Funding key to open source success, Ellison says

The success of Linux and other open source projects has depended heavily on the support and investment of major IT companies, Oracle Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison said on Thursday.

“Open source becomes successful when major industrial corporations invest heavily in that open source project,” Ellison said at a Tokyo news conference. “Every open source product that has become tremendously successful became successful because of huge dollar investments from commercial IT operations like IBM and Intel and Oracle and others,” he said.

He highlighted his own company’s work in developing and promoting Linux, and said the operating system would not have enjoyed the success that it has without vendor backing.

“There’s a lot of romantic notions about open source,” Ellison said. “That just from the air these developers contribute and don’t charge. Let me tell you the names of the companies that developed Linux: IBM, Intel, Oracle — not a community of people who think everything should be free. Open source is not a communist movement.”

Ellison made his remarks at a meeting with reporters during Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in Japan, where the company unveiled a new enterprise search technology.

Some analysts have credited Linux ‘s success to support from big vendors, notably IBM’s decision in 2000 to invest $1 billion in the operating system. Still, Ellison’s remarks are sure to rile the open-source community, which will point to open-source programs that became widely used on the Internet under their own steam, such as the Apache Web server.

Oracle has more developers working on Linux than Red Hat Inc., according to Ellison. Its work has included developing a clustered file system for Linux, he noted. Oracle also holds a majority stake in Tokyo-based Miracle Linux Corp., which created the Asianux Linux distribution with companies in South Korea and China.

Oracle itself has been acquiring open source vendors in recent months. In February it bought database vendor Sleepycat Software Inc., and last year it bought Finland’s Innobase OY. Both companies make transactional storage engines used with MySQL AB’s open-source database, prompting speculation that Oracle is trying to undermine MySQL’s business.

Ellison denied any such intentions Thursday and played down MySQL’s status as an Oracle rival. Oracle has talked to MySQL in the past about a possible acquisition but the company is no longer “near the top of our list,” he said.

“We’ve spoken to them, in fact we’ve spoken to almost everyone,” he said, when asked if Oracle wants to buy MySQL. “Are we interested? It’s a tiny company. I think the revenues from MySQL are between $30 million and $40 million. Oracle’s revenue next year is $15 billion.”

MySQL is privately held and does not report its financial results publicly.

“I’ll think you’ll see us buy components that make business sense and add technology and do things that our software doesn’t do,” Ellison said. “[With regard to] MySQL, never say never, but it’s not near the top of our list.”

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