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And where have all the owls flown?

Posted by fabriziogiudici on January 28, 2010 at 3:59 AM PST

I love owls; they are so elegant and have a strong personality (too bad in so many years I've been unable to take photos at any of them!). Unfortunately in my culture (and probably many others) they have also got a bad reputation, as they were considered messengers of bad fortune. It's for this reason that in italian a "gufo" is also a person who, for innate attitude or purportedly, makes always bad predictions - a doomsayer, in other words. In italian there's even a colloquial verb, "gufare" (literally "to act as an owl"), expressing this attitude.

Since when Larry Ellison announced to the world that Oracle was buying sun, flocks of gufi (pronounce as the Disney character Goofy) exercised their pessimistic views on the fate of Sun, its products and its personnel. Recalling them in no particular order:

  1. Oracle is a software company: how can they be interested in hardware? This is the end of Sun appliance (a few benevolent owls left a small hope about selling the division to Fujitsu). And in any case, who might want a Sparc? It's not worth the sand is made of.
  2. Solaris and ZFS are dead. Who will use the former - everybody is using Linux. And Oracle has got Btrfs, which is the ZFS killer - I mean, it's still unusable in production as its home page says, but who cares? Everything is better than stuff made at Sun.
  3. JavaFX is dead. It has been always a bad idea, bad implementation, nobody wants it; furthermore it has been a waste of money of the latest Sun in financial crisis, an evident sign that they had completely lost their brain.
  4. Java ME is dead. It's already dying on its own, because everybody is using the iPhone or Android, but Oracle is not interested in phones and such.
  5. NetBeans is dead (I still recall in particular one owl, saying: "Three words: NetBeans is history"). It's a piece of crap, everybody is using Eclipse anyway, and Oracle has got already JDeveloper - so figure out. What? The NetBeans Platform? Never heard of it. And anyway nobody is using it, rich client desktops are dead, and in case people use Eclipse RCP.
  6. Glassfish is dead. Oracle already has got WebLogic, so why should it spend money for another?
  7. JavaOne is dead. Oracle has already got its own conference, which is made for people in suite and tie, not for developers.
  8. And the last in temporal order: Oracle will lay off half of the current Sun personnel, and will probably kill most of them overnight and bury in a mass grave. Who needs them? And it's known that Sun engineers are mostly brain-dead morons who invent useless crap.

Unfortunately, the sparkling efficiency of the European Union kept those owls under the light spot for months, months and months, making their hoots resounding in the void - well, indeed not so void, because Oracle made a few official communications - saying what circumstances allowed - and dismissing most of the bad predictions. Nope. Gufi kept flying and hooting all the way.

Now, yesterday the thing has come to an end - thanks God! In the much-waited for official announcement Oracle explained its new strategy with a good bunch of details, and:

  1. Oracle is particularly happy to have bought Sun's hardware - the fact that they are now able to provide the full stack is seen as one of the most important things that competitors should fear of.
  2. Solaris and ZFS are key points in the "full stack" strategy, and ZFS is probably one of the most cited technologies in yestertday's presentations.
  3. JavaFX is seen as a strategic asset both in the desktop (where Oracle plans the integration with its business software) and in the mobile fields, including TV-boxes and such (as a personal note, I'm particularly pleased of this, as JavaFX and people behind it have been especially bashed for months. My congratulations to my friend Joshua - and please, Josh, extend them to all your workmates).
  4. Larry clearly said (answering to an explicit question): we're not interested in making phones, but in making Java that runs on phones. The convergence for JME to JSE will be accelerated.
  5. NetBeans, far from being dead, will receive more attention, to become the best IDE for Java SE, EE, ME and JavaFX (while JDeveloper remains with its load of professional, Oracle specific supporting tools), Yes, some features will be no more focused on (such as the support for extra languages), which won't probably mean a dramatic change since the thing remains open and the community can step in - already today support e.g. from Scala is mostly a community effort. And the extra good news are for the NetBeans Platform: with the exception of the latest few months, it has been never business-promoted by Sun, in spite of an extraordinary portfolio of customers using it. The attitude changed recently, but in the transition period, in which Sun's intentions were subjected to the change of owner. Well, Oracle confirmed its interest and commitment to the Platform too: so, from this perspective, Oracle is making things even better.
  6. Glassfish stays here, as the Reference Implementation of JEE and for the community.
  7. JavaOne is not dead - it will be held at the same time (September) of the main Oracle convention, but it will keep its own space and character. And will be exported in some hot spots of the world (China, India, Brasile, Russia).
  8. Larry explicitly said that who made the catastrophic predictions for the Sun personnel was "irresponsible". There will be some redundancies, but Oracle is already hiring new people and the balance will be positive.

Sure, we have to learn more details in day-by-day decisions in next weeks and months. It could be that from here to one year something has drifted taking care of feedback from the market - in particular, the relationship with the communities, the preservation of JavaOne character and so on will have to be proofed by facts. Read my lips: I don't make predictions, I'm interested in facts and I'm the first to strictly follow Oracle and see whether promises will be honored. But official events such as yesterday's are not made for telling people fancies: Oracle described its official strategies to the world, including investors. 

So today we can positively say that gufi were wrong!

PS I still have to understand for which reason Sun in the past has attracted so much hate - I mean, they made a lot of mistakes (or they wouldn't have been forced to sell), but we have enjoyed for years their excellent technologies and mostly for free; they have also been the corporate that above all others was able to create real, efficient and independent communities of users. I can't say but a big THANKS to them (and this is indeed matter for a specific post).

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owls, words, deeds and a healthy amount of doubt. :)

Fabrizio; while generally I share your thoughts, and, like many others, feel a certain relief seeing the overall strategy Oracle provided in these screen casts, I still think the best way of dealing with these topics is "being reasonable": The "owls" you are referring to were about to literally paint everything black for months and months without any particular reason. In the end, it seems to show they were wrong. It indeed feels tempting now to do the opposite - be enjoyed at these announcements and start "painting things all white". Is it better? I'm not sure. I guess time will tell, and the next couple of months we will have to see whether (good, from viewpoint of projects like NetBeans or Glassfish) deeds will follow words, and how consequences from these announcement ultimately will look like. Most of the "owl-speak", initially, was pointless, unreasonable and lacking any actual arguments (except for some assumptions). At the moment, we seem to have a more solid standing ground, but we also should be aware that, in business terms, decisions once made might be changed if they prove not to provide too much success. From that point of view, I guess by now it's two sets of people required to take action: - Oracle, if they intend to do so (which I suppose/hope), should push forth marketing of NetBeans IDE / platform, eventually much more Sun ever did. - NetBeans community, however, will need to find ways to "grow", to attract more users, more developers even (given the announcement related to "dynamic scripting languages" support in community development, I think this might be crucial). This is, this IMHO always has been the achilles heel of NetBeans (both IDE and platform): Outside the NetBeans community and the NBDT, I know _not even one_ single Java developer using NetBeans RCP for its daily work, whereas even .NET folks know about Eclipse. This is what has to change. ;) K.

Completely agree with you,

Completely agree with you, kawazu! We don't have to rest a minute and keep on tracking Oracle in the next months. In the last years, especially in the latest, I've seen increasingly will from Sun about involving the community. NetDEV is part of this attitude, even though it's just one component and we need to do more.

How to attract real owls (from the wild)

Over the holiday break, I got to see several North American owls close up. A wildlife expert in the family downloaded some MP3 owl calls from the internet, we put them onto a CD, and we went outside late at night and started playing them. Sure enough, the calls were answered. Smaller owls (like the Screech Owl) came right up to us, even flying toward us, wanting to find out where its friend was hiding. A huge Great Horned Owl also paid us a visit, but stayed way up high in a tree about 75 yards/meters away. We could see its silhouette against the clouds, which were lit by the nearby town center.

Try this if you really want to get native owls to pay you a visit.

Also, by the way, a great post in the subsequent paragraphs as well!

Solaris and ZFS

Hey, I even missed two points: Solaris and ZFS. Added them. My counter-comments later. 


This is really important. ZFS is widely recognized to be the best high-end FS in production today. And BtrFS is also increasingly recognized to be a potentially even better FS (if this is to be believed). Now, guess what? Oracle owns both. They can "fix" ZFS to adopt the advancements of BtrFS; or snatch pieces of ZFS to complete BtrFS; or design something new that will merge the best of both. Scenarios like this, that the owls considered "redundancy", very often can be a strength.

because they made the browser hang :)

> PS I still have to understand for which reason Sun in the past has attracted so much hate Well, in my personal environment java was mostly seen (and recognized!) in applets. And for years, the user experience was: "Oh the browser hangs - maybe one of the open browser windows loads an applet" - and mostly one of the browser windows did indeed load an applet. Well now like that can hardly happen as webmasters reacted and applets almost vaished from the web. And a fine java application on the desktop just doesn't show up as "Hey I'm java!". So there only remains a bad user experience ... Well just my opinion ... (I personally love Java :)

bavarian, no objections,

bavarian, no objections, you're right, I've also had some bad times with JWS :-) But in the ocean of technologies that Sun made available to us, some black spots don't justify the hate I see around...