Here’s a little write-up of my Oracle OpenWorld impressions so far. I’ll try to make it a complete, logical story, but first I would like to second some excellent observations made by fellow Java Champion Cay Horstmann (yeah, the hero that wrote ‘Core Java’), who blogs about his first day of OpenWorld at java.net.
The big question for me is: “Is Java safe in the hands of Oracle”? Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question based upon my impressions so far, but I can say that the message (or lack of) that Oracle is sending out so far is giving me some shivers down the spine. Here’s why:
Oracle is positioning Sun as the hardware company that they are: especially interested in it’s Sparc servers, storage, and of course the new Exadata flash hardware database machine. The latter being undoubtedly very awesome. In other areas of the new portfolio Sun’s software is being positioned, especially MySQL and Solaris. However, when it comes to Java, the official statement being made by Sun’s Scott McNeally and Oracle’s Larry Ellison is: “Java speaks for itself”. But does it? In fact, I seriously doubt that it does so within Oracle. So far the people from Oracle that I met express a friendly, almost fatherly interest in Java, but they compare it to integrating the Hyperion Query Language into the Oracle stack. They see Java as just another ‘product’ from Sun and not as the Java platform and ecosystem that it is. So, if Java is speaking for itself within Oracle, than it’s no doubt sending them the wrong message! I really hope that James Gosling, considering the position that he seems to head for within the new organization, will be able to make this clear to them before it is too late.
The other thing is that Oracle regards it’s technology communities (user groups) as rather top-down. I could be very wrong here but under my impression the Oracle user groups are doing an ok job in spreading the Oracle technology, but Oracle technology equals ‘products’ (equals ‘licenses’, but that’s another story). I don’t really see where the real Java community thing fits in. “Sun gave Java to the world” (to speak in the words of James Gosling’s cartoon video) and after that they gave the world the right to innovate on top of the Java technology platform. This is exactly what got Java as big as it is now. Sun knows, and even states so that they could have never pulled of that trick on their own. Meanwhile Sun has been stewarding Java to keep it going in the right direction, and they have been some sort of ‘referee’ where specification innovation was concerned. The latter being somewhat troublesome lately (i.e. Java 7) but let’s not put the focus too much on that, as it must be stated that stewarding Java is in no way an easy job given the maddening political climate of having so many competing companies, and opinionated individuals onboard the JCP. This is not only true for JCP members but applies to the wide and diverse user group community and the Java Champions as well. To my knowledge Sun has never taken away the freedom of speech of those people. Speaking of opinionated people… 😉
In three days of the main conference keynotes I haven’t seen a single line of (Java) code. Which apparently proves that Oracle OpenWorld has nothing to do with being a developer’s conference. In the light of the discussions taking place of whether or not there will be a next ‘real’ JavaOne or it being merged into the next OpenWorld, I sincerely hope there will be a ‘real’ JavaOne. Not in the least because it will be the fifteenth edition and this calls for a huge party. Especially since Oracle has more than enough money 😉 They could even close down the entire block between Moscone North and South, so a little birthday party will definitely not hurt them in the wallet. But seriously, JavaOne is a developer’s conference and Oracle OpenWorld attracts mostly ‘suits and ties’.
To sum things up so far, Oracle’s message is about integrating everything into a single (bright red colored) solution. They deserve credit for the way their current stack seems to deliver to that promise. However, Java’s promise has always been about opening everything up for innovation and boldly go where no-one has gone before (lame quote alert, but it holds the truth). I don’t see where the latter fits in within Oracle. Oracle is not about bringing new technology to the world, they’ve always bought it and integrated it into their existing solution. In fact Oracle is very good at this. You could even consider it their core business, regarding the massive amount of acquisitions they’ve done in the past ten years or so and the vast amount of money they have been able to made from it. The big question remains if Oracle will be able to steward Java like Sun did. More importantly, will they be able to keep the JCP from falling apart. Especially since this type of activity is not making you lots of money. Larry Ellison’s promises for stockholders were very clear. The Oracle / Sun combination is going to make lots of money. So let’s hope that somewhere along the line enough money can be preserved to be invested in Java’s future. Although certainly money will not be the real problem, but it’s more like how ‘others’ can fit into the ‘business model’ that Oracle sees for Java.
In the meantime it is very important that Java will be perceived as the platform and ecosystem that it is. So, if you’re part of a Java community, speak up! Because Java needs it and at the moment it definitely doesn’t do so for itself.