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Sun and open source

Referencing: How to make money with Open Source

We don't even yet know what Sun means by "open source", but already the pundits are arguing about whether making Solaris "open source" (whatever that turns out to mean) will help them or hurt them.

On the one hand, we have Sun thinking that their service network and promised superior performance will push them upward. Service and support certainly are important, and are a great way for a Linux vendor (apps or OS) to extract money from a free product, but I don't see this adding much to the attractiveness of Solaris 10. It's a nice extra, but it isn't going to cause people to switch, or stop people from switching away.

Performance is another issue, though. If Solaris 10 really can outperform Linux, that can be a reason to switch. But it has to be near mind-blowing to have much influence.

Of course, there is another way: if important apps only run on your OS, or run badly on anything but your OS, or are painful and difficult to run elsewhere, you can be open source while effectively maintaining the same monopoly you had with closed source. I had mentioned this before at How to make money with open source, and here's an interesting take from an interview with Sun's Jonathan Schwartz: (From Jonathan Schwartz: Solaris is the Future of Unix)

Red Hat locks Enterprise customers in, just like Microsoft does,by
steadily moving away from the LSB, by patching and forking code
(including using a very non-standard Linux kernel) and so applications
get certified or only work in the Red Hat codebase and no other
Linux distro.

But is that enough? It might be enough to survive, but it's not enough for Solaris to dominate Linux. RedHat may stay top dog with that strategy, but Solaris needs more, simply because it isn't Linux and doesn't get the benefit of Linux's quick response to both problems and market needs. In order to get that kind of responsiveness, Sun would need the legions of volunteer programmers that Linux enjoys, and that of course includes a lot of people working at companies who are competitive with Sun. Those folks are rather unlikely to jump on Solaris as their favorite OS.

Certainly Sun could have done this years ago, just as SCO could have. If either of them had, Linux might never have existed at all. It was the closed, expensive reality of Unix that was the reason Linux came to be. Had Unix vendors understood what their greed and short-sightedness would eventually cause, maybe they would have opened up way back when. But they didn't.

The best Sun can hope for now is survival. If Solaris 10 is good enough, that should be attainable. But they aren't going to replace Linux.

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© Tony Lawrence

Sun Jun 17 11:45:11 2012: 11108   TonyLawrence


So, Oracle bought Sun and do far the open source stuff hasn't suffered greatly - (link) . It is early yet, though.

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