Oracle: Open source brings us new customers

Oracle isn't only looking to buy up open-source technology but sees the software as a route to new customers, according to company executives

Oracle isn't only looking to buy up open-source technology, but sees the software as opening up a route to potential future Oracle users.

Company executives offered their take Tuesday on how the acquisition-hungry database and applications vendor views open-source software. They addressed the subject during the question-and-answer period in a conference call to discuss plans for a new Oracle telecom service delivery platform.

"We're increasingly interested in open source as a way of reaching customers we can't reach today," said Charles Phillips, Oracle president.

"We'll continue to review selected opportunities in open source," Phillips said in response to questions about whether Oracle plans other acquisitions in that market. The company has already acquired two open-source database players, Sleepycat in February and Innobase in October. Rumors swirled around the time of the Sleepycat purchase that Oracle was also going to buy open-source middleware player JBoss and PHP developer Zend Technologies. Last week, Linux distribution player Red Hat announced its intention to buy JBoss for more than US$350 million.

However, Phillips stressed that Oracle doesn't believe in paying large amounts of money for open-source companies. "In the end you don't end up owning the IP [intellectual property] behind it," he said, adding any future purchases would be priced "within reason."

The Oracle president echoed comments made by the company's Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison in a story published earlier this week by the Financial Times.

In the article, Ellison said Oracle had looked at each of the two leading Linux distribution players, Red Hat and Novell Inc., but had decided against buying either of them since Oracle wouldn't own the IP. Ellison did express his wish for Oracle to be able to offer its own complete software stack, pointing out the company doesn't have its own operating system and that being able to distribute a version of Linux might make sense.

Open source is important to Oracle's middleware strategy, according to Thomas Kurian, Oracle senior vice president of server technologies development. He was on Tuesday's call with Phillips.

Oracle already integrates its Fusion middleware with open-source middleware and tools, Kurian said. The company has also contributed to various open-source projects including the Apache Software Foundation and the Eclipse Foundation as well as Sun Microsystems's Project Glassfish application server. Kurian added that Oracle is likely to announce further open-source contributions at Sun's JavaOne conference in San Francisco next month.

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