Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Exclusive: Oracle's hostile moves in open source will fail says Ingres CTO

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 28, 2006

I've been writing about Oracle's moves to control the open source movement--or at least the database part of it. Dave Dargo, the CTO of Ingres, sent me his view on things. Ingres, BTW is a company to watch--it is likely to completely remake the traditional boundary between open source and enterprise software. And it is recruiting a top tier management team (Tom Berquist the star Wall Street analyst joins Ingres Wednesday March 1 as CFO and Jim Finn, who headed IBM North Americas communications joined recently).

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Tom,

In many respects, you are spot-on. It must have sent a chill down the spine of the open source community to see the following quote in a Business Week story that preceded the acquisition of Sleepycat: "One source close to the talks [the rumored JBoss talks] says these deals may be just the beginning. 'Larry and [Oracle Co-President and CFO] Safra Catz have a clear plan to control the entire open-source [software] stack,' the person says."

I'd bet that anonymous quote did not come from the open-source camp.

Why is Oracle so interested in open-source all of a sudden? I don't think this is about Oracle moving into open-source so much as attempting to consume those open-source users into the larger Oracle machine.

Oracle has made a number of acquisitions in an effort to recapture those customers who had previously chosen to do business with non-Oracle suppliers. I see this as an attempt to force those customers back to the Oracle standard, the Oracle model and the Oracle revenue stream.

For example, many believe that Oracle's acquisition of InnoDB last Fall effectively controls the main transaction engine under MySQL which, in turn, inhibits their ability to move into the enterprise where Oracle makes billions. It looks like Oracle is attempting to widen the moat around their closed-source fortress to lessen the pressure on their pricing structure.

Why hasn't Oracle open-sourced any of their flagship products? I believe it is because the products that have 95 percent operating margins fund the consolidation strategy that Oracle is desperately hoping will revive its listless stock price.

It appears that the technology industry and its outsized egos never learn from history. Microsoft was in denial about Java. Sun was in denial about Linux. Is Oracle similarly in denial about customers' desire for choice? Oracle in its hostile takeover of PeopleSoft drove customers to SAP. There is no reason to think that Oracle's latest acquisition binge won't drive customers, who want more choice not less, to business open-source.

Dave Dargo
Chief Technology Officer
Ingres Corporation

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