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Is Getting Acquired Good For FOSS Projects? 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-fish-eats-little-fish dept.
ruphus13 writes "While open source companies are legion, their acquisitions by proprietary source companies may cause concern for the viability of projects. Can a FOSS project 'survive' an acquisition? According to the article posing that question: 'One has to ask, though, how healthy it is for increasingly important open-source platforms and applications to come under the wing of huge, proprietary software companies. Probably the best example to cite on that topic is the ongoing car crash that is Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems...Sun Micrososytems is one of only three big, US public companies focused almost entirely on open source. If it gets swallowed up, that will leave just Red Hat and Novell. Open-source pundits are predicting that small, promising open-source players will be snapped up by bigger fish this year. And Google's relationship to Android gets ever murkier as it sinks its commercial hooks deeper into the platform, billing its own offerings as superphones relative to other Android phones.'"
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Is Getting Acquired Good For FOSS Projects?

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  • by xquark (649804) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @10:33PM (#30678668) Homepage

    How does a firm "acquire" an OSS project? Look at mysql, All Sun did was pay money for a name, bunch of workers and a customer list, not the actual IP, cause that was open sourced to begin with.

    In short, if a company "acquires" (whatever that means in this context) an OSS project, and you're not happy with how things are being done, fork the project and be on your way, Otherwise learn to drink the coolade like everyone else.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sun owns the copyright to the MySQL code. They also own the MySQL documentation, which makes Monty whine like a bitch because he can't use it for his own project.

    • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @10:43PM (#30678738)

      MySQL was careful to maintain copyright over the entire MySQL codebase, so Sun did, in fact, purchase the 'IP'.

      The wording of the GPL is such that they can't take it back or whatever, but Oracle could continue to support proprietary versions and stop releasing updates to the GPL version (leaving the community to support themselves starting from the most up to date GPL release from MySQL/Sun/Oracle).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by xquark (649804)

        Perhaps they could, but aren't examples like the kernel, mysql etc proof that open source endeavors are just as capable in providing "proprietary quality" products as closed houses are.

        Oracle may go and provide some special feature in their closed version of mysql, but I doubt it would be long before a forked version (prior to acquisition) has pretty much the same capability. Freely available replicas of proprietary functionalities is one of the major underpinnings of open source, less so innovation - unfor

        • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @11:07PM (#30678896)

          Perhaps they could, but aren't examples like the kernel, mysql etc proof that open source endeavors are just as capable in providing "proprietary quality" products as closed houses are.

          Only if you ignore the fact that MySQL was funding it's development by selling licenses for it's proprietary version.

          • That's a little dishonest. They provide training and consulting services, there is much more revenue in that than a few licenses.
            • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward

              The original owner made it difficult for vendors to package MySQL as part of a proprietary solution without negotiating a commercial license from MySQL AB. I suspect that was worth much more than training. After all, anyone can start a training company and undercut MySQL's (Sun's (Oracle's))) rates by a few hundred bucks.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mysidia (191772)

          Indeed... not only would there be a fork, but Oracle's version would probably be obsolete soon.

          And since the fork would have code not owned by Oracle, they would no longer be able to sell commercial licenses to the GPL'ed product, or pick up the enhancements, without giving up on proprietary versions and commercial licenses, forever...

      • OP's point is still valid; MySQL is merely a bad example.

        • by abigor (540274)

          No it's not. Various large projects require you to give up your individual copyright. When I contributed code to Asterisk, for example, I had to fax in a disclaimer that assigned my copyright to Digium. The dozens of projects overseen by the Apache Foundation require a similar disclaimer. There are many other examples.

          • by dch24 (904899) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @02:46AM (#30679962) Journal
            That doesn't make MySQL a good example of FOSS and large corporations. Sun acquired the copyright, but since the license is GPL, Sun/Oracle cannot eliminate the open source version -- they can only compete with it. (How different is that, really, than before?)

            What is happening with FOSS in huge corporations?
            Firefox, mozilla.org, and Google - seem like a fairly successful combination, maybe not the leading browser today, but the browser marketplace is much, much healthier now than when IE6 was released. I think Firefox played a huge role in the changing browser market.

            Google's other FOSS products - I think Google is trying too hard. They're playing with fire like mobile devices, which does benefit search (their main engine of profit) but puts them in really hard situations, like trying to create an open handset but still be friends with the mobile industry (who react to openness like it is deadly poison). They're following Apple here - who uses OS X on the iPhone and the desktop, and Google has a long way to go to catch up. TFA says Google is sinking their hooks into Android, but paradoxically, that should be impossible with a truly open platform. Yes, Google doesn't want you to root your phone - but the ability to hack a device when you have total control over it has proven to be doable despite Apple's much greater efforts. I don't think Google will go anywhere near Apple's penchant for lock-down.

            IBM - IBM may have a better big business approach to FOSS: they jumped right in with a business model that applied open source software to increase their capabilities, but they keep a tight grip on their profit centers. They are a huge help with the threat of Patent wars, but they are doing so from the brilliant position of leveraging their profitable patents to help open source. At the end of the day, IBM keeps their patents, and open source keeps its source code. Only Microsoft loses.

            Sun's other FOSS products - Java, OpenOffice, and VirtualBox are all very important open source products. What will happen to them? If Oracle finishes gobbling Sun up and they languish, does that mean GPL software is incompatible with big business? This hypothetical situation is not very likely, IMO. Oracle's not going to destroy value.

            Well, maybe I'm wrong on that one. Maybe Sun and Oracle (and Monty too) will end up destroying something valuable. I think that's a reasonable conclusion:

            Monty sold MySQL to Sun -- probably not thinking long term -- and Sun snatched MySQL up for a huge sum -- probably not thinking long term -- and now Sun is on the ropes, and Oracle is trying to buy what's left of it before all the customers slip away. Is Oracle thinking long term? Personally, I doubt it. They're probably maximizing shareholder value in the next 6 months. The values that made MySQL -- the community esprit de corps -- is being destroyed, but Oracle might end up owning the Sun logo (ooh, shiny) by the end of the year. Overall, value gets destroyed by shareholder shenanigans.

            I'm just restating poorly what Dana Blankenhorn [zdnet.com] says. (He's the inspiration for TFA.)

            This wouldn't be the first time sociopathic CxO's driven wild with greed ignored the community and got wiped out. Capitalism works poorly, but it still seems to be working. Don't blame Open Source for Big Business's biggest problems!
            • by Kjella (173770)

              Sun's other FOSS products - Java, OpenOffice, and VirtualBox are all very important open source products. What will happen to them? If Oracle finishes gobbling Sun up and they languish, does that mean GPL software is incompatible with big business? This hypothetical situation is not very likely, IMO. Oracle's not going to destroy value.

              The question is, where is all this hypothetical value? If so, why is Sun struggling bad enough to be bought out by Oracle? Don't get me wrong, I know plenty people who use them who make them valuable to them, but to me it's a little like counting YouTube hits. Sun is like the people who get their 15 minutes of fame, while others use that to make money. A lot of the connections in open source are easy to trace, like Red Hat => kernel. They sell server solutions, servers must be rock stable and scale. If t

              • by nabsltd (1313397)

                If so, why is Sun struggling bad enough to be bought out by Oracle?

                Because their hardware business is tanking.

                Seriously, although Sparc does have CoolThreads, Intel wins by a long way on price/performance, and you can run Solaris on either platform. So, even if you pay Sun for support, they get a lot less money per Solaris install than they did five years ago.

              • by dch24 (904899)
                I agree that this is an important question, and not easy to figure out.

                Not many companies (big or small) have figured it out. FOSS + Commercial success is tough.

                So it's a tough problem. It's even tougher to be commercially successful without alienating the developer community, who are like a herd of cats and will bolt at the slightest thing.

                It also seems like a brilliant business strategy - better than patent trolling, better than suckering customers (see: U.S. Telco/Cable Monopolies), and better than
                • by butlerm (3112)

                  Not many companies (big or small) have figured it out. FOSS + Commercial success is tough.

                  Tough yes. Tougher than trying to gain market dominance of a good (read: highly profitable) size niche of the proprietary software business, not so much. Aversion to vendor lock-in and concerns about staying power are a big problem for small proprietary software companies.

                  The advantage of open source businesses is that startups can be successful while smaller, which means much less capital is required. A small group

              • by True Grit (739797) *

                The question is, where is all this hypothetical value? If so, why is Sun struggling bad enough to be bought out by Oracle?

                Sun's problems had nothing to do with the FOSS that they supported. This is the other big problem with TFA summary: Sun was never 'focused almost entirely on open source'. They were a hardware company.

                They should have left Sun/MySQL out of the summary. Invalid examples.

          • by roderickm (6912)

            You maintain your copyright for Asterisk contributions if you used Digium's contributors' agreement.

            Read carefully: https://issues.asterisk.org/view_license_agreement.php [asterisk.org]

            Most contributors grant a "perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive, and transferable license" to your contribution that allows dual licensing. Unless you specifically disclaimed your copyright, you still have it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by westlake (615356)

      How does a firm "acquire" an OSS project?

      The big corp has organization, money, discipline, manpower, material and technical resources of every kind.

      The geek sees code - and that is too often all he sees.

       

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      Sun does own the IP, because it is the only company that is allowed to sell non-free copies of MySQL. MySQL's business model is to sell non-free copies to people who don't want to run OSS for whatever reason and use that money to pay for development, so this is very important, and why it isn't so easy to fork the project.

      • by bcrowell (177657)

        Sun does own the IP, because it is the only company that is allowed to sell non-free copies of MySQL. MySQL's business model is to sell non-free copies to people who don't want to run OSS for whatever reason and use that money to pay for development, so this is very important, and why it isn't so easy to fork the project.

        You're absolutely right about dual-licensing being one of the most important answers to the OP's question 'What does "Acquire" mean?'

        But I disagree that this makes it harder to fork the

  • by yanyan (302849) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @10:36PM (#30678686)

    Correct me if i'm wrong, but doesn't IBM put a lot of focus on developing and promoting open source? And last i checked they're a bigger company than Sun and Novell combined. As for Novell, who takes their open source work seriously in light of their ties with Microsoft and the associated legal landmine?

    • AFAICT the summary is talking about companies whose bread-and-butter is FOSS.

      • by yanyan (302849)

        Novell Netware isn't open source. I'm not sure about Novell Zenworks, Groupwise, eDirectory, Identity Services, etc. I think those are Novell's "main" products. As for Sun, Solaris isn't 100% open source. Also Sun is largely a hardware company.

        • by nxtw (866177)

          I think those are Novell's "main" products.

          Except for SUSE Linux Enterprise [novell.com] and Mono [go-mono.org].

          As for Sun, Solaris isn't 100% open source. Also Sun is largely a hardware company.

          Did you forget about the whole Java thing (almost all open sourced)?

    • Let's look for a company outside the usual group that's active in open source not for altruistic reasons, but for basic capitalistic reasons. We need look no further than HTC [google.com]. They make a lot of these Android devices, including Droid and Nexus One. Their market capitalization today is $282B. They're bigger than Microsoft or Apple or HP or IBM. They don't have to care about these little squabbles and they don't.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by asc99c (938635)

        That market cap isn't in US $ - it's presumable Taiwanese New Dollars. So that would be $8.8B in US dollars. Still big but HTC clearly isn't bigger than IBM and Microsoft.

    • As for Novell, who takes their open source work seriously in light of their ties with Microsoft and the associated legal landmine?

      Well, for one, the large number of companies and developers who aren't afraid of imaginary legal landmines.

  • Errmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @10:38PM (#30678704)
    "And Google's relationship to Android gets ever murkier as it sinks its commercial hooks deeper into the platform"

    Huh? They own it and made the vast vast majority of it, feel free to fork, that's what OSS is.... dunno how they could possibly be 'sinking its hooks' into the platform when it is their baby from the start... Be happy they have released source...
  • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @10:39PM (#30678710)

    Open source is a concept where people get together write code to solve a common problem they have... they understand that they will not directly profit from the coding, although they may be seen as experts in whatever area their project is in, and they can then profit selling hardware, consulting on implementations, and other things.

    If a company hires away all the programmers and then have them do something else so they don't contribute anymore, the project either is frozen, or new developers fork the project away from the original developers and the project moves on...

    • Thats not what the open source concept is at all.

      The open source concept IMHO is where the source code for a project is released along side of the project itself, so that people can observe the source code and understand exactly what the project does.

      You can still demand profit for the sale of the project.

      There are various copyrights[copylefts] attached to the "opened" source of a project, stipulating how the source code may be used. EG some stipulations include releasing the source code for any derived wo

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Thinboy00 (1190815)

        Viewing of source is necessary but insufficient: An OSS project/license must satisfy OSI's criteria (identical to Debian free software guidelines). "Open source" is a trademark of OSI, who fortunately are not evil AFAICT.

        • Oh, and I forgot to mention the important part: You need to be able to redistribute (un)modified versions of the program in some form or another.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          "Open source" is a trademark of OSI, who fortunately are not evil AFAICT.

          No, it's not. According to their own page [opensource.org] their trademarks are for OSI, Open Source Initiative and the OSI logo. If you don't believe me here's the quote:

          OSI, Open Source Initiative, and OSI logo ("OSI Logo"), either separately or in combination, are hereinafter referred to as "OSI Trademarks" and are trademarks of the Open Source Initiative.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            And if that's not enough here is this [usrbinruby.net] page from Eric S. Raymond himself:

            We have discovered that there is virtually no chance that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would register the mark "open source"; the mark is too descriptive. Ironically, we were partly a victim of our own success in bringing the "open source" concept into the mainstream.

        • incorrect. as stated in a sibling post, "open source" is a term such as "flying car." Similar to how a flying car can be called such so long as it flies, open source software can be called such so long as the source is open.

          Under the strictest semantics, all that is required is that the source code can be viewed. Everything extra is FUD and propaganda.

          • by wisty (1335733)

            TM doesn't even require originality. AFAIK (and IANAL), it should just be a phrase that isn't in common usage. Even if you're from Kentucky and you sell fried chicken, you can't sell "Kentucky Fried Chicken", because KFC has that TM. It might just be a term, but it's a trade marked term.

            Trade Marks are a pretty good idea, really. If you build a brand, and use distinctive signs to show that products are made by your company then people shouldn't be able to pass off as you. There are abuses (try making a movi

            • Except open source isn't a trademarked term. I even posted a quote from Eric S. Raymond above to show this:

              We have discovered that there is virtually no chance that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would register the mark "open source"; the mark is too descriptive. Ironically, we were partly a victim of our own success in bringing the "open source" concept into the mainstream.

    • Open source is a process where I write code to scratch my itch and out of the generousness of my heart set my code for itch scratching free for use and modification by others. Other people have a similar itch to mine, but not quite the same - and adapt my code to their needs. In time when my itch has erupted into full blown psoriasis I find they've turned my itch scratcher into a cure and so I get in the end the benefit not just of my own effort but also of theirs.

      If from experience I can predict the out

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @10:40PM (#30678712)
    The agenda of this seems to be "omg big companies are the devil" nonsense. why must this be seen as a threat to OSS? because stallman says so? one of the biggest fails of open source is it's lack of reliable support or response to customer deamnds, if more big names jump on board an throw money at developers it'll only help OSS.
    • by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @11:53PM (#30679142)

      one of the biggest fails of open source is it's lack of reliable support or response to customer deamnds, if more big names jump on board an throw money at developers it'll only help OSS.

      Right, because big companies are famous for the reliable support they provide and their responsiveness to customer demands. Seriously, have you ever tried to get actual customer support from a large company? What's the last large company that implemented a feature you wanted? Or merged a patch you wrote for the feature you wanted into the trunk?

      This is like the old argument that private corporations are inherently more efficient than government, a point of view that must originate from people who have never in their lives been involved in a large private corporation. Both big business and government are grossly inefficient because they are large enough that individual initiative and responsibility disappear.

      It's not Stallman's words that are being obeyed blindly here, it's Eric S. Raymond's words. For reasons known only to ESR and God, he decided that the metric of success for "Open Source" was corporate adoption and competing with corporate products. Stallman's Free Software ideology, for all of its occasional hidebound rigidity, had user freedom and choice as its metric for success. Free Software is a huge success insofar as we, as users (and developers) have an embarrassment of riches as far as freedom and choice go. Open Source, on the other hand, is pretty consistently seeing its big successes increasingly menaced by the corporate players its advocates went out of their way to provoke. And in that arena, it's not choice, freedom, or even product quality that counts, it's money, and you can safely assume that even relatively minor transnational corporations have more money to throw around than any Open Source initiative ever will.

      Live by the sword, die by the sword. The same applies to marketshare.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by timmarhy (659436)
        I work for a billion dollar company, so yes i know exactly what it's like. i'll use google as an example, i'd say they are pretty responsive and they also use open source. so is IBM if you've ever had them as a supplier.

        your assertion about individuals losing responsibility is true, but it only applies 100% to government, since big business will tank if they lose enough credability with their customers, were public servants are basicly impossible to fire and government can't go out of business.

        Yes the whe

      • The more you pay the better support you get.

        It is a simple truth.

        Most open source projects are operated like small companies and they tend to give better support to consumers as they are the big customer... But when you deal with an IBM or a Cisco or a Microsoft you as a consumer are a small chunk of the buisness if they loose you it is not a big deal. But the big customers is what they want to hold on to.

        The problem is the FOSS only think of software in terms of B2C not the big chunk of software that is B2

    • by Dwonis (52652) *

      stallman says so

      {{citation needed}}

    • why must this be seen as a threat to OSS? because stallman says so?

      WTF are you on about? The same RMS who says "we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can [gnu.org]"? I don't think you understand the whole concept of Free Software.

  • by lordlod (458156) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @10:51PM (#30678792)

    Is IBM no longer a big US company?

    I believe that their focus on open source is at least as substantial as Sun's every was.

    I really can't believe this FUD is taking hold. So what if a company funds an open source project?

    If they do something nasty, fork the project. If nobody can be arsed to fork it then it clearly wasn't such a big deal. There's NO downside here. If they stop funding development completely it's still better than never funding it at all.

    • IBM might be a big US company but it is hardly focused "almost entirely" on open source. Pretty much all of their hardware is proprietary, their own Unix is proprietary, they sell all sorts of proprietary tools like Lotus Notes, ClearCase and the rest of the Rational tools, etc. Sure you can point out a number of projects and things they work on and support that are open source, but those hardly make up even a significant portion of their portfolio.

      • IBM might be a big US company but it is hardly focused "almost entirely" on open source. Pretty much all of their hardware is proprietary,

        As much as Sun's.

        their own Unix is proprietary,

        But you have a choice of different OS's supported on their proprietary hardware, unlike Sun. This includes Linux, for which IBM has made the contributions for the hardware-specific features.

        they sell all sorts of proprietary tools like Lotus Notes, ClearCase and the rest of the Rational tools, etc.

        Sun sells many proprietary products.

        Sure you can point out a number of projects and things they work on and support that are open source, but those hardly make up even a significant portion of their portfolio.

        The same can be said for Sun. Of course, Oracle also makes contributions (check the stats for recent kernels, Oracle is normally somewhere around number 3-5 corporate contributor, behind Red Hat, Novell, IBM.

        • by ratboy666 (104074)

          Wow --

          "IBM might be a big US company but it is hardly focused "almost entirely" on open source. Pretty much all of their hardware is proprietary,

          As much as Sun's."

          SUN put SPARC up for standardization. IEEE Standard 1754-199.

          "their own Unix is proprietary,

          But you have a choice of different OS's supported on their proprietary hardware, unlike Sun. This includes Linux, for which IBM has made the contributions for the hardware-specific features."

          And how is this different from SUN? Oh, wait, SUNs OS is open-sour

          • by Nevyn (5505) *

            And how is this different from SUN? Oh, wait, SUNs OS is open-source, and, because the platform is open, it is easy enough to put Linux on.

            Except Solaris isn't the same as OpenSolaris, in fact one of the biggest complaints I see from the few people still running Solaris is that they still can't get access to the source ... just to see wtf is going on. And OpenSolaris only happened as a last ditch effort before Solaris died to Linux, being forced to do something before you die because you didn't is hardly

        • by nxtw (866177)

          As much as Sun's.

          SPARC is open [opensparc.net]. I don't see open source z/Arch or POWER.

          But you have a choice of different OS's supported on their proprietary hardware, unlike Sun.

          So? If you want to run Linux or Windows, Sun will sell x86-64 hardware.

          Sun sells many proprietary products.

          Many of Sun's software products are available for free if not open source. Java and Solaris are examples of Sun products that have been open sourced.

          Oracle also makes contributions (check the stats for recent kernels, Oracle is normally s

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @10:51PM (#30678796)

    I agree it's an interesting question: how do open-source projects fare when acquired by companies that mainly focus on proprietary software?

    But the article doesn't usefully attempt to answer that question. It doesn't survey major projects that have been thus acquired, giving us details on the pros and cons each encountered, how many flourished, failed, stagnated, or were unaffected, etc. It doesn't try to figure out what the reasons for success or failure might be. It doesn't really do any analysis.

    It just asks the question, rambles on a bit, cites the one single example of MySQL's role in the Oracle acquisition (which hasn't even happened yet), and then we're done. Boring.

  • There is a natural ebb and flow to this driven by market forces. The value system is primarily driven by users of the open projects. If Oracle abuses mySQL enough then it will be forked by natural and unstoppable force. I'm not worried at all.
  • An OSS project is only in danger if there is project is backed only by commercial companies. OSS projects driven by a community and backed by some foundation (e.g. Zope foundation, Plone foundation, Python foundation) are unlikely in such a danger.

    • by Gerald (9696)

      Absolutely! Sourcefire, Digium, and CACE are killing Snort, Asterisk, and Wireshark respectively!

      Oh wait. No, those are actually examples of companies and open source projects forming beneficial ecosystems.

    • by roderickm (6912)

      That's crazy talk. There are many threats to the health and vibrancy of an open source project, and being backed by a commercial company is not a reliable indicator of danger.

      Consider the behavior of the project maintainers and planners. Do they engage the community on key issues? Do they accept outside contributions? How are conflicts resolved?

      The issue isn't who funds the developers, but the attitudes and behaviors of project leadership.

  • If someone aquires your project, it's "good" - if the primary goal is recognition for your work.

    If someone aquires your company, it's "good", in the traditional American Capitalist sense - if recognition and profit are your goals.

    I have known and worked for companies whose primary goal was to be aquired. Become profitable or successful in your own right, and let the reflection of your moral values tell you "good" or "bad".

  • What does it mean when someone is "legion"? Go Slashdot quality!

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It means there are many of them. I'm sorry you're not more widely read, but this is a common English expression.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      English, m-f, do you speak it?

      "As long as single one of us stands, we are legion." - Kain

    • by Macthorpe (960048)

      Just to add my voice to the Anonymous Cowards telling you to read a dictionary - go read a dictionary :)

      In case you can't find one: that is a perfectly legitimate use of 'legion', probably originating from "I am Legion, because we are many" in the Bible. I'm sure some budding etymologist can put my reply to shame.

  • I wouldn't mind... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IANAAC (692242) on Wednesday January 06, 2010 @11:30PM (#30679020)
    I wouldn't mind seeing MySQL die.

    Well, I shouldn't say die. I *DO* wish that it'd conform a bit more with the SQL standard though.

    Now donning my flame-retardant suit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by clickety6 (141178)

      But if MySQL conformed to the SQL standard it would no longer be MySQL - it would be TheirSQL !

  • Under Sun Microsystems, a company that was having a hard time making a profit, open source projects fared badly. Staff were cut across the company, including administrative, QA and lab support staff. When all the support staff go, the software developers gets loaded down with all that extra non-development work and they'll eventually leave too, no matter how "nice" or "friendly" the company is to open source. An attitude like "let's open source now and figure out how to make money later" is a recipe for

  • Digital sold RDB to Oracle, I suppose, about 15 years ago now. From that date you couldn't really buy RDB anymore. The value of RDB to Digital was the amount of money anybody would pay them to kill it. The same goes for OSS. If you develop a nice tool which competes with a commercial product, somebody may pay you to make it go away.

    Is that good for a FOSS project? Depends on your POV. It could be very good for the copyright holders and their accountants, lawyers, ex wives, etc.

  • QT and Nokia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fandingo (1541045) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @12:33AM (#30679368)

    Nokia aquired QT about a year ago, and Nokia has added more free licenses (LGPL). I think that Nokia has done a tremendous job keeping QT free. It's available under the LGPL now; the most recent release, 4.6, saw the first community submissions. They are also a "KDE Patron."

    Nokia does open source right.

    • Re:QT and Nokia (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @12:37AM (#30679384) Homepage Journal

      I suppose it is generally good for an OSS product to be acquired by a natural consumer of the product, but not by a competitor.

    • Nokia aquired QT about a year ago, and Nokia has added more free licenses (LGPL).

      Nokia acquired QuickTime and it released the code under the LGPL?

    • by Carewolf (581105)

      You also have to remember that Nokia had no choice of closing Qt because of the Free-Qt legal agreement it has with KDE. This meant any attempt to close-source Qt would release the last open-source version under BSD. This made embracing the advantages of open source the only viable business decision (or that the only purchasers of Trolltech would be the ones interested in keeping Qt open source).

      • by True Grit (739797) *

        This made embracing the advantages of open source the only viable business decision

        You make it sound as if they were forced into something, but they would have not bought Trolltech if they didn't like the Qt license arrangement. This wasn't a shotgun marriage, neither one was brought kicking and screaming to the altar. :)

        They did not have to invest all their own time and money that they are doing in leading the now more open & collaborative development of Qt. I'm not an insider, but they seem to be putting *more* resources into its development than TT could have.

        A very open & Fr

  • Double-Edged Sword (Score:2, Insightful)

    by i58 (886024)
    It cuts both ways. It's both good and bad. Yes, corporate ownership is a great thing, and it speaks well that companies such as IBM, Sun, Google, and Oracle show interest in open source. It may help suit and tie wearers to understand that open source != hobby quality software. But on the down side, if big company decides that it's roadmap for former open source project is where it's going, regardless of the desires of the users, well it could sour people on the product pretty quick. Even though it's open so
  • Novell, who had Microsoft sell their distro on the premise that Microsoft owned hunks of Linux is one of the last bastions of Open Source? Google gives lots of code away and sponsors events to get student developers to cut their teeth writing for Open Source projects, and it's scary that they're big bad proprietary guys getting their "commercial hooks deeper into" their own invention? And somehow the article title is the name of a Rod Stewart song about people judging the town tramp?!?!?!?!?!? Jeesh. Thing

  • So, Trolltech was acquired by Nokia, but, IIRC, Trolltech has a kind of licence for QT that contains something dramatically labelled a "poison clause", or something like that. It's designed to prevent ever changing the license to a proprietary one, thereby closing the code. I'm not sure how it's done, but this blog post [trolltech.com] may be related.
    • by True Grit (739797) *

      a kind of licence for QT that contains something dramatically labelled a "poison clause",

      Its not a clause of the software license's legalese, they just made the 'KDE Free Qt Foundation' a co-author, in effect, giving that organization the right to relicense Qt if TT ever disappeared, or got taken over by someone hostile to FOSS.

      There was, I believe, a separate document, a kind of legal 'memorandum of understanding' or whatever the lawyers call them, separately between those 2 entities that spelled out under what conditions the later could do the relicensing, but it was separate from Qt's softwa

  • Xen and Amanda (Score:3, Informative)

    by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @04:33AM (#30680304)

    Other projects include Xen virtual software (where the parent company, Xensource, was bought by Citrix.) It was very exciting for a while there, but I'm seeing the leading edge Linux users turn to KVM and the corporate users stick with VMWare, not realizing the problems of the server hardware and VMWare's ancient 2.4 kernel. I'm not sure why: I've not had the opportunity to do side-by-side comparisons with the latest versions of all of them.

    The Amanda backup software has been taken up by Zmanda, who have apparently destabilized it in the midst of trying to add glitzy GUI's to it which they sell only as corporate add-ons and which have caused two companies I know to throw it out, not because the Amanda was not fast and functional, but because the admins handed the backup management couldn't figure out the GUI and configure things properly.

    • by nxtw (866177)

      and the corporate users stick with VMWare, not realizing the problems of the server hardware and VMWare's ancient 2.4 kernel.

      VMware ESX(i) 4 uses code from 2.6.18 (I think the service console uses the RHEL kernel) and works fine on the hardware corporate users run it on.

      • _Good_. When was that released? VMWare ESX 3.5 was a mauled and stripped version of RHEL 3, and oh, dear me, it was painful to backport contemporary account management or monitoring tools into, and tended to have serious problems with hardware components whose drivers were less than 4 years old.

        • by nxtw (866177)

          Released May 2009.

          The goal of ESX(i) isn't to support all modern x86_64 compatible hardware though; it works with a subset of the hardware supported by Linux 2.6.18 and officially supports a subset of that. That's why they have a HCL.

          • You're correct. But that subset was getting much too _small_ with ESX 3.5 and the old 2.4 kernel. And its lack of IDE emulation made for additional work migrating ancient servers into VMWare for legacy support reasons difficult in ways it needn't be. Has that been addressed in ESX 4.0? And has anyone over at RedHat and VMWare figured out how to license a bundle of vitualized instances? To manage costs, and stop wasting time _arguing_ about licensing, I had to switch a whole VMWare environment over to CentOS

            • by ckaminski (82854)
              VMware isn't interested in solving some of these complex problems. They've (so far) left it for third parties to fulfill. Licensing is turning out to be a major pain in the ass with our Lab Manager deployment, but as far as I can tell, there's nothing like it in the KVM/Xen world.
  • how open is open? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by StripedCow (776465)

    The real question, how "open" is an open source project?

    If the code is one big spaghetti soup and there's virtually no documentation, then I'd say the project isn't really "open", and the "forkability" of the project is close to zero, as new developers aren't likely to pick up the project once its original developers get bought away... instead, in that case, it's more likely that new developers will stand up and write something new from scratch, although that may take a while of course.

    On the other hand, if

    • by Stumbles (602007)
      Your way off base. Openess and forkability has zero to do with spaghetti code and readability; your semantic argument is bogus. It has everything to do with the GPL License; which in a nutshell your free to do. Of the GPL projects that have forked (that I am aware of), the fundamental reason for the event was due to lousy management or unresponsiveness.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by StripedCow (776465)

        And what happens when the original developers get bought away by a company with bad intentions? you can bet that lousy management and unresponsiveness will result...

        Then, if the code is unreadable and documentation is missing, in all likelihood, nobody will fork the project, or the new developers will probably do a bad job.

        That's my point.

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