Database giant suffers another open source upheaval, seeks to stabilize a strong development management project.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

May 3, 2011

4 Min Read

Oracle is donating the Hudson open source code that came with Sun Microsystems to the Eclipse Foundation Wednesday. Hudson stirred up controversy in late January when the project's founder declared that it should be forked to create a branch free of Oracle's control.

The project's founder, Kohsuke Kawaguchi, while at Sun created what's called a continuous-integration tool in order to simplify agile Java development. A continuous integration tool automatically manages all the changes to a software system as it's developed. Hudson became a Duke's Choice award winner for top Java software at the 2008 JavaOne Conference, and was widely adopted by Java programmers. Kawaguchi still has a claim on some developers' loyalty and they have followed him into his next project, Jenkins.

Oracle is countering the fork by recruiting corporate backers as the important Java development tool tries for a restart under Oracle's sponsorship. VMware, owner of the Spring Framework, and IBM, with its Rational development tools and Java-oriented WebSphere middleware, are backing the Oracle version of the project, Oracle announced Wednesday.

It was another episode in the ongoing saga of open source code projects being absorbed by the database giant, and in some cases, thriving there (BerkeleyDB, InnoDB) and in some cases clashing with the corporate culture (Apache Harmony).

Once Oracle acquired control, Kawaguchi chafed under Oracle questioning of his procedures as project leader. At the end of January, he launched a second project, Jenkins, in keeping with the "butler" naming theme to get a version of Hudson out from under Oracle's restrictions. Oracle said it owned the rights to the name Hudson and products using the name would need its approval.

Ted Farrell, chief architect and senior VP of tools and middleware at Oracle, said Tuesday that by the end of January Oracle wanted better governance of the project as well. "We asked for a better open source organization. The project didn't have a lot of structure. One person was making all the decisions," he said in an interview.

Kawaguchi indicated in his personal blog that he became convinced through January that Oracle no longer wanted him in charge of the project. "When the representative of Oracle says it to my face that I should just go find something else to work on, or that I need to immediately stop making [infrastructure] changes or the next email I will receive will be from their lawyers, or when you hear him describe me as a hurdle to the community, I think writing on the wall is pretty clear,"he posted Jan 26.

Sacha Labourey, the former JBoss executive who became CTO of Red Hat middleware and is now CEO of CloudBees, was brought in to act as an go-between for Kawaguchi with Oracle. Open source observers hoped his experience in dealing with large companies would help effect a resolution. All was to no avail. Kawaguchi announced a fork in the code at the end of January and set about building a new project around Jenkins.

In response, Oracle's Farrell is bent on revitalizing Hudson as an open source project. In addition to donating the Hudson code to Eclipse, he said Oracle and other Hudson supporters will employ a full-time Hudson developer to act as core committers, or final code reviewers, to the project. Hudson previously had six full-time developers working on it. It will soon have 12, Farrell said.

Sonatype, a commercial supplier of open source developer repository Maven, will supply a full-time committer to Hudson inside the Eclipse Foundation. VMware and Tasktop, a supplier of a code and task tracking tool for developers based on open source Mylyn, will employ a full-time committer, as will Oracle. Intuit and IBM are co-sponsoring with Oracle Hudson's submission to the Eclipse Foundation. If accepted, Oracle will supply the project lead to replace Kawaguchi.

Farrell said he couldn't say which project will be more productive but he claimed Oracle's moves will give Hudson better governance. "This will result in more companies building and contributing code" for the core engine or for plug-ins that work with it, he predicted. "We will see a dramatic growth in the Hudson community."

Among other things, Hudson, while written in Java, can be used to manage development projects in other languages. It can be used by developers of iPhone apps to develop and maintain code in Objective C.

Farrell said Hudson had 21,000 active users before the split. Oracle has since been able to track 15,000 that have shown interest in the Hudson project, despite the fork. Exact counts of users of open source code are notoriously hard to achieve; identifying open source loyalties is even trickier.

Oracle has kept other valuable open source code, such as MySQL, in-house, even as top leadership of the open source project, including Michael Monty Widenius, moved on, delivering a Parthinian shot back at the corporate environment. Its decision to donate to Eclipse may in part be a bid to regain stature as a friend of open source after the acrimonious departure of respected Apache Harmony developers from the Java Community Process, Java's ongoing development organization, last year.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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