Bonum Certa Men Certa

Why Sun's OpenSolaris is No GNU/Linux

Sun Microsystems has been an exceptionally polite and forthcoming company recently. It managed to be credited for a lot of things and its contribution with software such as OpenOffice.org must not be forgotten. It is irksome, however, when voices from within the company send out some warning signals. Let it be more specific and explicit for a moment.

When Sun acquires Free software projects and their parent companies, people raise many questions, especially with regard to motive. Sun's acquisition of MySQL, for instance, may be fine news for Free software, but not for Linux.

Last week, DisinformationWeek published the following article.

CEO Schwartz says that the Solaris, Java, virtualization, MySQL combo is best for development.

[...]

MySQL brings another key set of developers, the users of the integrated open source LAMP stack, he said. LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP or Perl. The "L" doesn't have to be taken literally, he added. Sun can and will substitute Solaris for Linux in the stack.


You can hopefully see where it is heading. MySQL might, after all, not only be a route for entering customers' turf and selling hardware to them. With Solaris, Sun has greater control.

Those protective of Sun would speak about OpenSolaris and the companies' general openness (CDDL critique aside). But in the past few days alone there were two incidents reported, in addition to others which we can find and post here given some further (re)search:

From the 14th of this month:

Roy Fielding[1] finally quit the OpenSolaris community today, see his resignation letter[2]. The kettle finally boiled over and the realization come to many (but not all) that Sun is publishing their Solaris code for marketing purposes, rather than creating an independent, community-led, open source project with the ability to make real decisions.


This one is also very recent: Sun Confirms Inflexability & Community Disregard

On Monday OGB Chairman Rich Teer posted Sun's answer (crafted by Mr Bill Franklin with the assistance of Mr. Simon Phipps) to the OGB's request for clarification regarding the highly controversial decision to name Project Indiana "OpenSolaris". The issue is highly mixed, on one hand you have Sun Microsystems looking for a way to monetize OpenSolaris, on the other hand they are redefining the term "OpenSolaris", around which everything is based, without a single regard for the community.


It would be hasty to any draw comparisons to Microsoft's Port 25 here, because Microsoft does not touch GPL (not directly anyway. For that it has proxies like Citrix). Going further back to the end of November 2007 there is the following memorable story:

Sun bullied, used threats to gain control of open source project, former owner says



[...]

Sun used strong-arm tactics and made threats to the owners of an open-source directory project to wrestle away control, according to one of the former owners and creators of the project.


Sun later defended its stance and told its own side of the story. A bad taste in some people's mouths remained nonetheless. Early in the year Andy Morton said explicitly that there would be no merge with OpenSolaris. There was also great resistance to ZFS, which Oracle's btrfs might render unnecessary anyway.

A recent discussion on the lkml examined the possibility of a Linux implementation of Sun's ZFS. It was pointed out that the file system is released under the GPL-incompatible CDDL, and that Sun has filed numerous patents to prevent ZFS from being reverse engineered.


Mind the mentioning of software patents again. We mentioned this when Sun announced its acquisition of MySQL. Lastly, here is another memorable incident.

Save a Penguin, Unplug a Linux Server' May Win Most-Flamable E-Mail Award



I just got an e-mail from Sun which is probably the largest violation of L. Ron Hubbard's Survey tech that I've ever seen. It was an e-mail with the title of, "Save a Penguin - Unplug a Linux Server Today".


This post is far from being anti-Sun. Some of Sun's fine software products were advocated here before simply because they are appreciated. But there remains this possibility that egocentricity (not anything too sinister) is playing a considerable role, so it's something to be aware of and cautious about.

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