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."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 http://linux.eweek.com for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
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.