Guides Sun Stirs Up Open Source Projects

Sun Stirs Up Open Source Projects




Sun Microsystems is close to unwrapping its
Solaris operating system and other projects as a gift to the open source
community.

As the company prepares to release Solaris code, it is also mulling a modified Apache license for Jini.

As previously reported, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based systems vendor is
expected to submit the Solaris code base this month under its Common
Development and Distribution License (CDDL) — a modified Mozilla open
source license recently approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

Although a spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on when
Sun would make the official announcement, the company has
scheduled a teleconference next week with John Loiacono, Sun’s executive
vice president of software, for an update on the company’s Solaris open
source initiative.

While Sun’s decision to release Solaris code into the wild is
generally viewed as a positive step toward interoperability in the data
center, the event is expected to cause a ripple effect within the open
source community, especially with enterprise Linux developers.

“Sun’s relationship with the open source community is an intriguing
illustration of the difficulty larger enterprises have in courting open
source favor,” Stephen O’Grady, a senior analyst with IT consultancy
RedMonk, told internetnews.com.

“Despite the firm’s significant
contributions to the community, they just can’t seem to win over
some of the louder voices,” he added. “While the Microsoft [litigation settlement]agreement didn’t help
them in that regard, there also seems to be some angst over the
impending open sourcing of Solaris, given that it will be competing in
many areas with the most visible open source project, Linux.”

Some analysts said an open source Solaris could impact Red Hat, although it’s too soon to say for certain.

“It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to handicap the chances of any
open source project, as there are too many variables involved to predict
anything accurately,” O’Grady said. “In the short term, traction will be
minimal, particularly when compared against something like Linux. But as more developers, at Fortune-100-class shops on down, are exposed to it, particularly some of the bells and whistles like DTrace, the growth in interest will be slow but steady.”

The Jini Factor

An open sourced Solaris is just one piece of Sun’s disruptive
master plan.

On discussion boards circulating at Opensource.org and the Internet
Engineering Task Force (IETF), Sun’s Jini curator Bob Scheifler said Sun
is looking for an existing, commonly used and accepted open source
license to use for a re-licensing effort for Jini — both specifications
and code base. Currently, Jini is licensed under Sun’s Community Source
License (SCSL). Other Sun software licensed under SCSL include J2EE and
J2ME, two Sun products the company has been reportedly reviewing
for optimal conditions to submit to the open source community.

A Sun spokeswoman confirmed the e-mail and said Sun and other Jini
community members expect to reach a decision and, if appropriate,
move forward with an open source licensing transition in the coming
months.

Jini helps create distributed computing systems, allowing users
to access the power and features of any device on the network. It would
free the desktop computer from holding all the memory, storage, and
processing power it needs for any job. For example, if a disk drive on a
network had Jini capabilities, any computer on that network could use
the drive as though it were its own. Because Jini has the potential to
make operating systems incidental to the power of networks, some have
seen Jini as an attempt to reduce the influence of Windows.

“In the relicensing effort that we [Sun] are currently undertaking
for Jini technology — specifications and code — our number-one
requirement is to use an existing, commonly used and accepted open
source license,” Bob Scheifler, Sun Distinguished Engineer and architect
in the Jini Group, wrote on a recent bulletin board posting.

Scheifler said Sun is considering the Apache License, version
2.0, as a prime contender. Implementations of the spec are a different matter to be worked out.

“With each technology Sun believes there are different business
models associated with internal deployment and commercial use of the
technology,” Stacey Quandt, a senior business analyst with IT
Infrastructure research firm Robert Frances Group, told
internetnews.com. “Some models include royalties and/or trademark
fees at these levels.”

OSI Board member Russell Nelson told internetnews.com he was
not surprised by the news. “If they release it under the CDDL, then it
will definitely be open source software, but they don’t have to talk to
us [OSI] first,” he said.

“It’s not what Sun technologies go open source. It’s whether or not
Sun can convert its open source efforts into meaningful, sustained
hardware and/or service revenues,” Michael Dortch, a principal business
analyst with IT Infrastructure research firm Robert Frances Group told
internetnews.com. “Not even $7 billion in the bank guarantees
that Sun will be able to continue research and development of
technologies developers will support and for which IT executives will
want to pay. Sun needs to demonstrate all the links of its apparent
value chain are solid and connected, to regain and maintain its status
as a first-tier supplier of enterprise-class technologies and
solutions.”

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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