storage pooling – will give you better performance at a lower cost, and real time performance analytics via DTrace? You bet.

Q: Which stated plans are those?
A: In talking to the Journal, Ellison said the following:

“We are not cutting Sun to profitability,” Mr. Ellison said. “We think that this business will be profitable immediately.”

He went on to say, however, that he would be leaving certain non-profitable lines of business:

Mr. Ellison said that Sun will add $1.5 billion to Oracle’s bottom line in the first year, largely because he will get out of “businesses that don’t make money.”

Q: Which businesses are those?
A: Exactly.

Q: Meaning we don’t know?
A: It’s certainly less than obvious. Likely candidates like NetBeans or OpenOffice.org were explicitly mentioned on yesterday’s call, which presumably wouldn’t be the case if the plan was to immediately retire them. No, the Sun Cloud and OpenSolaris were but a few of the obvious product lines that were MIA on Wednesday.

Q: What is Oracle going to do with OpenOffice?
A: Apparently continue to invest in it, and marry it to that which Ellison hates most in a product referred to as “Cloud Office.”

Q: MySQL is getting its own salesforce, though, right?
A: MySQL will maintain an independent sales and development staff, yes, though organizationally it will be grouped with Oracle’s open source GBU. You could argue that this is because MySQL’s more of a competitive threat, that it’s natural given the differing markets served by the products, or that it’s at the behest of the EU. Or all of the above. Either way, it means that MySQL – at least for now – has some room to move.

Q: Back to the operating system question for a second. When the acqusition was announced, you said the following:

The betting here is that Solaris will continue to be supported, but not as a frontline option, with the possible exception of cloud offerings where the quirks of the operating system are rendered invisible by the platform. Think IBM with AIX, HP with HP-UX, and so on: there is ample precedent for the (successful) continuation of two competing product lines, and as Oracle itself acknowledges above, there’s an awful lot of Oracle running on top of Solaris.

You further speculated that some of the Solaris assets might be candidates for relicensing. What do you think now?
A: That that view is wrong. We’ll see, of course, how things play out, but it would certainly appear that Oracle is committed to the Solaris platform indefinitely. Personally, I think that will be difficult to manage over time, but it’s pretty clear that the above guess was off. As some Sun folks were kind of enough to tell me when it was published.

If anything, Oracle advantaged Solaris vs Linux during yesterday’s presentation. When discussing them both, Solaris came first and had bullet points like Secure, Scale, and so on. Linux? It was described as the most “widely used” operating system.

I remain convinced that Oracle will have a tough time maintaining and messaging two competitive products, but given the depth of their appliance ambitions they may see that as a short term problem only.

As you can tell, in the short term there are probably going to be more questions than answers. While it seems MySQL is safe for now, how the developer community reacts to the Oracle ownership of the product remains to be seen. Will people stick with MySQL? Will Percona or MariaDB be the ones to benefit? Or will it be a completely different DB such as PostgreSQL that gains as a result.

While it’s clear that Oracle is going to kill some products, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on exactly what will survive. That uncertainty could be extremely detrimental to some projects. One of the biggest questions for me is what will become of OpenSolaris/Solaris and how that decision will impact Linux support within the company. Sun had a mixed history with Linux, but Oracle has been a big proponent recently. Will they switch gears and go with a product they have more ownership over, or will they stick with Linux which is doing much better in the marketplace.

I have quite a bit of other commentary on this topic, but I’ll attempt to break that into separate posts in the near future as more information becomes available.

Additional Reading:
* Sun & Oracle’s impact on open source acquisitions
* Best of luck to Jonathan, who is stepping down.

–jeremy

75% of Linux code now written by paid developers

In what should come as no surprise to those who have been watching, 75% of Linux code is now written by paid developers. From the article:

Forget lofty ideals about the open-source community: most Linux kernel code is written by paid developers at major corporations.

The Linux world makes much of its community roots, but when it comes to developing the kernel of the operating system, it’s less a case of “volunteers ahoy!” and more a case of “where’s my pay?”

During a presentation at Linux.conf.au 2010 in Wellington, LWN.net founder and kernel contributor Jonathan Corbet offered an analysis of the code contributed to the Linux kernel between December 24 2008 and January 10 2010. (The kernel serves as a basis from which individual distributions such as Ubuntu, Debian or Red Hat are developed, though these will often add or remove specific features.)

A massive amount of coding went on in that period: 2.8 million lines of code and 55,000 major changes were contributed to the kernel, which evolved from version 2.6.28 to 2.6.32 over that time. “The development process is clearly quite alive and quite active,” Corbet said, noting that this amount to more than 7,000 lines of code added every day.

I’ve seen this presentation (well, an earlier version of this presentation – I was not at Linux.conf.au) by Jonathan before and I think the article changes the tone of it in an unintended way (specifically the “Forget lofty ideals about the open-source community” bit). First, Open Source has never been about unpaid labor. The fact that people conflated the meaning of free in “Free Software” long ago is something we’re still dealing with today unfortunately. Next, we’re talking about 25% of 2.8 million lines of code that were contributed by volunteers in a roughly one year span. That’s 700,000 lines of code. It’s not just a matter of how much it would have cost a company to write those lines of code, either. How many bugs fixed in those lines would never met a companies threshold for needing to be fixed? How many features added by those lines would have never made it past a managers cost-benefits analysis? In closed source software, a single unaffiliated person with extra time and the appropriate skills is never able to commit code to address these issues. That’s one reason Open Source software has been so successful.

There another point in the presentation though:

“75% of the code comes from people paid to do it,” Corbet said.

Within that field, Red Hat topped that chart with 12%, followed by Inte (sic) with 8%, IBM and Novell with 6% each, and Oracle 3%. Despite the clear commercial rivalry between those players, central kernel development worked well, Corbet noted.

So the top 5 companies, many of them direct competitors contributed 35% of the code. Unlike in some other competitive landscapes, when it comes to OSS people and companies can all be part of the same community or ecosystem. Yes, Red Hat and Novell have marketing materials and presentations on why you should choose their commercial offering. At the code level however we are all working toward the same goal… realizing that a rising tide lifts all boats. We’ve learned how damaging a monopoly can be in the software world. Having multiple viable companies with Linux offerings based on the same kernel should be seen as a strength; as a way to limit vendor lock-in. We’re far from perfect in this community, but forgetting our “lofty goals” isn’t something I think we should do just yet ;)

–jeremy

OpenSource.com Launches

Red Hat has recently launched OpenSource.com. This isn’t a site where Red Hat will simply extol the virtues of its products, but about Open Source in general… even outside the technology context. We already know that Open Source has the ability to definitively produce better software. Red Hat is now asking a bigger question: where else can the principles we’ve learning in building OSS be applied. From the about page:

opensource.com is where we explore what happens when the Open Source way is applied to the world. What problems can we solve? How would it affect the way we learn? Work? Run our governments?

We want to shine a light on the places where the open source way is multiplying ideas and effort, even beyond technology. We believe that opensource.com will be a gathering place for many of the open source stories we’d like to share–through articles, audio, web presentations, video, or open discussion.

The term open source began as a way to describe software source code and the collaborative model for how it’s developed. Red Hat used this model for developing technology and built a business model around open source and its principles: Openness. Transparency. Collaboration. Diversity. Rapid prototyping.

The open source way is more than a development model; it defines the characteristics of a culture. Red Hat and other open source thought leaders want to show you where open source is headed next. Tell you how to get involved. Help you apply it to your life and the world around you.

The open source way is about possibility.
Open source presents a new way to solve old problems. To share ideas and effort.

The open source way opens doors.
Open source offers a new perspective. Open, not closed. Collaboration, not isolation.

The open source way multiplies.
Knowledge. Effort. Inspiration. Creativity. Innovation. The impact is exponential.

And it’s already happening:

CHANGING OUR SOCIETY…

The open source way thrives on broad collaboration and shared effort. Wikipedia is one of the world’s most extensive collections of information. Its rapid, exponential growth arose from a very different model and philosophy from the traditional encyclopedia. Anyone can contribute, and entries are subject to peer review.

CHANGING HOW WE WORK…

Two key characteristics of the open source way are transparency and accountability. With natural and organic foods market Whole Foods, they pass accountability to the employees that can most directly impact their individual areas throughout each store. Wages, staffing decisions, even choosing what items to stock–these activities are all done in the open.

CHANGING OUR GOVERNMENT…
US President Barack Obama came to office with the promise of change. His campaign encouraged participation, and his administration has pledged to create a new environment of openness and participation in government.

CHANGING HOW WE LEARN…
Education is all about an exchange of knowledge. MIT took the lead in sharing knowledge and chose to try and change the world in the process. They make the materials used in the teaching of almost all of its undergraduate and graduate subjects available on the web, free of charge, to any user in the world. With nearly 1,800 courses available, MIT OpenCourseWare is delivering on the promise of open sharing of knowledge.

It will be interesting to see what kind of participation they get outside the RHT ecosystem and what kind of ideas and actions they’ll be able to evoke. IMHO it was a clever move tying this site to the Open Source name. It both furthers Red Hat’s image as a leader in the Open Source brand and looks to expand awareness of that brand. I’m sure they hope both add to their bottom line.

–jeremy

Happy New Year & Browser and OS stats for 2009

First, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year. 2009 was another great year for LQ and we have a ton in store for 2010. You may have noticed this blog has been quiescent lately. While I have been twittering regularly, the terse and off the cuff nature of twitter is markedly different than most blog entries here (the conference based live-blogging entries aside). I’d like to resume regular blogging in 2010, even if the frequency isn’t what it once was. 2010 looks to be another interesting year for Linux and Open Source, so finding material to blog about shouldn’t be too onerous.

I’ll finish this post off with the browser and OS statistics for the main LQ site for all of 2009, which I like to post after the conclusion of each year. Here’s the post from 2008, for comparison.

Browsers
Firefox 64.28%
Internet Explorer 18.23%
Mozilla 4.80%
Chrome 4.30%
Opera 3.75%
Safari 2.88%
Konqueror .98%

Note that Firefox is actually down .16% while Chrome passed Opera, Safari and Konqueror in its first year. Firefox versions are once again all over the map, with 3.0.10 being the only version above 10% of FF users at 10.70%. No version of 3.5 comes in the top five, but 3.5.3 is the most used in that branch at 6.48% (with 3.5.5 hot on its heels at 6.37%).

Operating Systems
Windows 52.73%
Linux 40.94%
Macintosh 5.43%

That’s right; both Windows and Linux are slightly down from last year, while Mac is slightly up. The most used mobile OS is the iPhone at .12%, with Android coming in at .02%.

–jeremy

LinuxCon: Let's Get Together: Coordinated Software Releases, The Linux Ecosystem and the Impact on the Global Marketplace (liveblog)

Keynote – Mark Shuttleworth

* Open Source has the power to “end up defining the experience that the average person has when they turn on their computer”
* For every 1 Ubuntu alpha user there are about 10 beta users and then about 100 final release users.
* There’s a disdain about marketing for some in Open Source… but if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t be seen as “marketing”, but talking about something you’re passionate about.
* We’ve seen many high profile projects move to time based releases – Mark calls this project cadence.
* For an enterprise Linux distro, Ubuntu research seems to indicate that a 2 year release cycle makes the most people happy.
* It turns out that for the most part, distro’s do not compete on which has the latest version of product $X. I can see some major exceptions here though.
* Automated testing should be seen as critical. Mark sees a clear difference in projects that fully support a make check and those that don’t.
* There are at times a huge chasm in Open Source projects between in the inside “cabal” of trusted contributors and people who are new and interesting in contributing code. Mark sees automated test suites as a potential way to mitigate this.
* As Open Source becomes more mainstream, the gap between “users” and “developers” is going to continually widen. Automated crash reporting integrated into source management can help here.
* We have to ensure the software we create can compete with the best of breed solutions, proprietary or otherwise.
* Note: The Linux sound subsystem has really been taken a beating at LinuxCon
* Cadence, Quality and Design are the points Mark wanted to drive home.

This keynote wraps up the event. I’ve really enjoyed LinuxCon and look forward to attending the event again next year (in Boston). Kudos to the Linux Foundation.

–jeremy

LinuxCon: Beyond the Hype: The True Cost of Linux and Open Source (liveblog)

Moderator: Matt Asay
Panel: Noah Broadwater (Sesame Workshop), David Buckholtz (Sony Pictures), Anthony Roby (Accenture)

* Open Source was the number one answer for what kind of software executives are planning to implement in the next year
* roughly 4 of every 5 programmers have used some kind of Open Source. Even for .NET programmers, the number is 3 of every 5.
* Forrester has seen multiple demonstrable million plus dollar savings via Open Source implementations, including a 100M savings by Sabre.
* Accenture: Open Source allows you to tackle problems that were previously economically just not viable.
* Sesame moved to Open Source to reduce licensing costs and allow them to compete with companies like Disney while being a non-profit. They only have two developers since moving to Open Source; they previously had 10.
* Mid-sized shops that don’t look at development as a core competency is currently a place where Open Source is perceived as weak and can improve its uptake and success rates moving forward.

–jeremy

Introducing the Google Chrome OS

After years of speculation, Google has officially announced its intentions for a “Google OS”. From the press release:

It’s been an exciting nine months since we launched the Google Chrome browser. Already, over 30 million people use it regularly. We designed Google Chrome for people who live on the web — searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends. However, the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project that’s a natural extension of Google Chrome — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be.

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform. All web-based applications will automatically work and new applications can be written using your favorite web technologies. And of course, these apps will run not only on Google Chrome OS, but on any standards-based browser on Windows, Mac and Linux thereby giving developers the largest user base of any platform.

It basically sounds as though Chrome OS will be a very light weight Linux that can boot extremely quickly and is designed to run the Chrome browser quickly and efficiently. The details beyond that are unfortunately extremely light at this point. It’s a bit ironic that Chrome OS is based on Linux while Linux support in Chrome has considerably lagged Windows and OS X support thus far. My initial thought was, why Chrome OS in addition to Android. They touch on that in the press release:

Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.

It seems to me there will be quite a bit of overlap, but we’ll have to see what direction Google takes both Chrome OS and Android before we can tell for sure. You have to assume that much of the Chrome OS experience will actually take place in the cloud, which could get interesting but poses a variety of stumbling points, of which privacy and security will be major ones. Another pain point is what the experience will be like when you go offline (which happens quite a bit, despite what some people attempt to tell you). Keep in mind that Chrome OS isn’t scheduled to launch for almost a full year. A lot can happen in that time, but this announcement should be seen as a bright spot for Linux in general. Google could have chosen anything to build this on top off. The fact that they continually build products on top of Open Source software should be seen as a testament to the quality of that software. Whether Google will be able to bring Linux to the masses where others have failed remains to be seen, but between Chrome OS and Android they’re certainly trying. Privacy issues (which far too many people ignore) aside, Chrome OS + Gears + HTML5 + Wave + whatever technology drops in the next 12 months certainly has the potential to be an extremely compelling combo. It’s certainly something I’ll be keeping my eye on.

–jeremy

Additional reading:

WSJ
TechDirt
NYT
TechCrunch
RedMonk

LinuxQuestions.org Turns 9

It was nine years ago today that I made my very first post at LQ. 3,578,611 posts and 407,152 members (note: we prune inactive members – more than 480,000 members have signed up) later, I continue to be astounded by what LQ has become. As I’ve stated many times, the site has grown well beyond my initial expectations. If you’d have told me in 2000 that I’d be traveling around the world, from London to San Francisco, evangelizing Linux and Open Source on behalf of LQ… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have believed you. I started LQ as a way to give something back to a community that I felt had given to me. I wanted LQ to be a place that was friendly and welcoming to those who were new to Open Source and Linux. Despite our ever growing size, I think we’ve maintained that objective. With an absolutely great group of members and the best mod team on the net, we’ve only just begun however. From the very beginning, LQ has thrived on member feedback. That will never change. Visit this LQ thread to let us know how you think we’re doing. We want to know what we’re doing well and where we can improve. We really do listen closely to feedback and many of the improvements we’ve made over the years were direct responses to member suggestions. I’d like to once again thank each and every LQ member. It really is the members that make the site what it is. Here’s to another nine years!

–jeremy

Random stat: In our ninth year on the net, well over 25,000,000 unique visitors came to LQ.

Red Hat: Bad economy is good for Open Source

From a post by Matt Asay:

Well, on Wednesday Red Hat announced fiscal first-quarter revenue of $174 million, up 11 percent from the prior year. Subscription revenue was up 14 percent year over year to $148.8 million. The company’s total deferred revenue balance is now $567.3 million, an increase of 15 percent on a year-over-year basis. Net income for the quarter was $18.5 million.

Both Oracle and Red Hat are doing well, and Oracle is obviously dealing with much bigger wads of money, but it seems clear that Red Hat’s open-source model is the big winner in the recession.

In fact, on Red Hat’s earnings call, Chief Executive Jim Whitehurst indicated: “Budgets remain tight and we don’t see an end in sight for this. In relative terms, this is pretty good for us.” He went on to call out the big differentiator for Red Hat’s business: certified ecosystem.

The key differentiator for us in Linux is our certified ecosystem. Even those that are clones of RHEL [Red Hat Enterprise Linux] lack this certified ecosystem. The second differentiator is value: great service and support at a compelling price.

We have a very disciplined business model which is based on commoditizing key parts of core infrastructure. We’ve been laser-focused on this. Open source is particularly good at that. We’d certainly like to work with other open-source companies but they have fundamentally different business models than we have.

Repeatedly asked on the earnings call about competition from Oracle, Red Hat executives took turns dismissing Oracle’s Solaris (“When customers decide to jump from Solaris they go straight to Linux, skipping OpenSolaris”) and Oracle’s Linux strategy (“We’ve yet to lose a major customer over the last year to Oracle’s Linux offering. The only one to leave Red Hat in the past couple of years is Oracle itself.”).

You can view the full RHT quarterly report here. Red Hat continues to do well and I think it’s become clear that the continuing recession can benefit certain Open Source business models. Matt makes a very good point in his post though. At some point, the UNIX-replacement business is going to slow. Currently that business is a huge chunk of Red Hat sales. When that slowing finally happens, Red Hat is going to have to look to others places for growth and competing more directly with Microsoft seems like one clear place to look for that growth. Today, less of Red Hat’s sales come at Microsoft’s expense than many people realize. It may very well take an acquisition or two for that to change. With JBoss now fully consumed, some additional acquisitions seem inevitable, but they may not come for a little while for a couple reasons. First, most companies are trying to conserve cash right now, and Red Hat is no exception there. Secondly though, Red Hat really has to be careful whose toes it steps on with its acquisitions. They learned that lesson the hard way with JBoss. That being said, at some point they may end up being too conservative in this regard. Competing with much larger companies means you have to use your small size to your advantage and take risks. I think Red Hat is up to the task, it may just take a little time to find the value and situation they’re looking for.

Disclosure: Earlier this year I held a moderate position in NYSE:RHT. I no longer hold that position.

–jeremy

Win a Gratis OSCON Pass from LQ

I’m happy to announce that we’re able to give one full “Sessions Only” pass to OSCON away absolutely free. For those of you who’ve never attended OSCON, it’s always a great event. While the event is in San Jose and not Portland this year, I still expect a top notch showing from O’Reilly. At almost $1,500 the “Sessions Only” pass will get you into everything except for the tutorials. Visit this LQ thread for more information on how to be eligible for the free pass. I’d like to thank O’Reilly for making this possible. See you in San Jose.

–jeremy