Regrets? I had a few
Here again, what is the loss of Phipps to Oracle? Phipps, a Sun employee for nearly 10 years and the company's chief open source officer for five of those, has some real open source chops and remains one of the most prolific bloggers on the open source software. Yet, he has ruffled more than a few sets of feathers in dust-ups over the years.
And in a post marking his last day at Sun, Phipps indicated that in addition to several achievements, he also had a few regrets. Amongst those regrets, Phipps listed:
"Of course, no story with highlights like that can be without disappointments too. I'm sad that Apache did not get the TCK license they requested. I'm sad that we didn't get the code for some of those projects permanently outside the Sun firewall. I'm sad we never got to a place where co-developers become a priority for various product teams. And I'm sad that, despite the success of the open source software businesses, it still wasn't enough to rescue Sun in the end. But overall, I am amazed and humbled to see what the open source team at Sun has achieved."
Still, Phipps is certainly an open source thinker worthy of holding onto. And as a member of the Open Source Initiative board, he will continue to show his worth.
Another "drainee," Tim Bray, co-creator of XML and former director of web technologies at Sun, declined an offer from Oracle and joined Google's Android team instead. Bray, whose role at Sun was somewhat amorphous, is perhaps a bit more of a loss than Phipps. Bray announced his departure from Oracle/Sun via a Twitter post.
And he came out swinging the moment he landed at Google by attacking Apple for its proprietary stance vis-à-vis the iPhone. Interestingly enough, Bray lands at Google a couple of years after criticizing the search company for hosting sharecroppers on its "AppEngine plantation."
Another potentially costly loss for Oracle might be that of Zack Urlocker, former vice president of MySQL, which Oracle acquired in the Sun buy. Urlocker has a lot of experience in the software business, having roots that go as far back as respected tools specialist Borland Software in its heyday (and beyond).
Urlocker said he was leaving Oracle to join the board of Revolution Computing to help them "disrupt" the predictive analytics market. In this space he'll have to compete with the likes of IBM, which is betting big on "business analytics." Perhaps Urlocker sees this as another David versus Goliath opportunity, as with MySQL taking on Oracle and other leading database vendors.
Urlocker is an advisor and board member for several startup and open source companies. Maybe he (or Oracle) felt like Oracle had enough advisors.
How much for your love?
Talk to many in Java and open source, and you'll find Oracle engenders respect but few actually like the company. People respect the giant for the fact it's run efficiently and manages to make money. This is also it's downfall, though. Oracle is seen as your classic big vendor: faceless, after your money, and whose goal is to get you into locked into its stack.
Oracle seems to be aware of this, as its top brass and the Sun execs that survived the acquisition have gone forth with the message that Oracle "values" the community and that it wants to engage with those building applications using Java and open source and that will run on its platforms - its database, application server and Java-based business applications. It's made great play, too, of the fact the annual JavaOne conference will be back and better than ever, running in parallel with its OpenWorld event in San Francisco, California, later this year.
Unfortunately for Oracle, by losing Gosling, Phipps, Bray and Urlocker the giant's not just lost experienced technologists with vision that gave it credibility among the very people it wants to win over. It's also lost the kinds of people who could have taken the edge off a technology giant in that community, and who had helped keep important doors open for Sun over the years.
This is talent you can't easily replace and that's going to hurt Oracle as it goes out in to the community to prove it's a good team player. ®
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