Sun Wont Rush Open-Source Plan

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-01-02 Print this article Print

But more and more software will be available to users at no cost.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has come clean about the pace at which it intends to open-source its entire software stack, and that pace will be slow and measured.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company is compensating for that caution by increasingly making software available to users at no cost, in what some in the industry describe as a "best of both worlds" software strategy.

Simon Phipps, Suns chief open-source officer, said the open-sourcing process wont be rushed. "I am not going to allow us to do it too fast. We are not going to rush any of these things. This is not a token gesture," Phipps said.

Phipps said the process will instead take as long as is needed to do it right. Citing a recent example where a member of a Sun product team came up to him and asked to open-source the product, Phipps said: "I asked him what license they wanted to use, and he did not know. I asked how they would create an open community and what the governance model would be, and [the product team] had not thought of this. Then I asked them how they would make money—what the business plan was. Again, they hadnt thought about it."

However, Sun has met some current and prospective customers who have been clamoring for Sun to speed up its open-source process halfway, by offering many products for use at no cost.

Michael Dortch, an analyst with Robert Frances Group Inc., in San Francisco, describes this as a "best of both worlds" strategy for Sun. "By giving the software away for free, Sun gets to determine fairly quickly and accurately the perceived value of its various software offerings. Sun can then cherry-pick those offerings that appear to have the greatest potential for support among open-source developers, experimenters and users—and make those offerings open-source first," Dortch said.

The strategy also seems to be working for some enterprises. Jason Perlow, a senior technical architect for open-source solutions at Unisys Corp., in Tenafly, N.J., is going to recommend Solaris 10 to his clients who otherwise were paying for licenses of Solaris 8 or 9.

Suns Best of Both Worlds NOVEMBER 2005
  • Makes its Java Enterprise System, Sun N1 management software and Sun developer tools available at no cost
  • Says it will distribute and support the open-source Postgres database with Solaris
  • Says Sun Studio 11 will be free of charge to all developers JUNE 2005
  • Releases Sun Enterprise Service Bus implementations and Java System Application Server components to open source under the Common Development and Distribution License
  • Releases millions of lines of source code for OpenSolaris
    Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

    He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

    He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

    He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

    He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

    He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

    His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

    For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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