Earlier today Oracle executives laid out their strategy for integrating Sun’s assets with Oracle.  The whole event spanned over 4 hours.  I’ll just update readers on the section that related to Sun’s open source assets.

The GlassFish application server will be repositioned to address departmental needs while the strategic Oracle WebLogic Server product will remain targeted at enterprise customers requiring performance and scalability.  Long-time readers will recognize this strategy as one we’ve been using in the application server market with WebSphere Application Server Community Edition and WebSphere Application Server.  It’s a smart move on Oracle’s part because, as we’ve found, and as MySQL and Oracle DB usage shows. Customers have different middleware needs for different projects.

MySQL will continue to receive investment and be managed within the separate open source division at Sun.  MySQL will also have a separate sales force.  Recall that that GlassFish and WebLogic Server, which compete on paper, but address different use cases, will be sold by the same sales force.  More specifically, GlassFish will be sold by the sales team responsible for selling Oracle’s strategic Fusion Middleware suite. And yet, Oracle has decided to put MySQL and Oracle DB into separate the divisions and assign a separate sales team to MySQL.  Hopefully this is temporary and MySQL will be managed and sold by the Fusion Middleware division in the near future.

OpenOffice will continue to receive investment and will be managed within a separate business unit.  There will be a focus on integrating OpenOffice with business intelligence and content management offerings.

Oracle announced that it has over 4000 customers that acquire Linux and Linux support from Oracle.  Oracle expects to accelerate Sun’s Solaris efforts, but target their investment to drive Solaris further into mission critical workloads and focus less on x86 or the SMB market.  While Oracle didn’t say this specifically, one has to wonder if Oracle’s Solaris investments will regulate Linux to something less than “mission critical” workloads, at least alongside Oracle DB. Frankly, I’d be surprised to see Oracle try to substitute Solaris into existing Oracle DB accounts running on Linux.  More likely, Oracle will offer customers both choices and let them decide.  Although Oracle will likely attempt to influence the decision through better performance and integration with Solaris.

Oracle intends to keep VirtualBox and allow users to crate images on their desktop that can be deployed into OracleVM pools.

Finally, there wasn’t much news about the future of Java, other than the fact that JavaOne will be held September 19-23, 2010 and will be  collocated with Oracle Open World and also expand to local events in Brazil, China and India. While JavaOne will be collocated with Open World, they will be two separate conferences.

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PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Oracle updated its frequently asked questions (FAQ) overview of the impending Sun acquisition to address some important questions about the fate of Sun’s software assets beyond Java and Solaris.

To be completely honest, none of Oracle’s plans come as a surprise.  And at the end of the day, the FAQ is not legally binding and is not a commitment to deliver products, code or functionality. Oracle clearly states this at the end of the FAQ.  This too is completely understandable.  Oracle, like any other company with shareholders, will have to evaluate and adjust their plans and intentions on a product by product basis over time.  Oracle has a fiduciary duty to do so.

In the FAQ, potentially released to appease the EU and critics of the deal, Oracle tackles its plans for MySQL as follows:

“Oracle plans to spend more money developing MySQL than Sun does now. Oracle expects to continue to develop and provide the open source MySQL database after the transaction closes. Oracle plans to add MySQL to Oracle’s existing suite of database products, which already includes Berkeley DB, an open source database. Oracle also currently offers InnoDB, an open source transactional storage engine and the most important and popular transaction engine under MySQL. Oracle already distributes MySQL as part of our Enterprise Linux offering.”

This position makes complete sense as MySQL and the Oracle DB are more complimentary than competitive.  I doubt that this assurance from Oracle will help Monty, Florian, RMS and others opposed to Oracle’s ownership of MySQL get past their fears.

Not unexpectedly, Oracle plans to keep GlassFish around, since it is the reference implementation for Java EE:

“Oracle plans to continue evolving GlassFish Enterprise Server, delivering it as the open source reference implementation (RI) of the Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) specifications, and actively supporting the large GlassFish community. Additionally, Oracle plans to invest in aligning common infrastructure components and innovations from Oracle WebLogic Server and GlassFish Enterprise Server to benefit both Oracle WebLogic Server and GlassFish Enterprise Server customers.”

The plans for NetBeans are somewhat certain.  You’ll notice that Oracle makes no claims about “investing more than Sun does today” or “continue evolving”.

“As such, NetBeans is expected to provide an additional open source option and complement to the two free tools Oracle already offers for enterprise Java development: Oracle JDeveloper and Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse. While Oracle JDeveloper remains Oracle’s strategic development tool for the broad portfolio of Oracle Fusion Middleware products and for Oracle’s next generation of enterprise applications, developers will be able to use whichever free tool they are most comfortable with for pure Java and Java EE development: JDeveloper, Enterprise Pack for Eclipse, or NetBeans.”

Finally, Oracle suggests that OpenOffice.org and a commercial offering will receive investment.

“After the transaction closes, Oracle plans to continue developing and supporting OpenOffice as open source. As before, some of the larger customers will ask for extra assurances, support, and enterprise tools. For these customers we expect to offer a typical commercial license option.”

So there you have it.  Oracle’s plans for Sun, well, based on current thinking and subject to change at Oracle’s sole discretion.  Which again, is perfectly sensible.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Let me start with a few disclaimers.  By virtue of working in the IBM WebSphere Application Server team, I compete with SpringSource. I know, and like, several of the key people at SpringSource.  I’m happy that their hard work paid of with such a large exit. While I compete with SpringSource, I’m excited that this acquisition will raise the bar for vendors that I care about, and ultimately, customers will benefit the most.

There has been a lot of analysis about VMware’s acquisition of SpringSource.  By in large, the analysis has taken the vision of Clouds and PaaS laid out in VMware’s press release as a likely outcome.  Let me try a different approach by discussing what VMware really bought.

VMware bought SpringSource because “Spring is everywhere”:
Yes, but sadly for VMware, no.  The Spring Framework is widely used in the enterprise Java market.  From my own experience, many WebSphere customers use the Spring Framework on top of WebSphere.  But many WebSphere customers use the competing EJB open standard in place of the proprietary, but open source, Spring Framework.  The most recent Eclipse user survey results found that of the 436 respondents building server side applications, 47.5% were using the Spring Framework and 38.3% were using EJBs.  This data clearly demonstrates that customers exhibit a need for choice significantly higher than proclamations of Spring’s enterprise Java domination would suggest.

With such a high usage penetration, one could expect a significant revenue base for SpringSource.  Yet, SpringSource is estimated to have driven $20 million in revenue, or maybe bookings, mainly from professional services.  This is a very respectable base for a company with 150 employees.  IDC however estimated the 2008 Application Server market at nearly $3.8 billion.  So, while the Spring Framework is widely used, SpringSource has not been able to extract significant market share as a result.

VMware may believe that adding their brand and sales reach to the SpringSource portfolio will drive higher revenue from the Spring Framework and related Spring products.  Redmonk’s Stephen O’Grady subscribes to this view, using the MySQL acquisition by Sun as a proof point.  I disagree because a framework is different than a database and the other Spring products have nowhere close to the penetration of the Spring Framework, as I discuss below.  Additionally, if a customer has been using the Spring Framework for the past 5 years without a support contract or subscription, why acquire support or a subscription now?  The only reason for doing so will be if VMware and SpringSource disadvantage the open source Spring Framework in favor of the enterprise, commercially licensed, Spring Enterprise. The community uproar the last time SpringSource tried this approach leads me to believe that VMware and SpringSource won’t go down this path again.

VMware bought SpringSource because SpringSource now has a “Build-Run-Manage” story:
Yes, but sadly for VMware, no.  Trying to build a significant business selling support subscriptions to the large number of Spring Framework users proved to be a tough nut to crack.  The key insight for SpringSource was that customers paid for runtimes and integrated administration and management of runtimes, not for frameworks.  SpringSource responded by acquiring Covalent and Hyperic in order to deliver two runtimes, SpringSource tc Server and SpringSource dm Server with administration and management capabilities via Hyperic.  SpringSource has introduced a “build-run-manage” marketing campaign which always makes me chuckle as I recall IBM using Build-Run-Manage back in the early 2000s.  I understand that SpringSource is attempting to educate the market that they are no longer only a framework provider, but rather, now have not one, but two, runtimes that customers can purchase.

It’s arguable that one or both of these products will become the basis for VMware’s beachhead into the middleware market.  So what are the prospects for tc Server and dm Server?

Since tc Server is aimed at Tomcat usage, it’s important to ask what customers running large Tomcat environments used before tc Server came to market?  Well, some used Tomcat without support.  Others used JBoss, Geronimo, GlassFish and WAS Community Edition which deliver Tomcat inside.  Finally, others purchased Tomcat support from Covalent, OpenLogic etc.  For the most part, customers who have not purchased Tomcat support or management for 5+ years are not going to buy a product now.  If the customer was missing some of the management capabilities that tc Server provides, by now, the customer has built this capability in house. I know of several large Tomcat users that fall into this situation.  The customer now has to consider the sunk costs of their custom code versus the cost of acquiring a new product.  Next, customers that have purchased Tomcat support are targets for tc Server.  But these customers are also being targeted by JBoss, Geronimo, GlassFish and WAS Community Edition.  Finally, tc Server can compete against JBoss, Geronimo, GlassFish and WAS Community Edition.  It’s not yet clear that tc Server provides differentiated value that will allow it to win disproportionately against the other products.  The important insight is that very few Tomcat users are using just Tomcat.  They use other parts of a Java Enterprise Edition (JEE) stack, such as JMS messaging or Web Services.  So given the choice of tc Server with just Tomcat runtime features or a JEE product which includes Tomcat and other JEE APIs is not as cut and dry as SpringSource’s marketing would suggest.

In the nearly 10 months since dm Server became generally available, I’ve frankly heard of virtually no customer usage.  But don’t take my word for it.  As your neighborhood Java developer if they’ve heard of dm Server, or if they’ve used dm Server.  The key issue with dm Server is that it’s proprietary.  Developers and their managers were comfortable using the Spring Framework because, while the framework was proprietary, they could easily move their applications across multiple standards-based JEE application servers.  Protection from vendor lock-in was delivered by the runtime application server.  Customers continue to expect this.  If you build a dm Server application, there is exactly one runtime it will run on.   Hence, dm Server fails the vendor lock-in test, and its adoption is a testament to this failure.  This is however a fixable problem for VMware.  dm Server could be evolved to meet the forthcoming JEE 6 Web Profile specification, which Geronimo, GlassFish, JBoss, WebLogic and WebSphere are all expected to support.

VMware is going to find that broad usage of a framework or having a Build-Run-Manage story does not easily translate into customers migrating off their existing Java standards compliant application server runtime to a proprietary runtime.

VMware bought SpringSource because of the Cloud & PaaS angle:
Yes, but we’ll see.  Cloud and PaaS are the two reasons that VMware and SpringSource have claimed as motivations for the acquisition.  I couldn’t say it better than Redmonk’s Stephen O’Grady:

“In time, yes, quite possibly. And there’s little question that SpringSource offers VMware an intriguing opportunity to be what 10gen, Project Caroline, et al have to date failed to be: the EngineYard or Heroku for Java, permitting seamless deployment of Java applications to on or off premise cloud infrastructure. But this is, to me, a longer term revenue opportunity, as VMware’s cloud pieces are still coming together and its hardware and datacenter capabilities are neglible relative to competition such as Amazon, IBM or Microsoft.”

Additionally, whether VMware and/or SpringSource will acknowledge it, customers are already deploying Java applications to a dynamically provisioned and policy-based managed cloud.  This isn’t a two or three years from now capability.  As we speak customers are using IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance with WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Virtual Enterprise to achieve what VMware CEO claimed is: “something our partners aren’t doing yet” when asked by a financial analyst if this deal would alienate partners.  The point is not to discuss IBM products, but rather to highlight that the VMware and SpringSource future vision is already a reality.  And it’s a reality that is driving significant IBM WebSphere revenue around an on premise cloud environment. Again, this is a today statement.

Lastly, since an application runtime environment is critical to a PaaS or Cloud deployment, I’d go back to the fact that SpringSource’s runtime environments, tc Server and dm Server, are starting from a standstill in an uphill battle for revenue share.  While VMware works to establish tc Server and dm Server penetration, VMware will have to be careful not to alienate their application server partners; the ones whose products are driving virtually all of the application server spending today.  This level of coopetition is doable, but not easy.  But hey, VMware has 420 million reasons for doing difficult, but necessary, things.

VMware bought SpringSource because of Microsoft:
Yes. Larry Dignan’s excellent analysis of the acquisition highlighted some very interesting data from a financial analyst, Pritchard:

“In our view the acquisition highlights the vulnerability VMware has in its exposure to Microsoft. We estimate north of 80% (may be as high as 90%, with the rest being Linux) of VMware virtual machines are running Windows server and an application developed in Microsoft’s .NET environment. This is a key strategic vulnerability as Microsoft has a history of absorbing functionality such as VMW that is essentially a layer in the Microsoft stack. Ultimately SpringSource technology may enable VMW to add enterprise Java workloads to diversify away from Windows.”

Microsoft is clearly going after VMware with HyperV inside of Windows Server 2008 R2:

“We’ve got a great solution. It’s a sixth the cost on average of what we see in the marketplace. Evangelizing the tax that VMware is getting from the product is something we look forward to competing with in this environment. Again, it’s about getting specific. It is about getting aggressive, and that’s where we’re headed.”

In an effort to guard against Microsoft marginalizing VMware’s core virtualization business, the SpringSource acquisition puts VMware at odds with Java runtime vendors who collectively represent the approximately 50% of the enterprise market not associated with .NET.   I don’t see how SpringSource helps VMware versus Microsoft in the estimated 80 percent of VMware environments where the application has been developed on .NET as Pritchard suggests.  If the application is .NET based, and the hypervisor is running on top of a Windows host, then this is Microsoft’s customer to lose to or win back from VMware.  VMware is clearly looking past its current deployments where Windows and .NET dominate, to a new Java-based Cloud and PaaS environment. But we already covered that aspect and the competitive hurdles in the Cloud/PaaS portion of this post.

It’s not just Microsoft that is marginalizing the value of a hypervisor.  As mentioned above, IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance and WebSphere Virtual Enterprise treat the hypervisor as an infrastructure component of equivalent value to the host operating systems.  Said differently, the hypervisor, like the operating system has little impact on the application performance, reliability, availability or TCO.  Those application characteristics are enabled through the runtime application server and the dynamic provisioning and management framework around the application server.  This is how IBM’s Cloud solution is designed.  I’ll wager that Oracle and Red Hat’s offering will push value up the stack, beyond the hypervisor layer itself.

VMware bought SpringSource because of the great people at SpringSource:
Yes.  There is solid talent at SpringSource.  VMware has set aside $60 million in retention funding for the approximately 150 SpringSource employees over the next four years.  This $60 million was discussed on the VMware investor call and is in addition to the acquisition price.  This will clearly help VMware retain SpringSource talent.  SpringSource employees will also want to stick around to bring their vision of world domination to fruition ;-)

There is much opportunity and risk for VMware with this acquisition.  If VMware can execute well, they’ll have saved the company from peril at the hands of Microsoft and Hyper-V and application server vendors who are minimizing the value of a hypervisor to the level of the underlying operating system itself.

This acquisition raises the competitive bar for vendors with application server and/or hypervisor offerings.  That’s something customers should be happy about. Fun times ahead!

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”