Ellison's Interview: Taking Swipes at Red Hat / JBoss

by Tim O'Brien

I'm perplexed by Ellison's FT interview re: open source. I only half believe him when he says that Red Hat doesn't own anything. Ellison is trying to cast a shadow on the Red Hat deal from two weeks ago, and, to me, it speaks volumes that he's so prepared to answer questions about the JBoss deal. Here's an illuminating (and perplexing) quote:

"... Why didn't we buy JBoss? Because we don't have to - if it ever got good enough we'd just take the intellectual property - just like Apache - embed it in our fusion middleware suite, and we're done. We always have that option available to us - IBM always has that option available to them."


Nonsense. Not buying JBoss was a mistake. Red Hat now owns the JBoss brand, owns a lucrative services operation, and employs a set of very talented and loyal developers. Ignoring the licensing differences for the moment, you won't just embed JBoss "and we're done"..."just like Apache", in fact, i'm pretty sure you are going to be cursing the fact that you didn't pay that premium you so swiftly dismiss in your interview. You see, once you are forced to "take the intellectual property" (which you can't anyway), your customers are going to start to wondering why they are paying Oracle so much for your "fusion middleware suite" when they could just get an fully integrated solution from Red Hat. And, if Red Hat were to purchase MySQL AB, you'd have a single corporation providing a fully integrated open-source solution for both LAMP and Enterprise Java. Ellison - two big ships on the horizon Red Hat and MySQL (which is growing up faster than you can say "solid enterprise class database"). Sleepycat and InnoDB acquisitions notwithstanding, this is still an interesting game of chess.

This interview puts Ellison's strategy on the table: he's making the argument that companies like Red Hat don't "own anything" and that open source isn't "good enough" yet. Plus, there's been some nefarious speculation about Red Hat being the next SCO courtesy of a perfectly timed opinion piece at Eweek masquerading as "news". Oracle passed on the JBoss deal, and now they want us to think that there are "IP ownership" issues with JBoss code. Don't believe the hype.

4 Comments

Steve Anglin
2006-04-21 13:56:06

Does Larry Ellison have sour grapes; or is he just trying to save face? I think so. My anonymous source familiar with JBoss indicated to me that Oracle wanted to very much acquire JBoss and that the deal was nearly done, but JBoss backed away from the table very late in the discussions.

Aristotle Pagaltzis
2006-04-21 22:21:09

This interview puts Ellison's strategy on the table: he's making the argument that companies like Red Hat don't "own anything" and that open source isn't "good enough" yet.


Did we read the same interview?


To me, what he said sounded like this: "The software is free, so we can we use it any way we like, just like our competitors. The only worth of JBoss was the developer team, and we weren't particularly interested in that team."


if Red Hat were to purchase MySQL AB, you'd have a single corporation providing a fully integrated open-source solution for both LAMP and Enterprise Java.


Well, except that Oracle owns Innobase, and thus MySQL's storage engine.


Then there is branding, JBoss/Red Hat own a brand, own the development community, and they are the logical choice for services.


Well, except for the copyright assignment hullabaloo...


Ellison is assuming that the cost of an acquisition needs to be justified by ownership of intellectual property and/or assets, he keeps on making references to "ownership" in his interview.


It doesn't sound that way to me at all. It sounds to me like he is saying that what matters is the developer team, and not much else, because not much else is ownable in the traditional sense of owning it. See also the part where he says that they love the Berkeley DB guys, a great team according to his words.


You can tell Ellison had to rationalize not buying JBoss, catch the phrase "if it ever got good enough". :-)


Agree on that.


But, remember the reverse he's saying. Now that Red Hat is invading Oracle territory, he says, Red Hat territory (ie. building and supporting a Linux distribution) is probably fair game to Oracle, depending on how things play out.


I don't know. My impression was that he talks a lot of sense, with some politics mixed in.

Aristotle Pagaltzis
2006-04-22 03:28:23

My anonymous source familiar with JBoss indicated to me that Oracle wanted to very much acquire JBoss and that the deal was nearly done, but JBoss backed away from the table very late in the discussions.


Ah, interesting.

Anonymous Developer
2006-07-11 13:48:43
I work for a fortune 100 company and we have had Oracle's current "Java" platform foisted on us. Upper management was so enamored of the idea that the developers could "develop quickly and efficiently using the Oracle jDeveloper IDE (i.e. Monoponly Cards WYSIWYG)", that they completely overlooked the fact that the platform is crap and no one has any experience usinging it in anything other than a silo'ed single server way.


So now we are two years down the road and we have only a handful of minor apps deployed. Just to get those working took several Oracle TARs (help tickets) each.


I would beware of Oracle just "plugging and playing" any technology. No matter how big Ellison's cahones are. They have a lot of marketing knowhow(?) but technically maybe they should just stick to Databases...