Oracle Corp has declined to comment on rumors that it is about to open its wallet once again to acquire one or more open source software vendors.
Industry rumors have recently linked Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle with a move for open source Java middleware specialist JBoss Inc, and culminated in a BusinessWeek report stating that Oracle is also in talks with Zend Technologies Inc and Sleepycat Software Inc. Citing sources involved in the talks, BusinessWeek has reported that Oracle is likely to pay about $400m for JBoss and $200m for Zend, with the Sleepycat deal expected to close as early as next week.
A source close to Oracle told Computer Business Review that the company is keen to raise its profile as an open source software supporter as the profile of open source software increases at the application layer, as opposed to the infrastructure tier.
None of the parties involved are talking, except to say that they do not comment on industry rumors, but Oracle’s chief executive Larry Ellison earlier last week said the company was taking a more aggressive approach with regards to open source. We are moving aggressively into open source, he told the 2006 Credit Suisse Global Software Conference. We’re embracing it, we’re not going to fight this trend. We think if we’re clever we can make it work to our advantage.
Ellison went on to highlight middleware as a potential acquisition focus for the company. We don’t buy things in areas where we don’t think we can end up as the number one software company, he said. We are certainly not number one in middleware and I think you’ll see us make some acquisitions in middleware. We’re number one in database and if we’re playing in middleware we feel we have to be the number one player.
Atlanta, Georgia-based JBoss is home to the most popular Java application server, according to the BZ Research’s most recent Annual Java Use and Awareness Study, which gave JBoss AS a 33.9% share of the market in 2004, ahead of IBM Corp with 32.9%, BEA Systems Inc with 27.9%, and Oracle with 21.4%.
A move for JBoss would also help Oracle counter the potential threat posed by IBM’s WebSphere Community Edition, the repackaged open source application server it acquired along with Gluecode Software Inc in May 2005.
JBoss might well boost, or help Oracle protect, its market share, but also expand the company’s Java middleware expertise. JBoss is more than just an application server, with development tools, message queue, transaction management, data cache, business process management, portal, and persistence technologies, also included in the Java Enterprise Middleware Suite.
Cupertino, California-based Zend, meanwhile, is already an Oracle partner, having teamed up with the company to release Zend Core for Oracle, a tested PHP development and production environment for creating PHP applications that will be tightly integrated with the Oracle Database, in October 2005.
Zend is the company behind the open source PHP programming language and given PHP’s popularity as a web-application development language, the acquisition of Zend could give Oracle an advantage in the move to dynamic SOA-enabled enterprise applications.
Lincoln, Massachusetts-based Sleepycat would add embedded database expertise, and might also enable Oracle to defend its database market share from open source interlopers such as MySQL AB and EnterpriseDB Corp.
Sleepycat claims over 200 million deployments of its Berkeley DB, which is available under both open source and commercial licenses and runs on Linux, Unix, and Windows, as well as embedded operating systems such as VxWorks, QNX, and embedded Linux.
It should not be forgotten, meanwhile that a move for any or all of these companies would not be Oracle’s first open source software acquisition. In October 2005 it acquired Innobase Oy, the developer of the InnoDB storage engine.
That move was seen as something of a MySQL-spoiler given that InnoDB was MySQL’s storage engine of choice, but perhaps it hinted at a new open source strategy for Oracle.
While it remains to be seen how Oracle’s open source strategy will develop, one thing the company has done is to partner with open source software services firm SourceLabs Inc to certify SourceLabs’s SASH open source stack for Java with Oracle Application Server 10g.
The SASH stack for Java includes Apache Struts, Apache Axis, the Spring Framework, and Hibernate and is supported on BEA’s WebLogic, IBM’s WebSphere and the Apache Tomcat servlet container, as well as Oracle’s database management system, and now the application server.