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What the heck is going on at former Sun Microsystems?

Posted by mkarg on May 1, 2010 at 1:17 AM PDT

Mergers and Acquisitions became part of the business model of every mid size to global enterprise: If you're grown big enough, you'll have to either acquire and merge, or you will get acquired and merged. Sun Microsystems for some time tried to acquire and merge to survive this business hell, but some day the man came around in form of Lawrence Joseph Ellison, number 6 on the Forbes list of the riches people on earth. That was the day when that started, what business analysts simply describe as "friction": People quite, people get fired, people get hired, in a temporarily increased level. This is quite normal with every merger and acquisition, and shouldn't be noteworthy at all.

But in the particular case of former Sun Microsystems, the situation seems to be a bit different. For those who cannot remember, Sun Microsystems was the company that invented Java (a language called dead by some people, but still actually is actively developed and used by most programmers on earth, so is everything but death). It currently is in the state of being "a wholly owned subsidiary of Oracle Corporation". Well, if that would be true, I wonder what the problem is then: A subsidiary typically is an asset that stays untouched, keeping its structures, people, assets, and philosophy. Shouldn't everybody be happy that Larry saved all their jobs and the further development of Java and GlassFish?

In fact, it is obvious that the actual status is not being a subsidiary but being disassembled and (at least in part) merged into Oracle. Actually, many assets seem to got moved from Sun to Oracle, including key people (or at least, Oracle tried to do that). Noticed that all former Sun contacts meanwhile have Oracle email adresses? Noticed that most former Sun web pages meanwhile are Oracle web pages? The Sun logo even disappeared from many of them, and the Sun design was changed to Oracle design. Really, face the truth: There is no Sun shining anymore in California. Oracle did not obtain Sun. Oracle obtains some assets. All the rest is shaped and dropped or will get dropped. At least this is what one can see from the outside when looking with open eyes.

Despite everyting Larry told the media to calm down analysts' fear and stabilize the value of his company and the just obtained assets, it seems it is actually not the idea to keep that community inside of former Sun Microsystems that actually controlled and modelled what we all know as The Java Universe, including great projects like the JDK itself, GlassFish, and much more. I cannot remember any project I am involved with, that did not lose at least one key person meanwhile due to the acquisition. Biggest shocks for me personally in the last weeks being certainly the exits of James Gosling (yes, the inventor of Java actually left Java Soft if you really managed to not get informed of that) and Marc Hadley (JAX-RS spec lead) - The latter event made me author this blog entry, actually.

While friction is normal with an acquisition, and even more with a merger, the level of friction which currently exists at former Sun Microsystems is not normal. It is just too many key people leaving. So I wonder, what the heck is going on in Santa Clara? What is Larry's actual target? It currently looks as if he wants to terminate Java, but as he said it is being the most essential asset of the merge, and as Oracle needs Java to drive his own software suites, that won't make sense. Also, Java (the asset) is not what made Java so essential. It was the people behind Java. So that was a pyrrhic victory for Oracle. Larry, if you didn't notice so far, Java didn't fall from heaven, it was made successful by exactly that people leaving your company right now. And Larry, no, not everybody can be replaced.

It would be great if some Ex-Suns would tell us a bit more about their actual reasons to quit. Unfortunately it seems that there are legal reasons inhibiting this. Least of them told the actual reasons, and James Gosling wrote that quitting was fultime job. So it seems, there is something that Oracle won't let know the public for god's sake, and that made all the good guys leave. What could that be? I doubt't that Oracle is such a bad employer that in all cases it is the conditions of employment, like salary. I bet it is more about the actual future of Java. And that sound's not good. Does the man come around for Java now? At least for a community developed or free Java?

Also I wonder what will happen with all the gaps left unoccupied now. We all know that before the merger, lots of Java projects did not evolve anymore, like JAXP, and some projects only evolved slowly, like JAX-RS 2 (which actually never got into the state of a JSR). And now with key people leaving? Will there be any evolution in the next months? I doubt that.

In the past years, I made several forecasts, and -sad but true- most of them became reality (one of them was that Microsoft will start shifting to Linux, which actually happened with the Novell deal - but I told it three years before that). So, I dare to make another forecast, and I imploringly hope that I will be wrong this time: In the long term, Oracle will merge every valueable asset (like Java) into a prorietary product, and exterminate the rest. There will be no OpenJDK anymore, no GlassFish, no JAX-RS. That will vanish in favour of commercial products within five years. Then they will pay some millions to the EU for the right to exterminate MySQL, which will be cheaper than further developing it. And then? Then, there will be only Oracle, but no Java anymore. Sounds scary, doesn't it? Let's meet again in five years if you doubt it.

Until then, Larry has enough time to not just talk about his Java plans (we all knwo that he is brilliant in talking), butto  actually act. I would really love to see him investing millions into Java. So I'll stay tuned to follow his actual activities.


A compilation of all my blog entries, code snippets and more is found on my web site Head Crashing Informatics.

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Comments

Recently I read a former Sun

Recently I read a former Sun employee's blog which mentioned why he quit. When Oracle took over, they gave "job offers" to existing Sun employees for a salary much lower than what they were making before. Some people were happy to just have a job in this economy, while others went looking elsewhere for better pay. I have no idea who's blog that was because all my RSS feeds are merged and displayed together in Google Reader. I don't believe that Oracle would jeopardize the Java platform. I think they are going to be better stewards of the Java platform than Sun has been in recent years. Of all the companies in the world that might have bought Sun, I'm glad Oracle is the one that finally did. I've never been an Oracle customer, but I'm happy to see Sun hardware, SPARC, Solaris, Java, OpenOffice, NetBeans, GlassFish, etc. live on at a company that has great interest in these assets and the deep pockets to finance them better than Sun. When it looked like IBM was going to be the buyer I felt sick. I felt sure that they'd kill off almost everything because it competes with IBM hardware, Power, AIX, Lotus, Eclipse, RAD, WebSphere, etc. The way I see things with Oracle is that they now have two distinct product lines aimed at two different markets. They have the existing Oracle stack including the DB, WebLogic and Fusion middleware for enterprises with deep pockets. They also have the Sun assets such as MySQL, GlassFish, and other middleware that startups to small-medium businesses are interested in. I don't think a MySQL customer would be interested in a $50,000 Oracle DB license, and I don't think an Oracle DB customer would be interested in a $999 MySQL Enterprise license. Same goes for GlassFish and WebLogic. Now Oracle can compete with IBM, Red Hat/JBoss and Microsoft at the same level.