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Sun and Open Source

© May 2005 Tony Lawrence

Apparently Open Source Solaris is getting closer to reality.

In a recent newgroup post, Joerg Schilling wrote:

OpenSolaris will be more open than all known Linux distributions. 
If you like to prove me that I was wrong, please show me how I may 
access a source tree from RedHat, SuSE and even Debian that allows 
me to compile the complete distribution my issusing a single "make" 
What Sun publishes within the next two months will compile
far more than 200 MB of binaries from OpenSolaris sources
by issuing a single command and just waiting for it to
What I will do with the rest of the free software I am going to 
add to the OpenSolaris stuff from various sources will allow you 
to compile everything by issuing a single make command.  

I confess to being less aware of Sun's Open Source plans than I should be.

And I also understand that there are Linux zealots who see Linux as a religion and some of these folks may be disparaging Sun for that reason. Me, I see Unix as my religion and will flop over to Solaris in a heartbeat if it looks like greener grass.

But here's the thing: I'm an unbiased, non-zealot type with the *impression* that Solaris won't be as free and open as Linux. That impression may be totally wrong, which is fine, but if I have that impression, so do a lot of other people: reality has nothing to do with what really happens in the world (Yogi Berra should have said that, but it had to wait for me). Perception is everything, and if Sun can't shake that perception, it's just not going to work.

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Wed May 4 12:16:06 2005: 453   bruceg2004

Joerg is the author of cdrecord, and if you have ever read any of his comments regarding how Linux handles SCSI, you will see that he is not a big fan of linux. He is nice enough to make cdrecord build, and work on linux, but he seems to prefer the commercial *nix flavors over Linux.

I am interested in this Open Solaris topic, and I am wondering what the license will be. Isn't the license what really makes the project truly OpenSource or not? I would think that opening up Solaris can only help Linux. More competition. Would Linux be able to inherit some of Solaris' qualaties as a result of opening it up? ex. let's say the tcp/ip stack in Solaris is more finely tuned, and has some features that Linux desires; could that code be brought into Linux to make it on par with Solaris?

Linux has a fairly recognizable name now. Even people who are not "computer people" have heard of linux. I would bet if you mention Solaris, they would not have a clue. Sure, this can change. Solaris is a cool name. Can it displace linux in the OpenSource world as an OS? I don't know - time will tell. There are certainly a lot of hurdles to clear before Solaris becomes as popular as linux, and the people behind it are the only ones who can make it popular. Linux is basically a cultural phenomenom at some level. It is a truly great story of how Linux became popular, and that story in itself is probably going to keep Linux around for years to come.

I agree with Tony, that I would flock to Solaris in a heartbeat, if it does indeed, become truly OpenSource, and able to show that it is a real alternative to Linux, both in technical ability, and openness. That would be the only situation that would change the perception of Solaris, and give it a chance.

- Bruce Garlock

Wed May 4 14:14:05 2005: 456   drag

The license that submitted to the OSI for certification as a 'official' open source operating system is relatively open. Depending on your perspective more or less open then Linux/GPL.

It's based on a streamlined version of the same license that is used by MPL. Which is regarded by the GNU/FSF crowd as a 'real' free software license that just happens to be incompatable with the GPL. They recommend using hte GPL for compatability-sakes, but they don't have any real moral objects to it.


The reason that MPL, as I understand it, that MPL is not GPL compatable is because of the Patent-related language in it. Namely if you sue somebody, under patent law, for using MPL-licensed software then you loose the privilage to use that peice of software and it's code.

If you considure Mozilla 'Free Software' or 'Open Source Software' then any SPL-licensed software is the same thing.

Also the thing gives OpenSolaris user's immunity against Sun's patent portfolio. You use Sun's code in your product then Sun can't sue you.. However that does not extend to Linux or other OSS products.

Also unlike the GPL you can use SPL in closed source software.

With Mozilla you can use Mozilla in your application, and link code against it, however the actual Mozilla code you use has to remain free. You own code you authored, even if it's compiled against Mozilla code, can remain closed source.

So that has lead speculation on Sun's intentions.

Basicly they want you use and improve OpenSolaris. Sun then can use the improvements on OpenSolaris in their own closed source products.

Linux developers can't use Solaris code, and if they look at it and get knowledge of some of Solaris's stuff they can open themselves up to a patent infringement lawsuit from Sun.

This is the problem with Sun...

They open up Star Office and create OpenOffice, however they keep Java licensing restrictive and make OpenOffice dependant on Java.

They say they are open sourcing Solaris, but it opens up scary patent-related problems for Linux since they intentially made it GPL incompatable and only promise to protect Solaris developers from patent lawsuites.

They go with a very anti-MS attitude then all of a sudden they are giving donating Sun machines to Microsoft and do patent exchanges and join in attacks against Linux businesses.

Stuff like this confuses people...

Generally I think that Sun is doing 'ok' with this. It's realy open source (IF OpenSolaris actually gets released under the SPL). The patent stuff makes sense since making a new license without it doesn't make sense commercially.

Plus it's likely that the GPLv3 will include some patent protection language itself, which makes it likely that even though SPL is GPLv2 incompatable it may be GPLv3 compatable.

At least that's my limited understanding of the situation. There is a lot I don't understand, obviously.

Wed May 4 21:36:24 2005: 463   TonyLawrence

Well, you seem to know a lot more about it than I do.

I guess the base for me is that I just don't trust a corporation. If there are any strings, it's not really open..


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