Page Two

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-09-20 Print this article Print

Sun officials are aware that to satisfy the open-source community, Sun will have to make Solaris completely open and available, unlike the mixed bag it has created with Java, and assure users that Sun will continue to provide a supported, backward-compatible, value-added distribution.

"There are technical issues, legal issues and cultural issues that have to be resolved around this," Loiacono said. "We have had to work hard on the technical issues, like what can and cannot be open-sourced, how it will be structured and whether we have the intellectual property rights across the board."

Suns Weinberg said that Solaris has had many contributors over the years and that almost all their contributions have been licensed by the company. "We have had to work through hundreds of agreements we have had with different companies on different parts of the code, and either arrange for the licenses to be taken care of or for us to rewrite the code so that we can open it. We are well down on the list of those," he said.

A developer who requested anonymity said he does not see how Sun can open-source the Unix kernel that currently resides in Solaris without violating The SCO Group Inc.s rights to Unix. SCO, based in Lindon, Utah, owns the rights to Unix.

"We believe we have the appropriate intellectual property licensing rights to open-source Solaris. We believe we stand on a very solid legal foundation," Loiacono said.

Also critical to the release of Solaris code is the open-source license Sun will issue with the code. While that has yet to be decided, officials caution that the license that is chosen may not necessarily facilitate the easy adoption of the Solaris source code into a GPL (GNU General Public License) environment, which Sun officials see as very prescriptive.

Sun executives said they will still provide an added-value, commercial, Sun-supported and Sun-compatible Solaris distribution for customers that is similar to The Fedora Project, Red Hat Inc.s free, community-supported Linux distribution.

"Thats the kind of model we are looking at for Solaris. Open Solaris must have a commonly referred to and understood licensing model that is approved by the Open Source Initiative. The bottom line is that we are looking at options that address many of the things that customers have concerns with, such as the viral effect of using a GPL-based license where nothing else can touch it," Loiacono said.

Longtime Solaris user Thomas Nau, head of the Communication and Information Centers Infrastructure Department at the University of Ulm, in Germany, supports Suns approach, saying he agrees that current open-source licenses have drawbacks for intellectual property or religious reasons. "I have a feeling that these community and research license models cannot reflect the needs of most companies, and the GPL, in particular, can become a legal problem," Nau said.

Suns Weinberg said Sun is still working on putting the necessary community processes in place to deal with the issues around an open-source Solaris. "We are going to try and build the community organically and not just throw the doors open for anybody to contribute from Day One," he said. Gracenotes Leeds, for instance, wants Sun to follow the Linux model, where only a few people evaluate the inclusion of code additions and improvements to the kernel.

For Loiacono, the Solaris open-source initiative is about creating a community that will participate in the growth and development of Solaris and Java. "We want to leverage the community involvement," Loiacono said. "That is the whole point."

Check out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Be sure to add our Linux news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page

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


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel