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Oracle Tightens Its Grip, Apache Slips Through Its Fingers

By Rob Spiegel
Dec 10, 2010 11:33 AM PT

In protest over what it sees as excessive control over Java by Oracle, the Apache Software Foundation has resigned from the Java SE/EE Executive Committee on Thursday. Apache has served on the Java Executive Committee for more than 10 years.

Oracle Tightens Its Grip, Apache Slips Through Its Fingers

Apache's departure follows the EC's approval of the specifications for Java SE (Standard Edition) 7 and Java SE 8. Apache had asked Oracle to lift the restrictions it placed on the Java Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) before the committee vote. The restriction requires a license for TCK.

Apache uses the kit to test compliance of its own Apache Harmony open source Java run-time against the Java standard. Oracle didn't lift the restrictions. The EC approved the specifications. Apache left.

In an unsigned blog Thursday explaining its departure, Apache noted that the fight over these restrictions began with Sun Microsystems back in August of 2006.

Oracle responded to Apache's departure via a blog post by Adam Messinger, VP of development, on the Oracle website. He asked the group to reconsider, saying "ASF and many open source projects within it are an important part of the overall Java ecosystem."

Messinger also accused Apache of "effectively voting against moving Java forward" when it voted against approval of the Java 7 and Java 8 specifications.

Neither the Apache Software Foundation nor Oracle responded to LinuxInsider's requests for comment by press time.

'Two Sides to Every Story'

The big issue is the license Oracle put on the TCK, effectively ending its availability for free.

"There two sides to every story. Apparently, what Apache is saying is that Oracle gave the TCK a license. That is very controversial," Laura DiDio, principal analyst at ITIC, told LinuxInsider. "Apache is also saying Oracle is not answering questions by the EC. This a actually continuation of a policy that Sun started."

Part of the frustration for Apache is Oracle's insistance that it supports open source for some of the Sun products.

"One has to question Oracle's dual strategy," said DiDio.

"They say they're gong to support open source on one hand, and on the other hand, Oracle is in business to make money. I haven't seen a lot out of them about what they're doing to promote any of the open things they have," she observed. "They give lip service to it, but it's clear the customers of these products have a right to fear."

Oracle Is All About Money

Oracle has long been a fierce competitor in all areas of its business.

"'Oracle and open source' should be an oxymoron," quipped Rob Enderle, principal of the Enderle Group.

"If there was ever a company more financially oriented than Oracle, I haven't heard of it," he told LinuxInsider. "A lot of the concept that underlies the open source products is the products are free, and Oracle believes anyone who gives something away is an idiot. Now Oracle owns Java and they're going to mine it for money."

Part of the conflict comes from the vast cultural differences between the open source engineering community and the business community.

"Oracle's goal is to control it, contain it and monetize it. It goes against what people thought that Java and products like Java are all about," said Enderle. "They think it's about sharing and being open and not worrying about the bills. God love them. But that's not the world Oracle lives in."

Java is part of Sun -- and Oracle now owns Sun.

"Oracle thinks they own it. Looking at the whole SAP thing, you can see that Oracle takes exception to anyone who touches something they own," said Enderle. "If you touch something Oracle owns, they have a problem with you."

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