Oracle sheds new light on future of Sun technologies

Oracle has provided new details about its plans for certain key Sun Microsystems technologies, including the GlassFish application server and the NetBeans application development toolkit.

The software giant announced plans to buy Sun earlier this year, but the deal is on hold while European authorities conduct an antitrust review. Meanwhile, users have questioned the fate of Sun software and systems under Oracle, with particular concern centering on the MySQL open-source database.

Oracle plans to “continue evolving” GlassFish, which is a competitor to its WebLogic application server, as well as provide active support to the GlassFish community, according to an updated FAQ on the acquisition.

In addition, Oracle “plans to invest in aligning common infrastructure components and innovations from Oracle WebLogic Server and GlassFish Enterprise Server” to benefit customers in both camps, according to the FAQ.

It was not clear Thursday when the document was updated. An Oracle spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FAQ expresses a much more lukewarm commitment to NetBeans, saying only that it is expected to provide “an additional open source option and complement” to Oracle’s tools, which include JDeveloper and Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse. JDeveloper is part of Oracle’s Fusion Middleware portfolio, which underpins the company’s next-generation Fusion Applications. An initial Fusion Applications suite is expected next year after a protracted delay.

Sun’s OpenOffice productivity suite will also see continued development and support as an open-source project under Oracle, according to the FAQ. The suite will “create a compelling desktop integration bridge for our enterprise customers and offers consumers another choice on the desktop,” Oracle said. Like Sun, Oracle plans to offer “a typical commercial license option” for customers that want “extra assurances, support, and enterprise tools.”

Oracle is also planning to preserve Sun’s lineup of desktop virtualization software, which includes VDI, Sun Ray, Secure Global Desktop and VirtualBox, according to the FAQ.

Sun’s identity management and SOA (service oriented architecture) software will be integrated into Fusion Middleware, the FAQ adds.

Finally, Sun’s Ops Center system management product is “highly complementary” to Oracle’s Enterprise Manager, and they are “expected to combine and deliver to customers the most complete top-down application and systems management environment from applications to hardware.”

The FAQ, which is only a “general product direction” and “not a commitment to deliver any material, code or functionality,” provides no new information about MySQL. Oracle has said it plans to continue developing the database and will spend more money than Sun did on it.

But MySQL is far from the only Sun technology with a loyal and concerned following.

“Many people have been wondering about GlassFish and NetBeans, especially the second,” said Michael Coté, an analyst with Redmonk. “While NetBeans fell behind in the Eclipse/NetBeans battle long ago, in recent years there’s been some nice innovations in the NetBeans world. … It would be a shame to see it die on the vine.”

While many users have expressed concern over the fate of MySQL, others have pointed to the various MySQL offshoots, such as the Drizzle project, as evidence the database’s future is sound.

It’s hard to say whether NetBeans has the same support, according to Coté. “I wouldn’t think so, but there might be a passionate NetBeans fork-group I don’t know about.”

Meanwhile, with GlassFish, Oracle “stops just short of saying they’re going to mingle the code bases,” Coté said. “There’s no universal, technical definition of what ‘aligning’ means. … I’d assume they mean make them work with each other or somehow friendly with each other.”

But others expressed skepticism over the pledges contained in the FAQ.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I am afraid this will only last (most likely) till the first quarter when Oracle fails to meet financial expectations,” wrote a commenter on the Java developer blog Javalobby. “Cuts will have to follow and guess who will be up first. That’s just how it works. Oracle can’t maintain 2 or 3 competing product lines (and I can only imagine the amount of internal politics between JDeveloper and NetBeans teams, Glassfish vs Weblogic teams, etc).”

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