Eye on Oracle

Mar 10 2010   4:37PM GMT

Sun’s Simon Phipps bids Oracle adieu

Ed Scannell Ed Scannell Profile: Ed Scannell

Simon Phipps, one of the most vocal supporters of open source inside Sun Microsystems announced in his blog yesterday that he is stepping down from his post as Chief Open Source Officer. He didn’t write his farewell as a haiku, ala former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, but it was poetic nonetheless.

Phipps, a 10-year veteran of the company, didn’t spell out whether he was being forced out or was leaving on his own. But given Oracle is now in a position to be the most powerful open source company in the industry, and could crystallize some of the goals Sun didn’t get a chance to complete, one has to wonder.

In his farewell blog Phipps cites several of those unrealized goals. Phipps said he is “sad” the company didn’t get the code for those projects that remained permanently outside the Sun firewall, that Apache failed to get the TCK license Sun requested, that the company never got to a place where co-developers became more of a priority for a number of Sun’s product groups.

Lastly, perhaps in a jab thrown at Oracle, Phipps writes he is disappointed that despite the overall success of the company’s open source business, “it still wasn’t enough to rescue Sun in the end.”

Still he looks back with pride on what he believes are Sun’s major contributions to the open source community.  Under his reign he says Sun got “some of the most important software in the computer industry,” released under Free licenses thereby guaranteeing “software freedom” for people regardless of own the copyrights including Unix, Java, key elements of Linux and the Sparc chip.

Another major accomplishment was creating the Open Document Format, which he said was instrumental in guiding “the quiet revolution” that has helped restore competition to the productivity software market.

Announcing his departure though his blog is appropriate given he believes one of his major accomplishments was starting the first blogs at Sun.blog.com, which kicked off the “corporate blogging revolution.”

Lastly, he takes satisfaction in changing Sun’s attitude about open source turning colleagues who were bitter critics of the technology into defenders of it, and even convincing people to join Sun because of its fervor in supporting open source.

Besides continuing to blog, Phipps says he has not decided what he will do next. Given his resume Phipps shouldn’t be unemployed long, unless he chooses to be. I think IBM might be interested in talking to Phipps and getting their hands on his little black book containing Sun’s open source plans.

Oracle has yet to fully spell out its plans for how it intends to leverage Sun’s rich portfolio of open source products and technologies – aside from committing lots of cash to the care and feeding of the MySQL database.

But open source figures to be an important if not strategic asset to Oracle for both its proprietary and newly acquired open source portfolios. It will be particularly important as it engages Microsoft in hand-to-hand combat at the lower end of the enterprise market. It should be careful about the open source talent it lets walk out the door.

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