Few were surprised by the European Union's approval of Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems announced Thursday. Even critics expect it to proceed smoothly to completion now. But with the merger prospect more immediate, some observers are taking a more realistic look at what changes might result.
Rod Johnson, founder of SpringSource and now general manager of VMware's SpringSource unit, said in an interview Thursday that he expected Oracle to maintain the Java programming language and its Java Community Process that provides ongoing development of it. Johnson sits on an executive committee of the JCP, overseeing key development initiatives.
"It's not in the business interest of Oracle to do anything that would damage the Java ecosystem," with its portfolio of Java applications and middleware, he noted. The world of development is roughly equally divided between Microsoft's .Net technologies versus Java and a small set of open source scripting languages.
At the same time, he said, there are potential toll gates for software firms that depend on Java, some of whom are Oracle competitors. Sun charged Java vendors for use of its Java test suite, the set of more than 30,000 tests that provided the only means for certifying that a new piece of software was "pure" Java. In addition, Sun charged a license fee to vendors who embedded the Java Virtual Machine in their products.
"Oracle's practice is to increase prices as much as the traffic will bear, then increase them a little more," said Johnson, who is also the lead developer of the Spring Framework open source Java development platform. VMware acquired SpringSource in August for $362 million.
When Oracle acquired BEA Systems, it ramped up the price tag of WebLogic application server by 42%, he said. Oracle may be tempted to increase the price tags on the test suite and JVM. But doing so unreasonably will drive software vendors to the open Java and JVM alternatives, he said.
When it comes to Sun's Java middleware, the picture is more likely to be mixed. Oracle has no need for another Java application server, having both its own Oracle Application Server and WebLogic. But Sun's Glassfish Java application server was beginning to gain some traction as developers downloaded and used it for new projects.
"As I understand it, that traction began to disappear as Oracle announced its plans to acquire Sun" April 20, and the Glassfish project is likely to be cut loose and ignored as a contributor to the Oracle product line, he predicted.