Big guns behaving badly

Oracle delivers a contradictory verdict on open-source

Lucy Carey

According to the software giant, no open-source is good enough for the US Department of Defense- unless it comes from Oracle, of course.

Oracle’s distaste for genuine open-source is evident in so many ways. From its slow disengagement with the MySQL community, to the cloak and dagger approach it takes to Java security, it’s clear Larry Ellison et al would much prefer to keep their cards and code very close to their chests.

And then there’s the less subtle things. The software Sauron’s approach to open source is made resoundingly obvious in new Oracle, white paper titled “The Department of Defence (DoD) and Open Source Software”.

In it, Oracle delivers a damning critique of open source software – writing that the US DoD’s belief that it can save money by developing their own applications with open source software as a foundation is misguided. After a lengthy discussion, it arrives at the crux of its argument; it would be far better to just cough up and partner with Oracle, which, wouldn’t you know, has tons of open-source projects at its fingertips. That is, ones which “as needs grow” (so says the report) can be switched for “the commercial offering from Oracle”.

Although the paper does raise a few valid points, such as the fact that it would be more difficult to guarantee the security of open source- rooted software projects than those from one single source, the overall gist is that it would be ridiculous for the DoD to even contemplate turning to more diverse open-source for their development.

This paper comes at a time when the US government is wrangling with the repercussions of its decision to entrust its complex new health insurance registration service to one hapless vendor – an issue that actually underlines the advantages of open-sourcing.

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