Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Google-Facebook-Apple haters, here's another proponent of the "closed is wonderful" argument

There is a certain segment of the tech world (and I'll admit that I probably fall into this category) that believes that open is wonderful, closed is bad, and being locked into a single solution is pretty much signing your death warrant.

We freak out when Google becomes so pervasive that you can't escape it.

We freak out when Apple's penchant for secrecy results in the police barging into a house by breaking down a door.

We freak out when Facebook, with its hundreds of millions of users, makes a play to dominate and track all online interactions.

And we yell "open, open," standing on a hill, teaching people to sing in perfect harmony...

...and therein lies the problem. You see, open means a number of things to a number of people, and even when something is standards-compliant, it isn't necessarily plug and play.

(And it's humorous to note that "plug and play" is associated with Microsoft, which was the Axis of Evil for the last tech generation. Now Microsoft is perceived to be more open than, say, Apple. As Vic the Brick would say, "Who knew?")

So even though the word "closed" has negative connotations, it has a lot going for it. Perhaps you can't buy porn for your Apple device, but at least the components of the Apple device generally work well together. You don't have to worry about item A not working with item B. And this lack of worry also leads to cost savings.

Enter Oracle's Charles Phillips, as reported by Bob Evans:

"What CIOs are struggling with right now," said Phillips in an interview Thursday in Manhattan, "is trying to find a way to get the opportunity and ability to manage the entire stack with a single management tool that's predictive about how that stack's going to behave, how the change-management around it is more prescriptive and planned and where they really know how to upgrade and patch the entire stack.

"All the dependencies between these layers—the middleware, database, storage, software, systems—they're all related but unpredictable," Phillips said. "And that's the cycle they're trying to get out of—all that need to constantly provision and manage—it's a huge cost and it's kinda boring and takes lots of people to do it and it's risky."

Note that Oracle has always argued that their components are standards-compliant and play well with others...but that you get better advantages by going to an all-Oracle solution. Phillips emphasized the latter, and Evans took special note of these comments:

"You don't need 18 different vendors and 2,000 configurations to have competition—you've got to limit it some. And I think we've convinced people that makes sense and beyond that we think the whole industry's just moving in that direction. And we can accelerate that by standardizing that entire stack and showing people how it's done..."

And here's the clincher:

"...people like that 'iPod for the enterprise' analogy"

Yet, in a way, Oracle doesn't completely practice what it preaches. If a multiplicity of configurations and vendors is a bad thing, you would think that Oracle would get in bed with Apple and offer the optimum solution. Yet Oracle's preferred operating system, one on which Oracle products are always released first, is Linux. Yes, Oracle has its own Oracle-branded flavor of Linux, but the Oracle products are available for the Red Hats and SUSEs of the world at the same time.

Now Oracle is available on the Mac, to be sure. In fact, this page, last updated in September 2009 as I write this, trumpets the available of Oracle Database on the Mac...Oracle Database 10g Release 2.

For those who don't follow the Oracle world closely, the release that is available for the Linux folks is Oracle Database *11g* Release 2.

Certainly a lot of this has to do with market demand factors - demand for enterprise databases on the Mac platform might be a "Sony Betamax" kind of deal - but it does go to show that a closed architecture - I mean an intelligently-designed architecture - is not the only key to success.
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