Java developers worried despite Ellison assurances on Sun

Sun Microsystems' JavaOne conference, in San Francisco last week, was notable not for innovation but for a brief speech by Larry Ellison.


Oracle CEO Larry Ellison appeared onstage to offer assurances to the Java community at large that Oracle -- which is buying Sun -- was among them as adherents to the Java platform. "We see increased investments in Java coming from the Sun-Oracle combination and an expansion of the overall community, and we're very excited about that," Ellison says.

But visitors remained sceptical in part about how the future of Java and Sun technologies will play out, wondering what would happen with projects such as the GlassFish open source application server. Oracle has been largely silent about the fate of specific Sun products. Visitors did not even get any assurances from Oracle that the JavaOne event itself would be continued by Oracle in coming years.

Sun's prized status as a place of cultural innovation now is in question, says Miko Matsumura, chief software strategist at Software AG, which sometiems competes with Oracle in the database market. "I think people right now are broadly questioning [Ellison's] commitment to I guess [what] I would call the inventive culture that Sun has fostered for so many years," he adds.

"I think there's a lot of things that are a bit regrettable about [the merger], but one [is that] ... it's kind of a reach for them be going out into systems," he says, since Oracle has not been a hardware company before.

Where users and developers have doubts

Another visitor, Kurt Zoglmann, a systems analyst at Kansas State University, says the merger presents opportunities but also puts doubts in people's minds. "The opportunity is there for some vertical integration for the two companies to be more efficient as a whole," with the ability to package Sun technologies with the complete Oracle database, he says.

The doubts, though, concern the fate of the Sparc architecture, Zoglmann says: "Is it something that is viable in the long term?" He points out that "a lot of people have spent tons of money on it." (Ellison has stated intentions to keep Sun's hardware business.) But Zoglmann was not concerned about Oracle's commitment to open source software, which has been a staple of Sun's software strategy in recent years.

But another visitor, Stephen Staeheli, a developer at the Basler Versicherungen insurance company in Switzerland, cited the fate of GlassFish as a concern. Oracle has three different application server technologies now, with its own application server, the WebLogic server it acquired when it bought BEA, and now GlassFish. "Unfortunately, the one that is free [GlassFish] is the best," Staeheil says. "I wonder if it'll stay free."

Although his company now uses Sun's Solaris OS, Staeheli says Basler was moving to AMD and probably Linux anyway. "It's just a matter of costs."

Software engineer Robert Nowak raised concerns about the continued availability of source code and other downloadable software: "I'm just a little bit worried."

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