SUNny Days

Sun releases appx. 1600 patents to their new license scheme, CDDL, and declares them ‘open source’. But don’t be fooled…while this is a great thing for open source, it doesn’t mean Linux will benefit from this at all.

I’ve been fighting the urge to chip in my one and a half cents worth. I’ve been holding back, reading what analysts say. I’ve been perusing quotes from various PRs and company heads…reading, reading, reading. The thing that gets me about this is that IBM just opened up 500 of its licenses. Not to be outdone, Sun sweeps in and usurps the thunder.

That’s reminds me of a time when I was growing up. I remember when I got my first skateboard…a Lance Mountain Street with H-Street wheels and indy trucks…man that baby was sweet.? Not to be outdone, my neighbor had to pick up a Tony Hawk board with slimeball wheels and tracker trucks and all the fixins. Next to his board mine looked rather plain. I felt a bit left out at times, but there was no emotional scarring :) IBM is fast becoming that left out kid, which truly is sad considering IBM is the largest patent holder in the world. I sure hope they don’t begin to feel left out and decide not to open source anything else.

Back to the subject at hand…the Sun peaked its head through the open sourced clouds, its body shrouded by a CDDL blanket…and all of us that have been frolicking in open source bliss atop of these open source clouds have taken notice. Then Sun dropped back through with OpenSolaris and Java bait rimming the small opening from which they came. The question that comes to my mind is…where are they going to get a community from?

I’ve talked this over on some different channels with quite a few different people. Most of them think that a community will spring up. I don’t doubt that at all. However, I don’t think this community will be very large at all. The reason?  Because of loyalty to the GPL. The CDDL is incompatible with the GPL and this will prevent it from ever crossing most functions into GPL’d code.? Thus far…albeit very early in the game…Sun has “an initial Open Solaris community of more than 100 people, from inside and outside the company, which it plans to expand”? (eweek article). 100 people? Come on! That’s it?? What the heck?!?!? I’d be worried if I was Sun. If January 31st, 2005 comes around and they don’t have more than 500 people in the community…I’d say they better toss in the old white towel on this movement because that community isn’t going to spontaneously generate.

There are some parts of Solaris that Sun doesn’t have the right to open source. In these instances, Sun will permit access to the binaries so that end users can build it into their own systems. The only problem with this is that those persons/companies building the binaries do so with proprietary software so it will be possible for binaries to have all the attributes of proprietary software. So, either way…binary or none…there will be a ‘the buck stops here’ point where you can take the code no further.

Counterpoint this with the GPL, where no matter what development you make you can cross into other programs like a rolling wave that regenerates itself at various times in open water. Of course, you can’t make the almighty dollar as well with the GPL; hence, Sun wants to CuDDLe with its developers and community.

I do think that this move is more for show than for anything else. It’s a marketing technique designed to get something that Sun wants…money, developers, whatever. I think there always is some alterior motive for any company, be it Red Hat, Novell, whoever…to make money.

Thus they will always look out for themselves first, then the good of the program second. If they can’t make money on a program…what do they do? They dump it. If it is proprietary, no one else can develop it. If it’s GPL, someone else picks up the torch and keeps on running. A business…any business…puts the needs of its business before all other things, including the customer. Any business that says otherwise would be lying. Can’t fault people for trying to make a living I guess…but you can’t get blood from a turnip and you can’t get GPL from CDDL.

I’m not the only one that believes this to be true; “Nobody wants to play with a crippled version [of Solaris]. I, obviously, do believe that they’ll have a hard time getting much of a community built up” (Linus Torvalds in eweek). Then again, we both could be wrong…perhaps there are sleeper cells of solaris heads out there that will awake from their longtime slumber to turbocharge the openSolaris project. Bah…I don’t think so. Maybe if it was GPL’d but we know that isn’t possible.

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  • http://kott.itsuperhero.com Dutch Rapley

    In the meantime, Sun has reported 3 straight years of losses. More than anything, they have nothing to lose, so it’s good publicity and marketing for them. I’m not a big fan of Sun, and probably never will be. Probably b/c Sun came and went before my day. Once a powerhouse of performance hardware, why is Sun now in the gutter? The main reason would be that Sun failed to capitalize on innovation. While CISC (Intel and AMD) processors are inferior to RISC, over the years they have improved greatly. I think this is one example where sun failed to properly support Solaris on x86. The cheapness of x86 boxes could have made Solaris available to those that couldn’t afford the expensive SPARC hardware. Sun could have a nice following now, but I thinks it’s really a story of “too little, too late.”

  • http://thisone devnet

    Agreed.

    There is too little too late on that notion. They should have open sourced much earlier in the game so that they had a following develop by now. I don’t think they’ll pull enough to succeed here. Pay close attention to the yahoo sun financial board…I feel a roller coaster coming on. but wait…aren’t the supposed to go down AND UP? woops. :)

  • http://kott.itsuperhero.com Dutch Rapley

    Along the lines of what we’re talking about in this comment thread

    http://www.linux-mag.com/2004-11/shutdown_01.html

    more specifically (from the article)

    “That’s right. Schwartz believes that Sun’s competitors — namely IBM and HP — have coopted Linux and its attendant social movement to battle Sun in the high-tech marketplace.

    I guess that’s one way to look at what’s been going on for the last few years. However, the more common view seems to be that Sun missed the Linux boat in a big way. Schwartz concedes as much, admitting Sun’s “hesitation” to support commodity processors. “