As Published In

Oracle Magazine
July/August 2010

AT ORACLE: Interview


Open for Business

By Rich Schwerin

Oracle Chief Corporate Architect Edward Screven on the importance of open source and open standards

With the integration of Sun earlier this year, Oracle renewed its commitment to open source technology. Today, Oracle supports a wide range of open source technologies—from MySQL, GlassFish, and OpenOffice.org to Linux, NetBeans, and many more. Oracle Magazine contributor Rich Schwerin sat down with Oracle Chief Corporate Architect Edward Screven to discuss Oracle’s long-standing dedication to open source and open standards. The following is an excerpt from that interview. Download a podcast of the full interview at oracle.com/magcasts .

Oracle Magazine: What is Oracle’s open source strategy?

Screven: The first thing that I want to point out is that Oracle doesn’t really have an open source-specific strategy. What we have is an overall company strategy: to deliver complete, open, integrated solutions to our customers. Stacks of software and hardware that are built together and tested together and serviced together. And open source is part of that.

Open source is both a development methodology and a business model for software, which is different from conventional software and conventional hardware but still a very effective way to build components that are valuable for our customers.

Oracle Magazine: Of the many open source technologies Oracle obtained via the Sun acquisition, one in particular has drawn a lot of attention: MySQL. What is Oracle’s strategy for MySQL?

Screven: We have three major thrusts. One is to make MySQL a better product. So add features, add functionality, make it perform better, improve its quality. The second is to make MySQL support better. To make sure that customers who are getting support from Oracle for MySQL and also other Oracle products get that same integrated support experience for MySQL that they get with Oracle Database.

Finally, we want to make MySQL more integrated with the rest of the Oracle stack. So, for example, it makes a lot of sense for us in the long run to make MySQL manageable through Oracle Enterprise Manager, to make MySQL backup coordinated through Oracle Secure Backup, and to make MySQL auditing records delivered into Oracle Audit Vault.

Oracle Magazine: Several years ago, Oracle acquired InnoDB, an open source storage engine. How does InnoDB fit into Oracle’s open source portfolio?

Screven: InnoDB is a very interesting technology. It’s by far the most widely deployed transactional storage engine underneath MySQL. When we acquired it, I think a lot of people thought that perhaps we did it as a way to somehow attack MySQL, but that’s not at all why we bought it. We bought it because it was an interesting technology, and when we acquired it we doubled the number of engineers and improved its performance and functionality.

Now, as a side effect of acquiring Sun, we have both MySQL and InnoDB together, and that’s going to be a very good thing for MySQL users because it means that those two development teams can merge together and that we can deliver innovations in the storage engine to MySQL customers faster.

Oracle Magazine: Let’s discuss what some have described as the software development crown jewel of the Sun acquisition: Java. What is Oracle’s Java strategy?

Screven: Java is really one of the most important computing technologies ever. It’s a programming environment and language technology that is extremely widely deployed both in terms of number of devices and computers—literally billions. And there are different scopes of deployment—for example, very small Java implementations that run on smart cards and then Java implementations that run on the largest SMP [symmetric multiprocessing] boxes.

That ubiquity of the programming language and programming model is very powerful for customers and developers. Our strategy is to continue to push the boundaries of that. So, continue to enhance the programming model and the APIs. Continue to invest in Java as a technology at every single scope, at every single scale. To try to make sure that Java remains, by far, the premier development programming language and programming environment on the planet.

Oracle Magazine: How does Oracle Fusion Middleware use and support open source?

Screven: Oracle Fusion Middleware is a microcosm reflecting Oracle’s overall approach to open source. There are many open source components that are part of Oracle Fusion Middleware. For example, many parts of Java itself are open source. The underlying Oracle WebCenter infrastructure of Oracle Fusion Middleware is based on Apache. There are lots of Apache components that are built into Oracle Fusion Middleware besides just the Web listener.

GlassFish is an open source Java EE [Java Platform, Enterprise Edition] reference implementation. Eclipse is a development tool, and Oracle Fusion Middleware includes a lot of plug-ins for Eclipse. NetBeans IDE [integrated development environment] is another open source product that continues to be a choice for Oracle Fusion Middleware developers.

Oracle Magazine: Oracle has long supported the open source Linux operating system, going back to the first database on Linux in 1998. What is the status of Oracle’s Linux commitment today?

Screven: We’re as committed to Linux today as we were in 1998. Linux continues to be a base development platform for Oracle. It continues to be a strategic platform for us on x86. We have more Linux engineers today than we’ve ever had, and we’ll continue to hire more. Linux is absolutely a central part of our complete, open, integrated strategy.

Oracle Magazine: What does Oracle contribute to the open source Linux community?

Screven: Our contributions are focused on technologies that make sense in server environments, for the most part. So, for example, Oracle Cluster File System 2, a new file system called Btrfs, some clustering work, data integrity work, storage validation, asynchronous I/O—lots of things that make enterprise software faster and more reliable.

Oracle Magazine: What is the status of Oracle’s virtualization offerings? 

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Screven: With the Sun acquisition, Oracle has by far the broadest range of virtualization products available in the marketplace. Oracle VM includes two major components: Oracle VM Server, a Xen-based bare metal hypervisor for x86 and x86_64 for hosting guest VMs [virtual machines]; and Oracle VM Manager, a Web-based management solution for centrally managing Oracle VM Servers and guest VMs. We also have something called Oracle VirtualBox, which is a hosted virtualization environment. It runs on Windows, Linux, and other operating systems. And it lets you get a virtualized environment right on your laptop or desktop.

Oracle Magazine: We’ve discussed MySQL and Java. Another open source product with a significant installed base is OpenOffice. What does Oracle have in store for OpenOffice?

Screven: OpenOffice is an open standards-based office productivity suite. It’s being managed inside Oracle as a separate global business unit, which means that its development team and its sales team are within their own special organization, and I think it’s a very compelling offering. It allows users to share documents that are defined in an open standards-based format, and there’s a new technology coming out of that group called Oracle Cloud Office. Oracle Cloud Office lets a customer manipulate standards-based open-document-format documents through rich HTML user interfaces. And those rich HTML user interfaces can be accessed through a browser on your laptop or your desktop and also on browsers that are available today through smartphones.

Oracle Magazine: With today’s open standards, customers are able to run both open source and commercial software in production environments. What is Oracle’s view of the role and importance of open standards?

Screven: Our goal in providing that complete suite of software is not to lock people into a given stack. It’s to offer customers the benefit of having preintegrated components. But customers aren’t going to choose that stack if they feel that somehow they’re locked into software only from Oracle. So it’s very important for us to base our software on open standards. And I think it’s very important for customers to choose software that’s based on open standards.

Oracle Magazine: What does Oracle’s support for open standards mean for real-world customer environments?

Screven: Real-world customers have heterogeneous environments. Focusing on open standards gives customers a way to create an infrastructure where they have a chance to integrate things, where they can avoid creating islands of applications and databases that they cannot integrate unless they take extraordinary, expensive measures. So open standards reduce customers’ costs. That’s the bottom line. 


Rich Schwerin

Rich Schwerin
is a senior product marketing manager for Linux and open source at Oracle.


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