Thursday, August 16, 2007

Larry Ellison: Open Source has no value in and of itself

From an interview with Larry Ellison:

Regarding future challenges, Ellison dismisses open source as a threat to Oracle.

"Open source is not something to be feared. Open source is something to be explained. Open source wins not because it's open and not because it's free. Open source wins only when it's better," he says.

To me this is another example of Oracle trying to address open source by dismissing it. Of course people only choose something because it is better. But Larry doesn't acknowledge that open source is inherently better because it is open and free.

When it is open, it allows for innovation. When it is open, it prevents you from getting locked into a single vendor. Both OEMs and customers trust it because it is not controlled by someone who may be a competitor either in business or politics. When it is free, it delivers significant price/performance benefits.

Larry goes on to say

the purchase price of software is only about 10 percent of the total cost of ownership of software. So even if the software is free, the most you can save is 10 percent off. Now the question is, what are your other costs of developing applications, of running applications on a daily basis, of dealing with problems when they occur? We think that Oracle is absolutely very competitive with open source

I think what Larry is saying here is that open source, if it is poor quality, gives you longer-term higher costs in terms of day-to-day maintenance. But I don't know if there is any data that shows that PostgreSQL or MySQL is not as stable or reliable as Oracle. And here again he is missing the value of open source: the community makes open source more reliable over time, because there are more eyeballs and more people making fixes. It's true for security, and it's true for quality.

My general feeling is, Larry is trying to pooh-pooh open source, because his customers are looking very closely at lower-cost and independent solutions. So Oracle's job is to dismiss and scare and keep their customers from taking open source databases seriously. But if I were Oracle, I'd be checking my rear-view mirror, because history has shown that open source goes where you never expect it would go: operating systems, applications servers, office suites, and, yes, enterprise databases.

1 comment:

Masood Mortazavi said...

Even if only 10%, that's still significant enough. Banks and other busineses are built or broken with a lower cost difference!