Eye on Oracle

Feb 7 2007   8:38AM GMT

Is Oracle acting out of arrogance or altruism?

Derek Kuhr Derek Kuhr Profile: Derek Kuhr

In an earlier post covering recent Oracle rumors, I linked to one blogger who believed a MySQL version of Unbreakable Linux could be a good thing for everyone (not just Oracle). Now another voice, Brian Profitt from ServerWatch.com, has chimed in with a similar opinion.

Profitt doesn’t pull any punches — he makes it clear that he believes Oracle’s reasons for offering support for open source products are less than altruistic (his “initial reaction,” he says, was “Oracle = Arrogant”). Nonetheless, he argues, these “Unbreakable” offerings are ultimately beneficial for the market and the enterprise — Oracle is bringing us closer to the dream of “one-stop shopping,” a world where customers can go to a single vendor for all their products and support. The open sourcers “should have thought of doing this before,” he says. But they were too busy playing by “the old rules.”

Mike Olson, Oracle’s VP of embedded technologies, responds to this article on his own blog. Surprisingly, he doesn’t jump to Oracle’s defense or refute Profitt’s claims. He writes:

Brian talks about selfish and altruistic motivation, and asserts that Oracle acts selfishly. He’s right, and it’s important to understand why.

Olson contends that all public companies invest in research and development for the same reason: to drive profits and shareholder value. However, the effect of this is, he claims, “indistinguishable from altruism.” It’s in Oracle’s interest to keep its customers happy, so Oracle delivers better products and service. If everyone reaps the benefits of this, who cares if the motives are selfish or not?

(Olson here focuses on Oracle’s support plan for Linux; he doesn’t affirm or deny the rumors about MySQL.)

What do you think? Do selfish corporations contribute to a healthier, happier market? Or is there still something to be said for the old rules and fair play?

–Elisa Gabbert, Assistant Editor

4  Comments on this Post

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  • Kevin Closson
    It is the epitome of the two-edged sword. Corporations that are not at least a bit "arrogant" (as used in this context) tend to disappear and companies that disappear out from underneath their customers are not that helpful. That being said, the thing that generally upsets people about Oracle “Unbreakable” moves is that there are significant questions as to the value add. Besides the fact that Oracle generally tries to enforce a policy whereby Oracle is the only non-Open Source product. That implied policy goes beyond hypocritical. It hinders customers choices—which does nothing for the adoption of Linux in the enterprise. Further, Oracle can’t really do any significant modifications to these Open Source products without forking the code which will lock customers into that vein of Linux. That sounds a lot like the varying Unix derivations of the 1990s—without any specialized code in the OS that specifically enhances the platform for Oracle. What does that mean? Unlike Solaris 10, for instance, there really are no specific enhancements in Linux that enable the Oracle database to exploit the hardware. Linux is a very general-purpose OS when it comes to Oracle. Also, Oracle on Linux is a very boutique fragment of the general application of Linux in the enterprise. That is, count the number of processors running Linux worldwide, then count the number of processors running Oracle on Linux. The difference is a very small number, relatively speaking, so who is going to turn over their support for the minority of their Linux servers to Oracle? Who is going to use Oracle support for Linux servers running DB2 or MySQL. What about simple web servers, file servers, etc? Those are the majority. I’d like to offer a series of blog entries on this topic: http://kevinclosson.wordpress.com/kevin-closson-index/unbreakable-linux-open-source-etc/
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  • Simon Ellis
    Interesting isnt it! Another suggestion may be it is neither altruism nor arrogance - but more akin to protectionism of its position in the db market. By supporting "unbreakable" mysql it continues to position itself as the market leader in HA database technologies and lets not forget that Oracle's support revenue is the real money in the organisation......
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  • anonymous
    I would take issue with the idea that that selfishness leads to a result that is indistinguishable from altruism. Selfishness will lead a company to pursue whatever avenue maximizes is revenue; in the case of Big Pharma, that has lead to the pursuit of profits so that they can invest not in research and development for new drugs but the more profitable advertising and marketing of lifestyle drugs. in 2000, the industry devoted nearly three times as much money to marketing and administrative costs as it did to R&D. Only about one in five new drugs actually represents a significant therapeutic breakthrough. The rest are copycats designed primarily to increase profits. That's great for their bottom line, but don't kid yourself- the end product of greed is not indistinguishable from the end product of altruism. If Gordon Gecko is your idea of a philosopher (or Ayn Rand for that matter) you have a problem understanding reality.
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  • Andrew McPherson
    Corporate greed cannot be compared with Altruism except in the most cynical fashion. Oracle has successfully locked its customers in, not through excellence, but due to lack of competition. Buying up your opposition, that is create a monopoly, remains the standard corporate response to failing to adequately serve your customers. Competition is what creates excellence.
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