Good night, Sun.

This has been a long time coming… To be fair, we all saw it coming when the merger happened. Ironically, this will be the best thing to happen in FOSS for a while now. At first I was concerned by the purchase- Oracle was wrapping their squeeze-happy hands around OpenSolaris, MySQL, and Java? Oh no! Now I realize this is probably a good thing, all told.

Having been a Linux guy in a Solaris world for the last year and a half I will tell you this- Solaris has some pretty good mojo in places. There are things that are extremely cool in Solaris. EXTREMELY cool. ZFS, I am looking at you. Hell, Sun Cluster, for all its tricky ins-and-outs and problematic issues and failure moments, can be a pretty good product. Of course, there are other areas- services for example, and the lack of usable package management(seriously- pkgadd doesn’t even understand dependencies). And don’t even get me started on frigging Java. What they had above all, though, was a tinkerer culture and a love for what they did.

Now we have Oracle- delightful money-grubbing Oracle who ended up with some good technologies because other behemoths dropped the ball (IBM- What happened to DB2 guys??), some companies had better code smarts than business acumen (BEA), and they banked hard and heavy on corporations and banks right out of the gate. As a result, they’ve achieved a de facto monopoly in their markets, much like Microsoft. Not because they are the best choice, but more-so because they are the only one.

So what was this going to do to the tinkerer culture? Moreover, what about my favorite FOSS projects? Now Oracle owned MySQL and OpenSolaris… and ZFS, which probably means their support for btrfs will wane. What will become of these now? Now that we have the brains- the tinkerers and the passionate- fleeing like rats from a sinking ship? Now that the love of code is replaced by the love of money?

Simple. They die or flounder.

OpenSolaris (now OpenIndiana, after Oracle unceremoniously yanked the rug out from the developers) was already dying, despite Ian Murdocks involvement. Solaris, frankly, is just too antiquated to come forward as far as it needs to in order to be modern. Put it in a boat with *BSD and Mac OS 9- a complete do-over needs to happen, and Sun has not been willing or able to do it. MySQL has been stagnating for some time- good enough for small to medium sites, or large ones with a lot of hardware and geek chops (a la Yahoo or Livejournal), but never really catching up with its most promising features like Cluster. btrfs has been suckling the Oracle teat for years, but their decision to  open source the project (no doubt to insulate against suits from the likes of NetApp and Sun) has left it standing on its own two feet and able to fend for itself. And all the brain-rats fleeing the ship? The good ones were there for challenges and passion, not checks and paystubs. Those guys will be out at PostGres, or NoSQL, or Ubuntu or any number of other places- sharing their passion, their intuitive need to make, with the world just as always.

Meanwhile, Oracle finally has what it has wanted for a great many years- the whole stack. Now they have Java and Weblogic and Oracle and Sun Hardware with Solaris (or “Unbreakable” linux) under it with a shiny ZFS/Sun backend. Your one stop shopping for a huge monolithic one-price-tag-fits-all one-version-to-rule-them-all Enterprise Application Hosting Thingamabobber… except I don’t think all that many people will be buying it. Instead, Oracle will find themselves supplanted and and subverted by tiny, agile projects more rooted in now– stateful multinode applications, distributed filesystems, n+1 redundancy with truly fluid failover and a passionate, motivated community driving it on.

I suspect in 10 years we’ll look back at Sun and see a company like Livingston, or SGI, or Netscape, or Xerox- a company that stood proudly on its own and pushed what was possible until it finally collapsed to slumber fitfully.  And Oracle, having gobbled the heart of the beast hoping to consume the power of its soul, will be left wondering why it doesn’t feel any different this morning. Good night and fare thee well, worthy beast- you’ve brought us far through the coldest nights and we honor your sacrifice as we trundle on alone.

October 25, 2010 • Tags: , , , , , , , , • Posted in: FOSS, Linux, Solaris, Technology

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