Red Hat exec: Oracle's not an open source company

It's been said that Oracle is now the industry's most powerful open source vendor, but don't tell that to Red Hat executives, who say Oracle doesn't even qualify as an open source company.

When Oracle bought Sun, controller of Java, MySQL and OpenSolaris, Gartner analyst George Weiss argued that the acquisition made Oracle "the most powerful open source vendor in the market today, bar none."

Sun's open source chief leaves following Oracle merger

As distributor of the popular Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat takes exception to that kind of talk. Paul Cormier, president of products and technologies at Red Hat, said in a new interview that he doesn't even consider Oracle to be an open source vendor, and argued that even Sun wasn't as open as Red Hat.

"I wouldn't even consider calling them an open source company at all," Cormier said. "When you're making a choice as a company on what's open and what's closed then your customers suffer."

Sun sometimes held back "the good stuff" from the open source community in developing MySQL, making important contributions to the software proprietary, Cormier said. The major open source software products controlled by Sun will  remain in the public domain, but Cormier said, "Open is not just seeing the code. Open is also having a community of developers. OpenSolaris is not open. There is no community other than Sun people developing Solaris."

"There are pieces [of Oracle] that are open," Cormier continued. "But what we do, is open everything. We don't say 'here's this part of the operating system that's open, but this other part is closed.'"

Oracle's purchase of Sun has caused mixed feelings in the open source world. Sun's chief open source officer, Simon Phipps, left the company after the acquisition, but some analysts have argued that open source could thrive under Oracle, because it is more financially stable than Sun was.

One key area to watch is the Java Community Process, which helps dictate the future of Java by developing new technology specifications and reference implementations.

Cormier said he's not too worried about Oracle's newfound influence over Java development.

"The jury's still out on how it's going to be managed," he said. "We're all watching. We're feverishly in our development cycle right now, as we always have been."

Cormier discussed several other open source topics related to cloud computing and virtualization. Amazon runs its Elastic Compute Cloud with Red Hat's version of the Xen hypervisor, while IBM is building a test-and-development cloud service with Red Hat's version of KVM (kernel-based virtual machine).

Linux has a strong foothold in the cloud computing market, but there are still questions about which hypervisor will become the open source platform of choice in the cloud. Red Hat is coming out strongly behind KVM, which is embedded in the Linux kernel. Cormier argues that running Xen with Linux is basically like running two operating systems stacked on top of one another, and needlessly complicated.

"One of the beauties of KVM is it's part of the kernel and not a separate layer," he said. "“We think it's the next-generation architecture. It's a better hypervisor."

Red Hat will be releasing the 6.0 version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux sometime this year, with KVM as the only included hypervisor. The company will also release the next version of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (REV) within a few weeks, with virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) now integrated with server virtualization management.

Red Hat's longer-term plans include Deltacloud, a cloud management software package that will let users spin up computing instances inside their own data centers or on cloud platforms like Amazon and Rackspace with the same code.

The Deltacloud API, which will likely be released early in 2011, will support multiple types of virtualization platforms, including VMware, Cormier said.

"We're tying it together and abstracting away those differences [between cloud platforms]," he said. "Microsoft and VMware say 'we can do this for you, but you have to be completely in our vertical stack.' We think that's computing of the 1980s."

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