DigitalFriend Blog

June 2009

The Art of Oracle

Tue, 30 Jun 2009 17:23:38 +1100

By: gosh'at'

Oracle's purchase of SUN Microsystems Inc for $7 billion has all sorts of implications for planet ICT, big implications. The main ones are for Java users and Microsoft (and therefore the current users of Microsoft products too), but the fate of open source MySQL and its community is also now set down a different path. Where Sun's Scott McNeally had a disowned 'Bill Gates' somewhere deep down which he rallied against regularly, Larry Ellison never had such a problem. Larry has more like a 'Bill Gates'-like inner-child, decked out in Samurai gear, with his view of Microsoft in days gone by being one more tainted with envy than denial. Larry was an early business leader to take the Chinese classic 'Art of War' as one of his Bibles. He is noted for his determination to succeed and rarely backs off any challenge. Although, in 1998 he was on his racing Yacht 'Sayonara', one of 115 sail boats that competed in the ill-fated Sydney-to-Hobart Ocean Race that year, which was hit with freak weather and mountainous seas (80 foot waves) sinking many boats and causing the deaths of 6 sailors. Larry's yacht survived unscathed, one of only 43 boats to finish the race, but when asked if he would compete in the event again, he replied: "Not in a thousand years!"   Well, why would he, as Sayonara had just won that race, the toughest in the modern history of ocean racing. All of this is extremely relevant to the future of Sun products such as Java, MySQL and Open Office, as Larry has always been more of a Samurai in nature than a Nerd.

MySQL Future - an excellent, efficient, Relational DBMS

In the software company world championship stakes, in any given year, Oracle Inc is either second or third, with Microsoft welded to first position. Larry's soul won't rest until Oracle Inc is raised to No. 1.   That has clear implications for all of the software products at Sun which Oracle has just acquired - they each have a job to do, and most of these jobs are about getting market share from Microsoft and others. Sun already owns the number 1 industry-strength DBMS (database management system) in its namesake, Oracle, so why won't it simply gut MySQL, as many in the database industry and open source community have recently forecast that they will? Because, MySQL gives Oracle a one-two DBMS line-up, much as Microsoft has a one-two, high-end low-end, lineup with MS SQL Server and MS Access. Of course it would be an insult to compare MySQL with MS Access, but that's the point, even Oracle's low-cost (even no-cost) DBMS entry product, will now outshine Microsoft's low cost entry desktop product.  

Oracle doesn't have to dumb-down or retard MySQL (i.e. that's the other option that has been most forecast as the fate of MySQL in the industry in the last two months), it simply needs to leave it very 'relational' in nature, and very efficient for Internet-based data-oriented applications, while turning the flagship Oracle DBMS very 'object-relational' - as the SQL Standard itself has turned since 2000 - and couple that with its existing transactional strength. Many industry commentators don't realize (because they are not cutting code) that a significant reason for 'Web 2.0' coming into existence based upon SQL-engines, was purely because of a lack of broadband out there in user-land. For Internet-oriented application developers, particularly entrepreneurial ones, a relational database record has been used as the 'digital fingerprint' for many an object, allowing servers to pass down the twisted-pair wire, micro-versions of objects which get reconstituted on the client's machine. Proper widespread broadband does away with that tactical advantage which relational DBMSs have enjoyed for the first 15 years of the www.

Open Office Future

One thing that large companies do to undermine other large companies (particularly when the second encroaches on territory that the first sees as its own birth right), is to decimate a marketplace of the seconds, with free software product. We saw it with IBM and their Eclipse project, where IBM gave away $40 million in cash to open source Eclipse developer projects - to all-comers with a good idea -   to cement Eclipse in place as a serious and 'free' IDE (Integrated Development Editor), thereby undermining the marketplace for commercial IDEs, such as Microsoft's Visual Studio product. It was about the time that Microsoft was flirting with SAP, looking seriously into the software services market at the big end of town in which IBM makes so much of its profit.

Well it is now extremely likely that Oracle is going to do that sort of thing with Open Office, decimating the cash cow that is Microsoft's Office suite of tools. Of course Sun already tried to do that with Open Office over the last handful of years, but Sun is a hardware company at heart (much to Java's disadvantage too), whereas, Oracle has always been a software company at heart, and that will make a difference. But Oracle is astute at turning everything into money, so the up-market non-free version of a future Open Office will make the new open document formats sing. With OO-XML and ODF, XML and semantic text has finally come to the word processor's underlying data format.   While ODF has been an international standard since 2006 (ISO/IEC 26300:2006), Microsoft finally got the blessing of ISO/IEC too, late last year for its alternative open format OO-XML (ISO/IEC 29500:2008) after a couple of years of wrangling and posturing and bargaining. Yet Microsoft's flagship Office product itself does not yet support its own new international standard, and so Oracle has about 6 months to upgrade Open Office into something much more formidable that its current incarnation.


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