Open Source Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Linux Containers

Open Source Cloud: Article

Can Sun Really Open Source Solaris?

Can Sun Really Open Source Solaris?

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's new president and latest loose cannon, a volume kind of guy, said at a press conference in Shanghai the other day at a SunNetwork Conference, that Sun was going to open source Solaris.

"I don't want to say when that will happen," Sun acknowledges he said, "but make no mistake, we will open source Solaris."

According to the clip morgue here, Sun has been kicking the idea around since late 1998, but that doesn't mean the notion had reached any kind of, um, maturity before Jonathan opened his mouth.

Being president, however, evidently makes any whim one may have turn into an instance corporate initiative and Sun, while recovering its composure, now says that it is open source-bound. Other than that, Sun wasn't prepared to answer any other questions.

See, none of the key issues have been resolved. Little things like, um, whether Solaris can legally be open sourced in the first place and what Jonathan means when he says open source and what SCO's reaction's gonna be.

Such niceties await Jonathan's return from the Orient although, if Sun is going to take the bit in its teeth, then it would like to open source the upcoming Solaris 10, due at the end of the year, because it thinks it's got some drop-dead widgetry in the major rev that will make Red Hat's life a misery - almost all of Red Hat's paying accounts being rustled Sun accounts and Red Hat being the open source horse to beat.

Sun would open source both the Sparc and x86 versions of Solaris, it said.

Back when Sun first kicked around the open source idea, it whistled up its lawyers and set them to combing through the third-party IP and branding rights resident in Solaris. And as it turned out, the legal sweep discovered that there was a significant amount of orphaned code in Solaris - stuff that apparently had no father or mother and no way to trace its pedigree.

It was sort of like Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin. It wasn't born. It just appeared.

The discovery put a stick between the spokes of Sun's wheel. Sun's lawyers didn't want the company to open source third-party code without authorization in case its mommy decided to turn up later demanding a packet in child support.

So Sun shelved its open source notions and repaired to a halfway-house, research-style approach to the situation called the Foundation Source program. It made Solaris 8 code available to people who wanted to look at it but it wasn't all source code. The parts without clear parentage were made available only in binary.

Then in the summer of 2001 Sun thought better of the whole idea and tried to quash the program for some reason only to be met by a wall of screams from customers that persuaded it to change its mind again. Currently access is on a case-by-case basis.

Since then the complexion of the open source situation has gotten more pockmarked because Solaris now contains even more of other people's code and because of SCO's IP claims and its loathing for the GPL.

Sun and SCO are friendly; money and licenses have passed between them; and SCO regards Sun, which bought out the rights to the Solaris source code from Novell in 1994 for $82.5 million, as having the "broadest rights of any Unix licensee in existence."

But now that Jonathan has opened Pandora's box, SCO said, "We will be keeping a close eye on their Unix contract to be sure that they are staying within the bounds of that contract." It also mumbled something about Sun CEO "Scott McNealy not wanting to find himself in the same position as [IBM CEO] Sam Palmisano" - in other words, at the receiving end of a multibillion lawsuit that down-on-its-luck Sun can ill-afford.

Then there's the little matter of what Jonathan really means when he says he's going to open source Solaris.

Based on some of Jonathan's allusions to Java in Shanghai - "We need to now take the model with Java and bring it to Solaris," he is reported to have said - people suspect that he's got something akin to the Java Community Process (JCP) in mind, which, let's face, would prove about as popular with the open source crowd as a pimple on a first date.

Heck, the JCP hasn't even been popular with members of the JCP largely because Sun's interpretation of stewardship bears a close resemblance to Teutonic authoritarianism, with Sun in control. And like its previously expressed fears of Java fragmenting - an excuse it used to keep a tight rein on the Java technology - remember how Sun reacted to IBM's open letter calling on it to open source Java? - it's now worrying about open source splintering Solaris.

Sun will not only have to bring community opinion into some kid of harmony over how to open source Solaris, it's also got to get the diffuse range of internal opinions into some kind of line. It's faced with figuring out whether open source and open standards are the same thing (Jonathan says not), what the license model is going to be, what level of free use it's going to offer, whether to segment the market into commercial, private and academic and how to make money in the process. This could take a while.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

Comments (5)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
@CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX, two of the most influential technology events in the world, have hosted hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors since our launch 10 years ago. @CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX New York and Silicon Valley provide a full year of face-to-face marketing opportunities for your company. Each sponsorship and exhibit package comes with pre and post-show marketing programs. By sponsoring and exhibiting in New York and Silicon Valley, you reach a full complement of decision makers and buyers in ...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessio...
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, compared the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, examin...
Rodrigo Coutinho is part of OutSystems' founders' team and currently the Head of Product Design. He provides a cross-functional role where he supports Product Management in defining the positioning and direction of the Agile Platform, while at the same time promoting model-based development and new techniques to deliver applications in the cloud.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settl...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
LogRocket helps product teams develop better experiences for users by recording videos of user sessions with logs and network data. It identifies UX problems and reveals the root cause of every bug. LogRocket presents impactful errors on a website, and how to reproduce it. With LogRocket, users can replay problems.
Data Theorem is a leading provider of modern application security. Its core mission is to analyze and secure any modern application anytime, anywhere. The Data Theorem Analyzer Engine continuously scans APIs and mobile applications in search of security flaws and data privacy gaps. Data Theorem products help organizations build safer applications that maximize data security and brand protection. The company has detected more than 300 million application eavesdropping incidents and currently secu...