Why Open Source is Good

If you’re ever in the situation where people try to convince you that a commercial application is better than an open source one because “you never know what is going to happen to the open source one” (rather than technical merits) then this little story might be handy to keep in mind.

Sun Microsystems had their own “Single Sign On” product called Access Manager, which they open sourced back in 2008. Now when Oracle took over they decided it wasn’t really their thing, and so shut it down, for reasons best known to themselves. Now had this still been a proprietary application that would have been that, dead, finito, it is an ex-parrot, it has ceased to be. But not with this one, as in the best (worst?) zombie movies it has risen from the dead again (or to keep the Python sketch going, it muscled up to the bars of the cage and ‘Voom!’):

But here it comes the awesomeness of the open source community: A Norwegian company called ForgeRock has stepped up to give OpenSSO a new home and continue developing OpenSSO under a new name: OpenAM (because of trademark issues with the name). They claim they will continue with Sun’s original roadmap for the product, and they have started to make available again all of the express builds, including agents, that were removed from OpenSSO’s site, and a new wiki with all the content that once was available at dev.java.net.

So the real power of Open Source isn’t that people will magically keep things going (they are just human after all) but that if *you* need to keep something going then you can, despite what any company says..

2 thoughts on “Why Open Source is Good

  1. I don’t believe Oracle intended to kill it, but actively orphan it – one of the overtones of “kill” is that you want it dead, but in Oracle’s case it competed with an existing product and got it axed.

    They’re allowed to do that, just like Linus *could* walk away from the Kernel. That it got picked up again is good.

    But I can’t call it “killing” unless the goal is for it to stay dead.

  2. Agreed, though I don’t think I mentioned “kill” in the blog, rather “shut down” (as in stop devoting resources to it). Oracle know enough about open source to know it can’t stay dead.

    Ah, I said “killed” on Twitter, but then the character limit there does impose those sorts of compromises. 🙂

    At some point Linus will stop working on the Linux kernel, if only because he’s not immortal, so yes it will have to be able to survive that. You could argue that the enterprise Linux distros (RHEL/SLES) already maintain their own forks of it internally to keep their customers happy, so it’s quite feasible. In fact git makes it even easier to fork should you wish.

    One of the motivations on this blog was after a little bit of FUD from a vendor saying that Oracle could kill off Lustre after taking over Sun, but their proprietary product was safe from that sort of thing. Er, didn’t make sense to me…

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