Recent changes to Solaris licensing could further encourage Solaris 10 users to consider Linux and fewer new users to consider Solaris at all. If you’re a Solaris customer, don’t overlook this license change.

While the “Linux vs. Windows” competition is often played up in the press, the reality is that Linux workload overwhelmingly comes from Unix migrations. Being the largest Unix platform, Sun Solaris has faced stiff competition for lower-end workload against Linux for the better part of a decade. As Linux usage and features have grown, so to has the applicability of Linux in more mission critical distributed environments, an area historically associated with Unix and Sun Solaris. Sun attempted to slow, or even reverse, this trend in 2005 by offering Sun Solaris 10 free of charge. Sun expected to sell subscriptions to customers seeking support and defect fixes in order to drive revenue.

The Wayback Machine documents the Sun Solaris 10 license as it was offered back in May 2005.

“Obtaining an Entitlement Document is simple. On the Solaris 10 Get It page, select the platform and format you desire from the drop-down menus, and then click the Download Solaris 10 button. When you arrive at the Sun Download Center, either sign in or register, ensuring that a valid e-mail address is part of your Sun Download Center account to receive the Entitlement Document. Fill out the Solaris download survey, specifying the number of systems on which you are installing the software. Once you have completed the survey, you will be redirected to the Solaris 10 download page for downloading, and your Entitlement Document will be sent to your registered e-mail address.”

Simply put, register with a valid email address, download Sun Solaris 10 and receive an Entitlement Document to use Sun Solaris 10 without support and for as long as you wish. The terms and conditions were unchanged until at least June 2008, the final copy of the license found on the Wayback Machine.

It seems Oracle has appended this sentence to the license paragraph above:

“Please remember, your right to use Solaris acquired as a download is limited to a trial of 90 days, unless you acquire a service contract for the downloaded Software.”

The obvious question is why would Oracle make this change?

Oracle must have determined that a large enough number of Solaris 10 users are doing so without a service contract. These users are attractive targets to convert into paying customers. However, what percentage of these unpaid users would Oracle have the ability to upsell into if the user had not been able to use Sun Solaris 10 unsupported for more than 90 days and instead migrated to unpaid Linux?

Free User to Paying Customer?
It’s interesting to note that Red Hat just reported that one of its eighteen deals over $1 million in their recent fourth quarter was from an unpaid user converting to a paying customer. By limiting the use of Sun Solaris 10 to 90 days, it’s hard to imagine that Oracle will build a set of customers that could later be upsold. In effect, the new license severely limits Sun Solaris 10 as a viable alternative to Linux for net new customers. But maybe this is a calculated business decision on Oracle’s behalf. If a net new customer needs the advanced capabilities of Sun Solaris, they’ll pay for that capability and the associated hardware from a Unix vendor. Sun being the largest Unix OS vendor, they’ll win their share of this new business. If the net new customer doesn’t need the advanced capabilities, it’s unlikely the customer would even consider anything beyond Linux on an x86 system.

Existing unpaid users of Sun Solaris 10 with an Entitlement Document could potentially continue their usage without restriction. The license change does not appear to be retroactive. However, I’m not a lawyer, so be sure to validate your unpaid usage of Sun Solaris 10 with your legal department and/or Oracle.

On the surface, this new license has little impact to existing paying customers of Sun Solaris 10. However, in reality, limiting the number of potential users and customers in the Sun Solaris ecosystem can’t be viewed as a positive outcome. With upwards of half a billion in Solaris operating system revenues per year, it’s difficult to argue that Sun Solaris is “dead or dying”. However, IDC’s estimates indicate that Sun Solaris revenue has declined at approximately 10 percent annually from 2006 to 2008. The 2009 data, due out in the summer of 2010 would likely continue this negative trend. Over the same period, Linux, and its poster child vendor, Red Hat, has grown at least 15 percent plus range annually. With this data in hand, one might expect Oracle to encourage Sun Solaris usage; a 90 day trial hardly achieves this.

What do you think about the new license?

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.”

Key members of the Sun Drizzle team have recently joined Rackspace. This is great news for Drizzle users, but also begins positioning Rackspace as an enterprise software provider for the next decade.

Drizzle, a fork of the MySQL database, is described as a database designed for the cloud. The project was founded by MySQL’s, and now Oracle’s, Brian Aker. Development of Drizzle occurred with Sun’s blessing after Sun had acquired MySQL and while Sun was still independent. Jay Pipes, another core Drizzle developer writes about his experience on the MySQL team before joining the Drizzle project:

“For almost 3 years, I had sent numerous emails to the MySQL internal email discussion lists asking the engineering and marketing departments… to recognize the importance and necessity of major refactoring of the MySQL kernel, and the need to modularize the kernel or risk having more modular databases overtake MySQL as the key web infrastructure database… My ideas were met with mostly kind responses, but nothing ever materialized as far as major refactoring efforts were concerned. “

Jay began working on Drizzle, and stayed on with Sun after the Oracle acquisition was approved. Jay and other members of the Drizzle team, including Monty Taylor, Eric Day, Stewart Smith and Lee Bieber eventually joined Rackspace on the Rackspace Cloud team.

Funding open source for profit:
Like any hosting company, Rackspace has a rich history of using open source within its hosting offerings and to run and manage their infrastructure. However, with Rackspace’s prior investments in the open source Cassandra project and new investments in Drizzle, Rackspace is shifting from a consumer of open source to a producer of open source. In doing so, Rackspace is also evolving its focus from a hosting provider to an enterprise software provider. The fact that the enterprise software will be made available through usage-based Cloud services and APIs is secondary. Rackspace is increasingly likely to compete with enterprise software vendors such as Oracle, IBM, VMware or Microsoft over the next decade. This competition is likely to open the door to Rackspace being acquired by an existing enterprise software vendor. I suspect this will happen as Rackspace’s revenue base shifts from hosting to enterprises seeking software platforms through Cloud offerings. The latter would offer higher profit potential than the former. This is important for a potential acquirer that needs to maintain high profit ratios for Wall Street. At 68 percent and 5 percent, Rackspace’s current gross profit and net income percentages would drag down the 80 percent and 20 percent respective figures that, for instance, Oracle and Microsoft achieve today.

Rackspace’s open source investments or enterprise software capabilities won’t surely stop with Drizzle. Databases are critical to Platform as a Service (PaaS), but so to are runtimes. This would suggest Rackspace’s open source involvement has room to grow in the area of Java or dynamic scripting language runtimes.

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.”

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.

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.”

Red Hat’s CEO Jim Whitehurst kicked off his third year at Red Hat with a State of the Union address.  In his post, Jim discussed Red Hat’s efforts within the Java community:

“Late last year the Java Community Process (JCP) reached a significant milestone when they approved the specification for the next generation of Enterprise Java; JavaTM Platform, Enterprise Edition 6 (Java EE 6). We believe that the approval of this specification starts a new chapter in the story of Java and we are proud to have contributed and acted in a leadership role in the formation of this standard which aims to make enterprise Java easier to use and more appealing to more developers, while still maintaining the benefits of open standards.”

Craig Muzilla, Vice President of Middleware at Red Hat picked up on the Java thread and wrote a nice post ahead of Oracle’s roadmap presentation on Wednesday.  While many will be following Apple’s every move on Wednesday, those of us in the Java community will be listening to Oracle’s plans for Sun products, including Java.

“As Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison said shortly after the acquisition announcement  in April of last year, Java is “the single most important software asset we have ever acquired.”

We agree with Mr. Ellison’s statement; Java is one of the most important technologies developed and adopted during the past twenty years. It has fostered significant innovation throughout the IT industry and has enabled businesses and governments to operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness. Java is larger than any single company; we are all part of Java, customers and vendors alike.

We encourage Oracle to fulfill their original proposal and establish an independent governance process for the JCP (Java Community Process). And, finally, we encourage Oracle to continue the tradition of making the technology easily accessible, to vendors and customers alike, to secure its broad adoption and continued strength in the market.”

Craig points out that Oracle was amongst several vendors, including IBM and Red Hat, calling for Sun to make the Java process more open and less susceptible to any one vendor’s influence or control.  While I’d be surprised if Oracle announced an independent governance process for the JCP on Wednesday, I don’t think Oracle will act to damage the Java ecosystem.  Customers and developers have invested too much in Java products over the past decade on the basis of their investment being protected through a multi-vendor community.  The customer backlash would far outstrip any perceived competitive benefit of tightening control over the JCP.  Oracle’s far too smart of a vendor to risk that or encourage non-standard Java usage as we’ve seen with Android.

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.”

A quick review of the Save MySQL online petition stats today shows that the results are still in line with the results I reported previously.  Over 90 percent of petition signees would require Oracle to divest MySQL to a “suitable third party”.  I noticed that Michael “Monty” Widenius’ post explaining the petition provided several options for a “suitable third party”.  First off, Monty makes it clear that his company is not interested in acquiring MySQL.  Monty’s list of potential buyers includes IBM, Fujitsu, any of the major Linux distribution vendors or a private equity firm that would take MySQL public.

As an IBMer I was interested to hear more about Monty’s thoughts on IBM.  Note that I do not work in the division where IBM’s database, DB2, is managed.  Nor do I have any information about IBM’s interest, or lack thereof, in MySQL.

I asked Monty this question via email:

Q] Would you require that IBM add the linking exception or have to re-license MySQL under the ASL 2.0 in order to acquire MySQL?

The linking exception or having to re-license MySQL are two of the options that Monty & Florian Mueller would like to see Oracle select before being allowed to acquire MySQL.

Monty replied:

“Personally I don’t consider IBM a direct competitor to MySQL and thus there would not be a need for a licensing remedy…With MySQL, IBM would have a vehicle to become a market leader in databases. IBM could only do this if they keep MySQL free to ensure it keeps it dominant position in units…IBM has more to gain by keeping MySQL Open Source and available to all than they could get by killing it.  With Oracle this is not the case.”

At first I bristled at this reply.  Why should Oracle accept a set of restrictions that IBM, another competitor in the database market, would not face?  However, the difference lies in the market position of the acquiring vendor.  Oracle is the revenue leader in the relational database market with over 40 percent share according to Gartner and IDC.  I don’t have the Gartner data handy, but IDC data suggests that Oracle had approximately a 2 to 1 lead versus IBM and Microsoft individually.  Considering Oracle’s market position versus IBM and Microsoft, it’s understandable that regulators would treat an Oracle acquisition of MySQL differently than, for example a Microsoft or IBM acquisition of MySQL.

One thing that does surprise me, pleasantly, is that Monty doesn’t see a “need for a licensing remedy” should IBM (Fujitsu or any of the major Linux distribution vendors) acquire MySQL.  Many have questioned Monty’s motives for blocking the MySQL acquisition.  Monty’s company competes with MySQL, but, unlike MySQL, Monty’s company cannot provide a commercial license to business partners or enterprises.  That’s why the linking exception or having to re-license MySQL under the Apache Software License 2.0 is seen as a boon to third party providers of MySQL products and services.  Had Monty replied that he would like any potential acquirer of MySQL accept a licensing remedy, one could draw a connection back to his current business interests.

Readers can make up their own mind as to Monty’s or Oracle’s motives.  But like most things in life, the story isn’t cut and dry.  And while I personally believe there is more for Oracle to gain by nurturing MySQL than not, but Larry Ellison won’t return my calls.

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.”

Florian Mueller begins 2010 by demonstrating why he was named EU Campaigner of the Year by the Economist five years ago. While most of us were prepping for New Year’s Eve celebrations or contemplating New Year’s resolutions, Monty and Mueller spent December 28th launching an online Save MySQL petition against the Oracle acquisition of MySQL via Sun. Mueller reports via email:

“www.helpmysql.org campaign delivers first 14,000 signatures against Oracle’s proposed acquisition of MySQL to European, Chinese and Russian competition authorities.

In less than one week, during the Holiday Season, we gathered 50 times more customer support than Oracle claimed three weeks ago.”

You can read the full press release here.

The campaign is displaying stats from petition signees.  This post is based on the first 16,306 signees as of 9am EST on Monday, January 4th.  If the results change markedly with new signees, I’ll post an update.

MySQL Enterprise Usage
Whether MySQL poses a competitive threat to Oracle’s database business has been a point of significant disagreement between Oracle and opponents of the MySQL acquisition including Monty and Mueller.  Oracle says there is little to no overlap.  Monty argues that MySQL has become feature rich and is a suitable replacement for Oracle’s database in several situations. Nearly a quarter of respondents identified themselves as working at a company using MySQL, and not simply an independent or self-employed software or web developer.  Of the respondents working at a company using MySQL, just over 20 percent worked at a company with 1000 or more employees.  This is clearly a customer group where Oracle databases would compete.  These results would seem to support Monty’s claims about MySQL competitiveness against Oracle.  On the other hand, there’s no reason that a large company wouldn’t want to use both MySQL and Oracle databases for small and large projects respectively.  In such a situation, did the MySQL usage displace Oracle usage, or, as Oracle would argue, SQL Server usage?  The former would support Monty’s claim, while the latter would support Oracle’s claim.  A generalized version of this question would have been a helpful addition to the Save MySQL petition.

Signees Would Require Oracle to Sell MySQL
Of the three solutions that Mueller and Monty suggest Oracle agree to before being allowed to complete the Sun acquisition, over 90 percent of signees believe that MySQL must be divested to a suitable third party.  Only 60 percent of signees believe that Oracle should be allowed to acquire MySQL as part of the Sun acquisition.  These signees would require Oracle to either commit to a linking exception for applications that use MySQL or require Oracle to release past and future versions of MySQL under the Apache Software License 2.0.

Go ahead and take a look at the petition here.

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.”

Last week Eben Moglen, founder and executive director of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), submitted an independent opinion on the Oracle/Sun merger to the European Union (EU). Moglen summarized his submission as follows:

“The GPL was designed specifically to ensure the permanent freedom of software, and the ability of everyone to improve and share their improvements to the program, no matter who acquires the copyrights to the code.  The whole point of GPL as a copyright license is to deal with every contingency that could result in hobbling or destroying the freedom of code shared under it. The drafters of GPL versions 2 and 3 considered scenarios very similar to the ones that the Commission is concerned about now. The design of the license, and the experience we have had using it, show that it can be counted upon to operate as intended in situations like this one.”

Moglen issued the 11 page opinion, pro bono and without the charge, at the request of Oracle’s counsel.  Moglen clarified that Oracle is an ongoing contributor to the SFLC, while Monty Widenius has contributed in the past.  However, neither the contributions from Oracle nor Widenius have exceeded 5 percent of SFLC’s funding since inception.

I found the following paragraph from Moglen’s submission particularly interesting:

“MySQL is now and always has been an atypical GPL software project, because its copyright was highly centralized inside a small commercial firm that considered dual licensing its only commercially attractive strategy for survival. But even MySQL AB’s atypical business model, which was highly unreflective of the mass of GPL’d software development, occurred within the parameters of the GPL’s overall design, which is to ensure the freedom of the software it protects regardless of the commercial motivations or behaviors of the parties distributing the primary upstream version.”

On the other end of the debate, Florian Mueller announced that he has submitted a 31 page rebuttal to Moglen’s position.  Mueller provided a summary of the highlights via email, from which I selected these comments:

“Fundamentally, his paper offers a different prediction as to what would happen post-acquisition. He simply expresses his firm belief that whatever made MySQL successful in the past is not really an indication for the future. In fact he believes MySQL AB had a very suboptimal business model…

If he were right that MySQL AB and all of the companies that succeeded around MySQL didn’t do it right and that a GPL-only approach works best, then actually there would be no point in Sun having acquired MySQL last year nor in Oracle acquiring it now because then the future would at any rate be that someone has to fork it and do a GPL-only project dependent on voluntary contributions. Interestingly, that approach would have been possible during all of those almost 14 years that MySQL has been available and no one, not even Eben Moglen, decided to seize that opportunity.”

Both Moglen and Mueller make strong and weak points.

First, Moglen is too quick to dismiss MySQL as an atypical GPL project.  As Mueller points out, whatever you think about MySQL and their business model, you can’t simply conclude that another business model would be more appropriate.  Just because Linux is licensed under the GPL and Linux vendors, namely Red Hat and Novell are closing in on a combined $1B in revenue, does not mean the GPL is the best license for every open source product with commercial aspirations.  The Linux ecosystem is very different than say, application servers or web content management.  Different markets with different ecosystems require different license considerations.

While Moglen appears to be arguing for a “pure GPL” MySQL, departing from the dual-licensed status quo, Groklaw reports that Mueller and Widenius would like to see the MySQL open source license changed from GPLv2 to the Apache Software License.  According to Groklaw, page 19 of an unreleased submission to the EU from Mueller/Widenius stated:

“We would like to draw attention to the fact that some major concerns about the effects of the proposed transaction could be somewhat alleviated by requiring that all versions of MySQL source code previously released under the GPLv2 license …must be released under a more liberal open source license that is usable also by the OEM users and would also create an opportunity for other service vendors to compete with offerings comparable to MySQL Enterprise. A good candidate is the Apache Software License (ASL).”

Something doesn’t feel right about Widenius proposing a license that MySQL could have chosen “over the past 14 years”.  Clearly MySQL decided against this move as the GPL/dual licensing approach led to a competitive advantage that the ASL v2.0 would not provide MySQL.  But I guess that’s why Widenius suggests Oracle should be forced to re-license MySQL under a permissive license such as the ASL v2.0.

We haven’t heard the last from Widenius & Mueller. Enjoy your holiday season ;-)

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.”