Oracle exec: Open-source vendors locking down licences proves 'they were never really open'

'They used to be seen as the good guys, and Oracle was the bad guy'. So that means... everyone is the bad guy now?

Open-source vendors that haven't already switched to less permissive licences will do so this year as the move to the cloud threatens their business models, a senior Oracle exec has said.

In an interview at Oracle’s London OpenWorld event, Andy Mendelsohn, executive veep for Big Red’s database tech, admitted that Oracle had been seen as a "bad guy" for being closed source but argued that the tide was turning.

“That open source is good and what Oracle does, closed source, is bad – that's archaic thinking," he said, as he rejected the idea that Oracle is a proprietary vendor.

"Proprietary is an interesting word," he said in response to a question from El Reg. "We built our product according to open standards. MongoDB is a proprietary vendor; they built their own product with their own, proprietary standards."

Mendelsohn continued that open source is a different thing, but that "it doesn't really do anybody any good, because they [other vendors] are the only ones working in that open source code".

To bolster this point, he contrasted open-source database vendors with Linux, which he said was "real open source" because there are a wealth of devs in a range of companies contributing to the code.

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Moreover, Big Red's database exec – who has been with the firm 35 years – said that the fact open-source vendors are now changing their licensing models effectively rendered them "proprietary vendors… with a lock-in strategy".

"Whatever semblance of openness they had, they're trying to take back… because it's going to be hard for them to survive in the cloud world if anybody can just pick up their code and just build a cloud service out of it."

Although MongoDB was the main target of Mendelsohn's comments, Redis has also recently introduced changes to its licence models – decisions the firms said were taken because cloud giants were taking their code and giving nothing back to the community.

The Oracle man said that he expected other open-source vendors to quickly follow suit. "The open-source vendors are going to have a really hard time in going to the cloud and having a business unless they close their source down," he said.

"You can see them doing it, one by one. I think they’re all going to do it this year if they haven't done it already."

At the same time, the shift to the cloud means that – as Mendelsohn would have it – Oracle's business model is the same as that of other cloud companies. In the on-prem world, Big Red sold licences and support; now everyone is pay-per-use.

"The cloud is a challenge to these companies," he said – pointing also to the merger of open-source data management companies Cloudera and Hortonworks as further evidence that the fluffy stuff is causing new issues for data upstarts.

"They're trying to figure out how to survive, and if all they can say is 'I'm going to build a service and run it on Amazon', then they have to compete with Amazon using the same open-source Hadoop code and creating their own service," he said. "Unless you go back to closed source – which is what you see Mongo doing, for example."

These actions, Mendelsohn said, "just shows these companies [APIs] were never really open in the first place" and – he predicted (or perhaps hoped) – that this would affect how people see them.

"It's going to change the perception of these companies, that were seen as the good guys, and Oracle was the bad guy," he said.

And of course Mendelsohn wouldn't be an Oracle lifer if he didn't take the opportunity of a final potshot at Jeff Bezos' cloudy marketplace giant.

"And Amazon, is Amazon the good guy? They never put a line of their extensions on top of the open-source code back into the open source," he said as he summed up his answer. "That doesn't seem like a good guy thing." ®




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