The Story of a Tweet - Oracle's Premium JVM

This is the story of a tweet...

Last week Adam went to QCon San Francisco to talk about "The Road Ahead for Java". Adam covered the Java SE Strategy, presented by Oracle at JavaOne via a PR, keynotes and sessions like S319476 by Paul and Henrik. The relevant section from the PR is:

The Oracle JDK and Java Runtime Environment (JRE) will continue to be available as free downloads, with no changes to the existing licensing models.

Premium offerings such as JRockit Mission Control, JRockit Real Time, Java for Business and Enterprise Support will continue to be made available for an additional charge.

Now, I don't know what exact words Adam used to describe the premium services but Michael Nygard posted this tweet:

"It's our intent to have a premium version of the JDK." Said in addition to the open source JDK. #qconsf

Nothing wrong there, it's just a tweet; and maybe Adam even used those exact words.  The only problem is what happened afterwards.

That one tweet was retweeted heavily, somewhere in the process was reinterpreted as "premium JVM" and given all sorts of extra attributes, was then taken as truth by some journalists , and was then further spread through news, blogs and tweets. The whole thing moved quickly around the world. The original tweet was Saturday, the 6th, I spent 5 minutes at Google News yesterday, only looked at a few local editions, and came up with these stories:

Plus discussions at DZone, SlashDot, The Server Side, and multiple mailing lists.

All of this from a single tweet, "validated" by "the press".

Several of us spent a fair amount of time over the weekend trying to point folks to the correct information. Yesterday, Henrik got an extra-quick approval for an official Oracle's JVM Strategy and Dalibor then used it in Extra! Extra! Oracle Premium JVM! Read all about it! and I'm using it in this note. But it's much easier to spread misinformation than to correct it; go through the list above and see how many are publishing corrections...

The moral? To me there are two:

  • Journalists (and bloggers and tweeters) should remember this quote from Graeme Philipson (via @robilad):
       journalists must be vigilant for the facts in an online era of instant disinformation
  • And readers need to use your judgment when reading news.

Sounds like motherhood and apple-pie, but good reminders for all of us...

And before going back to our normal topics, I'll mention that last week saw a similar fire-drill around InnoDB and MySQL - see Get The Facts: MySQL Licensing and Pricing.

PS. And, to be extra clear, I do not blame Michael at all; his tweet was totally fine.

Comments:

The perception counts. It doesn't matter that much what marketing says. Partially due Larry Ellisons personality, the perception is that Oracle is ruthless and greedy. The James Gosling issue, the Oracle-Google lawsuit, Hologic, the Doug Lea issue, the MySQL licensing change, the Apache JCP issue, and the Premium JDK all enforce this perception unfortunately.

Posted by Thomas Mueller on November 11, 2010 at 04:03 PM PST #

s/morale/moral

Posted by I cant' help it. on November 11, 2010 at 10:36 PM PST #

Thanks. Fixed the typo.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 11, 2010 at 10:44 PM PST #

Hi Thomas. I agree, Michael's tweet was interpreted based on reader's perception of Oracle. We have been trying to change some of that perception through better communication and actual changes, so this incident was a bit frustrating at the beginning, although we have used the opportunity to accelerate some changes.

A couple of comments.

On the "does not matter much what marketing says" - Actually, I think marketing has said very little. Henrik, Adam Leftik and John are Product Management; they drive the product features, etc. Dalibor is community evangelism. Adam Messinger, Steve Harris, Alexis, Arun, myself, are engineering.

On your list of contributors to the perception of Oracle - Oracle is not Sun, which, given that Sun went out of business, is not bad. Some of the things you list won't change, some where unfinished business inherited from Sun, some are areas where Oracle should incorporate lessons learned from Sun. We are working on those.

Hope this helps,

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 11, 2010 at 11:48 PM PST #

I understand it's frustrating when statements are misinterpreted. But I guess it's not a solution to communicating less because of this risk. Oracle and Sun are quite different, and that may be one of the reasons people are now overly pessimistic about the future of Java.

Posted by Thomas Mueller on November 12, 2010 at 12:35 AM PST #

> Oracle is not Sun, which, given that Sun went out of business, is not bad.

That's very sweeping. Much that Sun was doing was good, and regarding it all as discardable "because Sun went out of business" and regarding all Oracle's tone-deaf community handling as good because they make a profit is a great way to further alienate people.

One thing Sun got right was having staff quickly own up in semi-private (and increasingly in public) when Sun made mistakes. I am sickened by the constant stream of upbeat arrogance from Oracle in the midst of terrible foul-ups, especially from people who used to speak honestly when at Sun like Mr Topic. You've collectively thrown away Sun's hard-won ability to speak with a human voice, and that's a tragedy.

Posted by Foss Guy on November 12, 2010 at 01:04 AM PST #

People believe of your company things that are similar to your actual practices. Oracle killed opensolaris by simple non-response to questions, the OpenOffice.org community is falling apart, and Oracle is fighting with Google and Apache about Java. In almost all of these circumstances, there has been no official word from Oracle.

We believe rumors about Oracle because your community involvement, interaction, and PR responses frankly sucks. Doing things and not talking to the community would be business as usual. You want people to believe you? Start talking and acting like it matters to you what people think.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2010 at 01:08 AM PST #

re: "that's very sweeping" - I think you are reading more in that sentence that what it says.

I worked at Sun for over 20 years and did so because most of the time I believed I had the best job in the industry. I loved Sun and I think much of what we (I'm using "we" very intentionally) did was great for the industry, and for the technical and user communities.

But, there were things on how Sun operated, and on its financial and business relationships that caused Sun not to be commercially viable in the economy of the last few years, while Oracle has. Also, Oracle can face up-front a number of hard problems that Sun could not; partly because of financial muscle, partly because of business links, partly because its relationship to the industry is based on different propositions.

I see the internal details and I can say that Oracle is learning and is trying to act on that. Its harder than it seems; corporations have cultures and ways to do things, and changing/adjusting those in a large corporation is not easy, but I can honestly say that most of the Oracle folks I've interacted with are smart and trying to do the right thing.

And regarding speaking with a human voice and with honesty, please let me know when you feel I am not.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 12, 2010 at 01:35 AM PST #

Hi Thomas. All the Oracle folks I've talked with are trying to increase communication. Henrik [1] is a great example.

Regarding Sun and Oracle, see my reply to the "Foss Guy". Also, the story on Apple and the OpenJDK is a good example of something that Oracle can do more easily than Sun [2].

[1]http://blogs.oracle.com/henrik/
[2]http://blogs.sun.com/theaquarium/entry/apple_joins_openjdk

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 12, 2010 at 01:38 AM PST #

Good grief.

140 characters, combined with the rapid pace of a conference talk doesn't leave much room to capture nuance.

Adam was pretty clear in his talk. There will be a premium version, and there will continue to be a gratis version.

The trouble comes when a message goes through lossy compression (into 140 chars) and decompression (via the readers' fears, biases, and expectations.)

It's like overcompressing an audio signal, decompressing it into a crunchy sound full of hiss, then amplifying just the distortion! The original message gets lost, or even reversed.

I certainly didn't set out to create work for Oracle's PR people. I think we need them to be focused on communicating Oracle's actual strategy, plan, and intentions. So far, other parties have been setting the agenda for the conversation, with Oracle being all too quiet.

Posted by Michael Nygard on November 12, 2010 at 01:56 AM PST #

Nevermind OpenOffice falling apart and the developers leaving to form Libre Office.

Or Open Solaris

Posted by Dan on November 12, 2010 at 02:07 AM PST #

hi Steve. I believe some of your points are similar to other comments; I tried to address them in my replies, let me know if that is not so. You bring two additional points.

On OpenSolaris - I can't talk very well about OpenSolaris, and even less so about OpenOffice, sorry. One of the ways Oracle is different to Sun is that Sun had a consistent approach about OSS, while Oracle handles OSS in a business-by-business approach. This is very important and I think should be known more widely. When you read about Oracle doing this or that on OSS in an area, you should not map it to another area automatically. The constant is that Oracle will do what it thinks is good for the (\*long term\*!) benefit of the business (balancing short-term profits - yes, not always easy).

Google and Apache are legal topics which makes it hard for any of us to comment on. This is not new, it was already the case under Sun.

Hope this helps some.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 12, 2010 at 02:09 AM PST #

Hi Michael. I am sorry your tweet was the trigger for this. I hope I made it clear that I believe your tweet was 100% fine; the problem is how it was (mis)interpreted. You were actually doing a very good job with #qcon!

Yes, we need more communication. A number of us are working on that, not just "Sun Legacy" folks but many "Oracle Classic" ones, including Justin and Henrik.

Thanks, and please keep tweeting!

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 12, 2010 at 02:14 AM PST #

Hi Dan. See my comment on OpenSolaris, OpenOffice and how Oracle handles OSS. I report to Steve Harris, the SVP for GlassFish and WLS; I regularly work with Henrik and Justin, so I feel I can talk about their areas but since I don't have complete information on OOo and OS, I feel I should not address those areas.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 12, 2010 at 02:18 AM PST #

Eduardo,
Well all understand things will change under Oracle's watch, some for the better, some for worse.

What pisses everyone off mostly is oracle seems to be unable to tell people effectively what they are up to. Killing OpenSolaris is OK. Very annoying for the few people who are invested in the ecosystem, but not unexpected.

Simply not responding to the board and community is just a freaking unacceptable thing.

Saying one thing and doing another is also not a great thing.
http://opensolaris.org/jive/thread.jspa?threadID=121181

Yes, Oracle's positions piss people off sometimes when clearly stated, but what really is pushing everyone away and making us believe just about anything about Oracle is the really, really crappy communication with the larger community.

I'm not against oracle, I've seen some decent Linux work they've funded that is very useful, but so far the sunacle merger has been a horrible disaster from the communities point of view.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2010 at 02:23 AM PST #

re: "unable to tell people effectively what they are up to"

I totally hear you about OpenSolaris. The uncertainty about the future of OpenSolaris even affected the credibility of GlassFish, even though Oracle had clearly explained its plans for GlassFish. The fact that these are two different LoB (line of business) reporting to different EVPs is very relevant internally but irrelevant to most external observers.

On our side, I know that the groups under AdamM and SteveH are trying hard to improve communication. It helps (a lot!) to have old-time Oracle folks like AdamM, Henrik, MikeLehman, AdamLeftik, who know how to navigate in the big machine.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 12, 2010 at 02:41 AM PST #

Hi, just as a joke...
...so you have to report to Steve Harris?
...WOW! So Oracle is not just about Iron Man, but also about Iron Maiden???

;)

Posted by Gabriele Bulfon on November 12, 2010 at 04:18 PM PST #

The problem is that very little people are well inform about all products from Sun(because Oracle don't make them). Everybody knows about Java SE, JavaEE and JavaME that are free and they will stay that way, but also there are Java edition which will have to pay in order to use them, such as Sun implementation of RTSJ(Real-time specification for Java). There are many implementation for RTSJ from various companies which are not free and less than five implementation are open(free) to use. From the features that are said by Paul and Henrik on the conference, Oracle is trying merge JRockit with Hotspot, and that will be premium edition which will not be free like JRockit. But PR is one hell of a job, and Oracle will try to convince people that this is the next best thing (like Microsoft with every new Windows).

Posted by Gjorgi Josifov on November 13, 2010 at 04:54 AM PST #

Hi Gjorgi.

Oracle is planning to merge JRockit and Hotspot. Most of the features will be free, some addons will remain for revenue.

Oracle is trying to maximize revenue, across the product offerings and over a long-time. Most of Oracle's revenue today is way up-stack from the JVM; from the AppServer up to the "Applications" (Siebel, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards - all of those are being rewritten to be Java Apps).

See it from that perspective: the extra revenue from a for-fee JVM would have to be \*very\* significant to offset a loss from even a moderate impact in Java adoption up-stack.

Oracle's first priority in this (Java) space is adoption, not revenue

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 13, 2010 at 05:06 AM PST #

Hi, Eduardo
The problem is not Oracle is the people that are not inform about the all products and features that Sun have before they were bought from Oracle, and that they create hysteria, that Java will not be free anymore. The marketing is very bad if you have not well inform people, they will make noise out of nothing.

Posted by Gjorgi Josifov on November 13, 2010 at 05:19 AM PST #

What I don't get is how come this "Premium JVM" is news now. Oracle's supported JRockit + Mission Control always cost money, did it not? At least if you wanted support. It's a free download from Oracle Technet.

To Sun's credit, they released VisualVM free. OTOH GlassFish extras for VisualVM also cost $$$.

How I wish everything was available under the GPL...

Posted by sysprv on November 13, 2010 at 06:15 AM PST #

Hi sysprv.
A number of folks are nervous during these transitional times. One version is that some authors want to sell eyeballs/cliks so they play on that nervousnes. Or maybe just that folks are honestly confused.

Anyhow, I'm really looking forward to getting into a more settled & stable situation.

re: GPL - from what Henrik and Adam have said, the bulk of the main code will be GPL but some addons / tools will be closed source.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 13, 2010 at 06:40 AM PST #

Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart: IMO Oracle needs to stop trying to control the message, which is fundamentally flawed these days.

Posted by Yuhong Bao on November 13, 2010 at 02:23 PM PST #

Thanks for your comment, Yuhong Bao, although I see this particular situation as one of accuracy, not control.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 13, 2010 at 10:35 PM PST #

The Google law suit was filed by Oracle after Oracle purchased Sun. It was not "already the case under Sun". Sun was making lots of public statements about how they thought that Android was a great thing and that it was helping to forward the cause of java. Fast forward to after Oracle purchased Sun, and Oracle is filing a patent and copyright infringement law suit against Google over Android. I understand that as an Oracle employee you aren't allowed to talk about it, but please don't insult our intellect by saying that it was "already the case under Sun". Hey, wait a minute, your comment about it being "already the case under Sun" is commenting on the law suit, so you're violating the rules right there, so go ahead and give us some more details as long as you're already violating the rules.

Posted by Jim on November 14, 2010 at 10:19 AM PST #

Hi Jim.

As you say, it would be inappropriate for me to talk about the lawsuit since I'm an Oracle employee. A pity, because it would be fun to do so.

Anyhow, let me quote what I wrote:

"Google and Apache are legal topics which makes it hard for any of us to comment on. This is not new, it was already the case under Sun."

My statement was in reply to a comment by Steve about communication (see [1]). "This" above refers to the policy by Oracle, and by Sun, about their employees not commenting on situations like these.

[1]http://blogs.sun.com/theaquarium/entry/the_story_of_a_tweet#comment-1289581726000

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 14, 2010 at 11:53 AM PST #

There was no law suit against Google for the Sun employees to "not comment about", and Sun employees made lots of comments about Android becaue there was no law suit and therefore no corporate dictate against talking about it. Your statement was misleading at the least, as many who read it would infer that the current law suit against Google was already going on before Oracle bought Sun.

Posted by Jim on November 14, 2010 at 07:23 PM PST #

Jim - I still don't see how one can read that statement the way you read it, specially given the contexts - in the thread/post/elsewhere. But, in case anybody else was confused: I did not try to imply Sun had filed a lawsuit against Google before the acquisition.

Regarding what Sun employees commented or didn't comment on before the acquisition - you only see the positives, you don't see what - if anything - we were not supposed to discuss.

And this is the last comment I am going to make in this thread regarding any lawsuit. That was NOT the topic of this post.

Any comments on communication are very appreciated and will be responded promptly.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 14, 2010 at 10:59 PM PST #

"Thanks for your comment, Yuhong Bao, although I see this particular situation as one of accuracy, not control."
The original problem was accuracy. I mean that the control made it harder to fix the problem quickly.

Posted by Yuhong Bao on November 15, 2010 at 12:25 PM PST #

Ah. Paraphrasing to check my understanding of what you are saying; do you mean that Oracle's culture of controlling the communication meant they/we could not react quickly enough to the inaccuracy?

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 15, 2010 at 12:37 PM PST #

Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart: Yes, see this reddit comment for example:
http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/e50ge/the_story_of_a_tweet_oracles_premium_jvm/c15cwdk

Posted by Yuhong Bao on November 15, 2010 at 12:41 PM PST #

I believe "Oracle Classic" is becoming more aware that the tools/rules used to communicate effectively with corporations are different to those needed to communicate effectively with the community and is working to improve the latter.

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 15, 2010 at 01:14 PM PST #

Eduardo,

Your every response oozes with snark, hubris and often condescension. Sun went out of business. True. They never found a way to survive in the post Linux world. And make no mistake, that's where they lost ground. The tone of tone of your replies and your eagerness to put the community in its place couldn't be a better example of exactly why Java developers fear Oracle.

Time for C Sharp training and shifting projects to Python + Postgres.

Posted by Preston Crawford on November 25, 2010 at 03:19 PM PST #

Hi Preston.

Sorry you feel that way. I try to follow Scott's business principles [1]; if you give me specifics where you think I've failed we can discuss them further.

There are many areas where I'd like to see Oracle do things different. Some of them are very hard for them to change but others can be changed and a number of people are working on that. One of the reasons why I wrote this note was because the trigger for the misunderstanding was a case where AdamM was improving communication with the Java community; see Michael (the original tweeter) comments [2].

[1]http://pelegri.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/suns-culture-in-12-words/
[2]http://twitter.com/mtnygard/status/669131972026368

Posted by Eduardo Pelegri-Llopart on November 26, 2010 at 02:04 AM PST #

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