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Opening Day for OpenSolaris Source Code

By Jim Wagner (Send Email)
Posted Jun 14, 2005


Sun Microsystems took a long-promised step Tuesday and published the source code for an open source version of its Solaris operating system. On Tuesday, Sun took the much-anticipated step of releasing the source code to the Solaris operating system. Now the question is how it's managed.

The next step is figuring out how much of a say the open source community will have in future development of the code.

The company released all of the code associated with Solaris 10 at OpenSolaris.org: the core operating system, networking, system libraries, and commands.

All the features available in Solaris 10 are in the download, officials said, for both Sparc and x64/x86 architectures.

"I think releasing the source code is going to be a great thing, and I think it'll be a bit of a surprise to a lot of people who've taken the position that Sun would never release the source code to Solaris or release all the source code, or not release the stuff that is the 'secret sauce' sort of thing," said Rich Teer, president of Rite Online, and one of five charter members of the OpenSolaris Initiative's community advisory board (CAB).

Sun launched its OpenSolaris Initiative in January, saying it would make the source code of Solaris 10 available to create future versions of the operating system apart from Sun's proprietary Solaris efforts.

Officials said the innovations on the OpenSolaris side of the house would be used in future Solaris updates.

The open source project is licensed under the recently approved Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL).

The commercial version of Solaris 10 has so far netted more than 1.6 million downloads since its release, officials said, helped by the fact it is available as a free download. They expect to see a lot of interest for the code behind the operating system when it's released.

However, it's not clear how much adoption OpenSolaris is really going to get from the open source community in the long term, as the infrastructure behind the initiative isn't in place yet.

The company has not released details on how developers outside Sun can make contributions to the source code. For the time being, OpenSolaris will be developed under a Sun software application called Teamware, similar to the Free Software Foundation's Concurrent Versions System (CVS).

Tom Goguen, vice president of Sun's operating platform group, said the particulars regarding outside contributions have yet to be determined.

"What goes into OpenSolaris, the body of technology that's there, will likely depend more upon and be more a function of peer review rather than any particular person standing over the top of the whole thing saying, 'this is what gets in and this is what doesn't get in' sort of thing," he said.

Teer said the goal is to make the development process as open as possible, with Sun's Solaris team providing the bulk of the expertise up front but moving out to the community as others gain experience.

Roy Fielding, co-founder of the Apache Software Foundation and one of the CAB charter members, is doing much of the legwork behind a first draft of a CAB proposal that outlines a governance model. But it's not clear when that proposal will be made.

"Certainly, sooner rather than later is what we intend to do," he said. The CAB will then solicit comments on the draft from the open source community, he added.

Stacey Quandt, principal at Quandt Analytics, said there's a lack of clarity around the OpenSolaris governance model, and Sun will need to answer some questions before outside developers put any effort into the initiative. That includes defining what the build system is and how outside developers can easily contribute to the project.

"To that degree, those things are necessary for Sun to be able to build a Solaris community outside of a single corporation," she said. "I know that they need to release the code, that's obviously one step, but this is a journey of many miles and Sun needs to elaborate on the governance model in more detail in order to increase the interest among developers outside of Sun."

She likened Sun's current governance model questions to the troubles Red Hat is facing with its own open source project, Fedora. Though the commercial Linux vendor is trying to push Fedora outside more, she said, it too is facing problems figuring out how to make it easy for developers to make contributions.

"I think it's one of the challenges of any company that decides to release source code and then enable it to become a larger project in the open community," she said. "This is sort of an interesting approach because sometimes companies do this and they're not looking for the extensive participation that Sun and Red Hat are looking for."

Sun has faced some criticism since officials announced the release of Solaris 10 to the open source community.

Competitors such as Red Hat and IBM painted the move as a last-ditch effort by Sun to keep the server-centric operating system relevant against the growing popularity of Linux in the enterprise market. Earlier this year, both companies released a "Solaris to Linux Migration Factory" in a bid to scoop Solaris defectors.

Meanwhile, Sun faced the slings and arrows of discontent for releasing patents surrounding Solaris technology only under the CDDL, rather than to the wider open source community.

Dan Ravicher, executive director for the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), said at the time he expected little interest for OpenSolaris among the open source community, saying it already has an operating system to work with: Linux.

Sun, for its part, isn't fazed by the criticism. Claire Giordano, Sun's OpenSolaris senior marketing manager, who has been working with the OpenSolaris Initiative since its inception, said she has a thick skin about such things.

"I don't expect, necessarily, that everybody is going to hold the same opinion [as us]," she said. "One of the things that's interesting in the licensing world is there are different licenses for different needs. I'm very comfortable with the fact there's choice -- choice is good."

Teer said CDDL makes enterprise adoption more palatable than the conditions imposed by the Linux' General Public License (GPL) which make the inclusion of dynamic links to proprietary code in the program difficult, if not impossible.

"There's always going to be, shall we say, religious GPL fanatics who say if it's not GPL then it's bad but it all depends on what way you look at it," he said. "I don't think it's a matter of the CDDL being incompatible with the GPL. It's actually the other way around because CDDL is quite fine with linking with software licensed under a different license."

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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