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Hostile takeovers aside, usually acquisitions are supposed to be closely guarded secrets. So what are we supposed to make of the mating dance between Oracle and JBoss that's playing out in the media and blogs?

There's no question that Oracle is serious about open source BusinessWeek Article. They've already snapped up a couple of open source storage engines that threaten to rob open source database rival MySQL of its oxygen. There's also little question about JBoss being in play eWeek article.

As we've mentioned previously www.onstrategies.com, it's not unusual for vendors to open source orphaned products, or technologies that are on-ramps for their core platforms. But this is different. Larry Ellison is not reverting to form in trying to take out a couple potential rivals. He - and IBM actually - are buying real products.

Does mean that open source has finally become a viable business?

According to a Forbes online filing, the answer's no. Likening the open source rush to the dot com bubble, Forbes says that this time around, customers are also placing themselves at risk. According to an eWeek account of an elite CIO panel last fall, few considered open source technology or business models adequately proven.

The Forbes article added that open source wasn't such a great deal for vendors either. "Problem is, most people just take the free stuff and run." Exhibit A? Barely 3% to 5% of JBoss customers buy support contracts.

If the upside is limited, why are adults like IBM and Oracle buying? If it's so risky for customers, why are they downloading open source like crazy?

It first helps to understand what kind of open source we're talking about, because there are several different go to market models.

The first is the spontaneous community, made famous by Linus Torvalds of Linux. A moral authority gently governs the chaos over a technology that, arguably, nobody owns. Excluding Red Hat, the only vendors making money are those for which Linux is not their core business.


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