Forum OpenACS Development: Response to Is ArsDigita forking the ACS?

Posted by philip jones on
I think one of the reasons that Oli forwarded the above message to OpenACS is that we (I'm from the same company) are very seriously considering joining and contributing to the OpenACS project, not just on a personal basis but as a company policy. We've now delivered a couple of systems using ACS code and would

a) like to give something back to the community, and

b) raise the profile of the ACS (which is, I guess, a case of enlightened self-interest.)

Our issue, though, is with Ars Digita's increasingly close integration with Oracle. We would like to produce communities for non profit  organizations who can't afford to buy (or even host) Enterprise Oracle. We'd like to have the option of using Apache instead of AOLserver. Etc, etc.

Now the OpenACS project looks like the obvious place to go. But, and I know I'm going to maybe get myself into trouble here, I'd like to ask a couple of impolite questions :

What are OpenACS's intentions?

And how viable a community is it?

(Ouch! That felt like the community just asked for my daughter's hand in marriage :-)

What I mean is, originally it looked as though OpenACS might provide a viable community around a version 3.x of the ACS (which we were looking for because our code is for 3.x). More recently it seems that the OpenACS project is commited to implementing ACS 4. From the questions I've been reading here, and the slightly wistful answers Ben and other have been giving, I get the impression that the OpenACS community is not particularly happy with the way Ars Digita are going - let's face it, it's just making extra work -  but don't feel any option but to trail along after it because

a) AD don't care enough about OpenACS to give up the benefits of closer Oracle integration to support them


b) because OpenACS don't feel they command enough support within the wider ACS developer community to try to persuade AD against this move.

So instead OpenACS is going to try to "emulate" the core of ACS 4. But with all due respect, this seems like a game OpenACS can't possibly win, playing catch-up with, not only Ars Digita, but Oracle as well. I understand perfectly the motivations for AD's increasing Oracle dependency. As Karl Goldstein puts it in the ACS guide to working with XML : "the ArsDigita philosophy is not to put stuff into our toolkit that is part of the core Oracle RDBMS. Oracle Corporation has thousands of programmers, their most reliable product is the core
RDBMS server, they have documentation, training, support, etc."

In other words, AD are symbiotically dependent on Oracle, and will delegate as much to it as possible. Presumably, whatever new services  Oracle add will end up as part of the ACS too. Great! But Oracle has no motive to make things easier for an Open Source rival. They may even be able to subtly "embrace and extend" the ACS.

My aim here, though, is not to criticise AD, or even Oracle, to but to start a discussion to guage how important the OpenACS is within the larger community of ACS developers. Is my characterization of the relationship between AD and OpenACS correct or not? I don't wish to disparage OpenACS, rather, I wonder whether OpenACS is the nearest thing there is to an independent coalition of developers interested in the ACS who, together, have the authority to talk to and negotiate with AD on some of these issues.