SAP slams Open Source and Oracle

UPDATE: Clearly Shai’s comments were taken out of context. He provides a much more balanced view in the disucssion (Here is the recording, Open Source discussion starts at 35:30) then reported by Vnunet. I encourage you to judge for yourself.

Seems it is the big “SAP stirring controversy” week. On Wednesday Shai Agassi was speaking at the Churchill Club in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately I missed this event (there is so much going on right now), but apparently he made some pretty bold statements.
“Open source will fail to deliver innovation and is more likely to break applications, according to Shai Agassi, president of the product and technology group at SAP.”
I am wondering if these statements were taken out of context. In general SAP is supporting Open Source Software and was very early on supporting SAP applications on Linux. Also there are a number of initiatives in the SAP Developer Network around Open Source projects.
“Open source is great for debugging, but it’s crucial not to touch [the code],” said Agassi.
Clearly not the best day for Shai. Here is some feedback…

Jeff Nolan, SAP Ventures, Venture Chronicles
: Open Source is no silver bullet to be sure, but open source is less about software and code, and more about a new development process that is highly collaborative and social in it’s roots. I’m no open source zealot to be sure, but it does strike me that this is possibly one of the best proposals for unleashing developer productivity, developing new applications (Firefox), and creating a new class of infrastructure technology (too many to list).

Dave Rosenberg
: SAP’s Shai Agassi was at the Churchill Club making very bold and ill-informed statements about open source.
“Open source will fail to deliver innovation and is more likely to break applications”
Wow. That’s about as bad FUD as you can get.
“We all talk about how great Linux is, but if you look at the most innovative desktop today, Microsoft’s Vista is not copying Linux, it is copying Apple.”
It’s true that Vista is copying Apple, but that’s on the UI, not the system architecture.
“Intellectual property [IP] socialism is the worst that can happen to any IP-based society,” he said. “And we are an IP-based society. If there is no way to protect IP, there is no reason to invest in IP.”
The thing that strikes me is that SAP could have taken the high road and embraced open source products. Instead, Agassi calls it “IP Socialism.”
Can SAP possibly be so naive as to think that open source products won’t eventually match up to their offerings, or is this just an attempt to sway public opinion? Either way-I now equate SAP with MS.
I find this extremely disappointing. Agassi was one of my fave tech execs and now I think he’s a fool.

Update 1:
It was just a matter of hours and the story is all over the Internet… see comments on Slashdot, Cnet and SDN.
Lets see what SAP will/can do for damage control.

In my opinion the best comments on this topic can be found on Silent Penguin:
E.g. David Welton states: “I would really like to know what the context of his remarks were. I find it hard to believe that this is supposed to be a general remark – especially watching how open source is being used more and more to enhance the usefulness of SAP, or even to make Netweaver a more attractive development platform. Then again, Shai’s remarks on PHP being “just for college students” were followed by SAP Ventures’ investment in Zend.”.

Update 2:
Thanks to ZDnet the discussion with Shai at the Churchill Club as well as a follow up interview is now available online.

Update 3:
You can read Shai’s response in his Blog on SDN.

3 Responses to SAP slams Open Source and Oracle

  1. Jeff Word says:

    Shai’s comments were taken completely out of context. for the actual answer, you should listen to minute 35:30 from the replay. the same day, Shai recorded this for an investor conference. Very clear

  2. Matthias Zeller says:

    Thank you Jeff. I was just listening myself to the speech and I agree that a lot of his remarks were taken out of context (as I suspected). Shai makes a good point that SAP software is traditionally delivered as source code and some of the issues surrounding it (versioning, incompatibilities, etc.).

  3. DJ Adams says:

    Hi MatthiasI wrote a blog post on SDN on what exactly what Shai said, verbatim. It is worrying