Eric Schrock's Blog

More on OpenSolaris

November 28, 2004

So Novell has made a vague threat of litigation over OpenSolaris, which was prompty spun by the media into a declaration of war by Novell. But it has generated quite a bit of discussion over at OSNews. The claim itself is largely FUD (the “article” is little more than gossip), and the discussion covers a wide range of (often unrelated) topics. But I thought I’d pick out a few of the points that keep coming up and address them here, as the article over at LWN seems to make some of the same mistakes and assumptions.

Sun does not own sysV, and therefore cannot legally opensource it

No one can really say what Sun owns rights to. Unless you have had the privilege of reading the many contracts Sun has (which most Sun employees haven’t, myself included), it’s presumptuous to state definitively what we can or cannot do legally. We have spent a lot of money acquiring rights to the code in Solaris, and we have a large legal department that has been researching and extending those rights for a very long time. Novell thinks they own rights to some code that we may or may not be using, but I trust that our legal department (and the OpenSolaris team) has done due diligence in ensuring that we have the necessary rights to open source Solaris.

Sun has been “considering” open sourcing solaris for about five years now. It’s all just a PR stunt.

I can’t emphasize enough that this is not a PR stunt. We have a dozen engineers working full-time getting OpenSolaris out the door. We have fifty external customers participating in the OpenSolaris pilot. We have had discussions with dozens of customers and ISVs, as well as presenting at numerous BOFs across the country. This will happen. Yes, it has taken five years – there’s a lot of ground to cover when open sourcing 20 years of OS development.

Even if it is open source it still is proprietary, because no one can modify its code and can’t make changes, all one can do is watch and suggest to Sun.

We have already publicly stated that our goal is to build a community. There is zero benefit to us throwing source code over the wall as a half-hearted guesture towards the open source community. While it may not happen overnight, there will be community contributions to OpenSolaris. We want the responsibility to rest outside of Sun’s walls, at which point we become just another (rather large) contributor to an open source project.

However, the company has not yet announced a license, whether the license will be OSI-compliant or exactly how much of Solaris 10 will be under this open source license.

We have not announced a license, but we have also stated numerous times that it will be OSI-compliant. We know that using a non-OSI license will kill OpenSolaris before it leaves the gate. As to how much of Solaris will be released, the answer is “everything we possibly can.” There are pieces of Solaris that cannot be open sourced due to encumbered licenses. But time and again people suggest that we will open source “everything but the crown jewels” – as if we could open source everything but DTrace, or everything but x86 support. Every decision is made based on existing legal agreements, not some misguided attempt to create a crippled open source port.

OpenSolaris is still under development – some of the specifics (licensing, governance model, etc) are still being worked out. All of us are involved one way or another in the future of OpenSolaris. Our words may not carry the “official” tag associated with a press release or news conference, but we’re the ones working on OpenSolaris every single day. All of this will be settled when OpenSolaris goes live (as soon as we have a date we’ll let you know). Until then, we’ll keep trying to get the message out there. I encourage you to ignore your preconceived notions of Sun, of what has and has not been said in the media, and instead focus on the real message – straight from the engineers driving OpenSolaris.

4 Responses

  1. Eric, way to go. I just commented on Alan’s blog that we need to revisit this when OpenSolaris is realeased. The point will *not* to be “I told you so”. The point *will* be to say that you can trust Sun. The second point will be to show how much black helicopter noise is out there and it will show who the level heads out there really are.

  2. After all this hype over Solaris 10 – I am not impressed at all. Solaris 10 X86 doesn’t even boot on my laptop and desktop – hangs without any error message and worse yet – it takes 10 minutes to hang. Forget about recognizing the hardware.
    Without hardware support and a GPL incompatible license which Sun is proposing – I dont see how it will go any further from where it stands since ages. Has Sun even planned on broader x86 hardware support – if yes how? Without it, Solaris will benefit others but it in itself wont go any further.

  3. Anonymous Coward –
    Hardware support has come a long way with Solaris 10. Historically, we have
    had difficulties with x86 hardware support – largely due to the sheer amount of
    hardware out there. We chose to concentrate on server-class hardware support
    because that was important for our customer base. With Solaris 10 (and JDS)
    we’re expanding to a much broader hardware base. I won’t pretend that we
    support the same range as Linux, but we are improving.
    SATA support, audio drivers, integration, and more network drivers are
    just a few of the improvements. If you check the Hardware Compatibility
    List, you’ll see much greater support in Solaris 10.
    I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with Solaris. I have installed
    Solaris 10 on dozens of different machines, including my own laptop. With the
    exception of one unsupported network card, I’ve never had any problems. But
    we’ve come a long way – I used to have many more problems back in the early days
    of Solaris 10. With build 72, it’s been a breeze. Perhaps you should post to one of the many Solaris forums/newsgroups – there are a lot of knowledgeable people out there, and we have a lot of engineers that read these groups and file bugs on behalf of those in the group.
    I also don’t agree with your assessment that lack of hardware support and
    licensing will make or break OpenSolaris. There is a large portion of the open
    source world that is thriving despite not being GPL-compatible. But only time
    will tell, I suppose.

  4. I’ve seen much better HW support on my Dell 640C laptop the display works at full resolution, haven’t tested the WinModem yet though. Power management in Sol x86 could still improve, though. Any idea when this will be at Linux’s (pretty poor) level, or better?

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