Dear Community, Get a Clue
Ian Skerrett posted a good article a few days ago, which is recalling how the communication between Oracle and the Community is not working. I strongly agree with 2/3 of it, in fact I voted it. Summing up, the basic points are:
- Oracle is not good at communicating with the community and it's not doing it
- Oracle is adopting subspicious tactics about the way in which some seats will be renewed at the JCP elections
In particular, for the latter point, there's an interesting post by Stephen Colebourne. Stephen thinks that there's a risk that Oracle is trying to have a friendly corporate to be nominated at JCP in place of Doug Lea, that stepped out. Stephen might be right or wrong, but I think he's right in raising a yellow flag. In the meantime, Doug explained that he stepped out of the JCP with a critical attitude and he doesn't believe any longer of the openness of the JCP.
Frankly, I wouldn't rend my garments if it was true: it's an election
and elections are a matter of politics. Each party has got the right to
try to get elected allies exercising the power that he has got
(actually, Stephen is acting on behalf of the community's interests);
the only unfair play would be to cheat the vote count, which is not
This makes very sense with the idea that I have about Oracle policy and that I've expressed in my previous post: Oracle is just trying to grab as much as control it can on Java. This doesn't mean that Java is more closed than before; Oracle's attitude is not a complete U-turn from Sun (let's recall that the Apache debate started with Sun) and indeed at least now the strategy is very clear and not ambiguous. We're still having some freedoms from OpenJDK licensing (see again my previous post) and we have just to pragmatically evaluate whether they're enough or not for us. If you don't believe they are, you shouldn't be reading here any longer, since it's a Java blog and you'd rather start working on a migration plan and exit the Community.
If you believe they are enough, you're probably enjoying the fact that Oracle, by exercising a strong stewardship, is assuring to Java a bright future and it will be probably successful in applying the roadmap that, at last, will move the stagnant waters that Sun left us in. The point is now how to maximize the community's benefits. And so, we're back to Ian's post: how do we manage the relationship with Oracle? First, it's business, that is it's a matter of quid pro quo: we can get some benefit if we can offer something back. Sun thought that there were many good opportunities with the Community, that's why - with some exceptions, such as Apache - the relationship was usually good. Now read my lips: Sun's business model failed. They created a bubble in which the community prospered, but they didn't get enough back. On the contrary, Oracle has done very well in the past and it's doing well right now. I think they think they don't need the community, and they could be even right.
That's why I find it naive that we suggest Oracle to "get a clue" about their customers and forecast doomsday scenarios with their customers if the community is not involved enough. If a corporate makes lot of money, it means that it's managing customers very well. I think that a top manager, in the unlikely case he's reading a business prediction by an engineer, just laughs.
That's why this blog ends with a question (as usual). What we really have to offer to Oracle? That's the first thing that I'd really like to know before discussing whether we have to go at war, or make peace (and which kind of peace) with Oracle. Unfortunately, I don't see answers so far.
PS Yes, the community proved able to run self-sustaining businesses on top of Java: see just as an example SpringSource (Rod Johnson made the point several times, including not going to JavaOne this year), RedHat, the Apache ecosystem. But these are independent worlds from Oracle: Oracle doesn't get money out of them, but doesn't want or can't kill them. They can probably evolve in mutual independence, not caring each the other. But keeping a minimum of cohesion between the "traditional business" à la Oracle, IBM and the "community business" would be important for keeping Java strong. On the contrary, I think we've much to lose than Oracle.