Enterprise Linux Log

Sep 7 2010   6:51PM GMT

Supreme irony: Google as open source champion

badarrow Barbara Darrow Profile: badarrow

It’s easy to paint Oracle as the villain in its legal scuffle with Google.

Just as the software giant–which built its fortune on pricey (dare I say proprietary?) databases–starts to deep-six OSS fan-favorite OpenSolaris, it also sued Google over  how it implemented Java in Android. That move was immediately blasted as interference with an open source icon.

Oracle’s timing was funky and it didn’t help that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison seems to relish playing Snidely Whiplash to some other vendor’s Nell. Remember him laughing off rumors that Oracle would buy Red Hat? Why do that, he asked, when we can download the software for free? Which, as The 451 analyst Jay Lyman points out, is pretty much what Oracle did with Oracle Unbreakable Linux.

But Google is hardly a paragon of open sourciness. For all its open-source projects–Chrome, Android et al.–Google’s core search business is still a big, super-secret black box.  Sure, it runs on Linux, but how much of that work filters back to “the community?”

So Google has been able to play the victim–something it can rarely do nowadays. And Oracle has not communicated very well that it is Google’s specific use of Java that it is targeting, not the community at large, said Lyman.  “Google is aware of and stands to gain from this positioning…to say that ‘hey, look, Oracle is attacking open source, when in reality, Oracle is squarely attacking Google,” he added. (Lyman has been following the shifting good guys/bad guys of OSS for some time.

The OSS community’s anxiety around Oracle’s treatment of the MySQL franchise comes into play here as well, although Lyman noted that Oracle has worked to expand and improve MySQL.

Michael Cizmar, president of MC+A, a Chicago VAR that works with the Google appliance, agreed that Google plays both sides of the OSS fence.

“They’ve contributed heavily to things like the Chrome project, which they initiated, and Android is an open source project…but they only contribute around things that are not core [to their main business],” he noted.

Thus, there is a feeling that Google has reaped more from open source, particularly Linux, than it has sewn. Still, Lyman and others point out that the fact that Google runs on Linux greatly enhances Linux’ standing among enterprise users. 

Ironically, Oracle also still leads with Linux in many cases. Its Exadata data center appliances run Linux–not OpenSolaris, not Solaris. So, in one key respect–proving that Linux is ready for prime-time, mission-critical applications like databases–Oracle and Google are in violent agreement.

Let us know what you think about this post; email Barbara Darrow, Senior News Director at bdarrow@techtarget.com, or follow us on on Twitter.

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