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Sun launches OpenSolaris project

SANTA CLARA, CA--Sun Microsystems unveiled its strategy for open sourcing its proprietary Solaris operating system this week, a move that Sun CEO Scott McNealy says will open the developer base for Solaris and help to drive it into new markets.

"We've always been about sharing," McNealy told reporters and analysts during a conference call. "This is a model of 'back to the future,' and this model with help developers, users, and countries stand on the shoulders of our [intellectual-property] use model."

McNealy claimed that the OpenSolaris project would likely make Sun the "number-one donor of lines of code" to the open-source community. "Solaris 10 is the number-one operating system on the planet at this time in terms of features and choice of platforms," he said, "including Intel and AMD on 32-bit and 64-bit, and it is available for free with a right-to-use contract."

"We are hoping to regain the image as the biggest friend of open source and the community out there," McNealy added. "We have done all we can with regard to the Open Source Initiative and community."

Sun plans to make the source code for the upcoming Solaris 10 OS available under the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL--which they're pronouncing "cuddle" at Sun), recently approved by the OSI. Sun submitted the CDDL to the OSI for review and approval on this past Dec. 1 via the license-discuss@opensource.org mailing list, then submitted a revised version based on community review on Dec. 17. The OSI is the non-profit group that manages open-source definitions through a certification program.

The CDDL is a "direct descendent" of the 1.1 version of the Mozilla Public License, Glenn Weinberg, VP of Sun's operating platforms group, told eADT. The license covers all of the patents that are relevant to the Solaris source code--more than 1600, according to Sun.

One of the changes Sun made to the MPL was to make the patent terms clearer and more favorable to smaller developers, Weinberg said. "One of our goals is to use our patent portfolio to actually protect the OpenSolaris community that we want to build and to allow them real intellectual property protection."

McNealy said that the changes will help to "limit the IP divide that exists in developing countries, and for those companies that are unable to build network-based services and solutions because they are so far behind on the IP and patent front."

"They can now take the OpenSolaris code base and build interesting services and bridging with access to this chunk of IP and patents rights," he added.

Sun intends to make all key components of Solaris 10 available under the CDDL license, McNealy said, including the code for containers and DTrace, Sun's new dynamic tracing framework. The source code for DTrace is available for download now at www.opensolaris.org . The company is promising to provide 'buildable code' from the upcoming Solaris 10 release by the second quarter.

The company also announced its plans for establishing a community advisory board to begin the process of building an OpenSolaris developer community. That board will initially comprise five members: two from Sun, two elected from the current pilot OpenSolaris project, and one "luminary" from the open-source community, Weinberg said.

"Our goal is to be completely open," he said. "We are not sticking our toe in the water of open source here. We are embracing the true spirit of the open-source community and process."

Sun first announced its plans to open source Solaris last June, and OpenSolaris was originally expected to be released by the end of 2004. Plans were stalled, however, when a debate raged within the highest levels of Sun about exactly how much of the OS should be open sourced. Sources said that disagreement has since been resolved.

John Loiacono, Sun's executive vice president for software, confirmed rumors that Sun is exploring the possibility of open sourcing more of its software, including its JINI technology and JES bundle.

"This is something that would be in Sun's best interest," Loiacono told reporters. "But we don't want to move so fast and just dump everything out there. We will move forward more slowly, but watch this space."

McNealy believes that we are seeing fundamental changes in the software development model as it shifts toward a "community process model."

"We are trying to get ahead of that and lead the pack," he said. "We are committed to Unix, to Solaris, to the OpenSolaris community, and to one word: sharing."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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