Solaris and Linux: No Code Swapping

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-01-31 Print this article Print

Sun refuses to reconsider licensing Solaris under GPL 2.0, and Linux Torvalds says Linux will not migrate to GPL 3.0, closing the door on any chance of co-mingling of code between the two operating systems.

While Sun Microsystems is open to licensing Solaris under Version 3.0 of the GNU General Public License, it will not reconsider its decision not to license the operating system under GPL 2.0, the current version of the license. Sun created the CDDL (Community Development and Distribution License) for Solaris after rejecting GPL 2.0 as too restrictive for its purposes. Sun will not consider licensing Solaris under the current GPL for the same reasons it gave when it created the CDDL, which is based in large part on the MPL (Mozilla Public License), Tom Goguen, Suns vice president of software marketing, told eWEEK in an interview.
The first discussion draft of GPL 3 addresses the issues of patents and patent-related retaliation, as well as its compatibility with other licenses. Click here to read more.
"We wanted to enable as broad a development community as possible around Solaris, and one part of that is being able to prescribe what you can and cannot do with the code, what other code you can combine with it, and exactly how to do it," he said. This is one of the strengths of the MPL, on which Sun modeled the CDDL, compared with the "all-or-nothing scenario under the current GPL, which also says nothing about patents, and Im not sure how far the next version will go there," he said. Click here to read more about how Sun has been criticized for the limitations of its patent release. While Sun is not taking a position on software patents, it will not disagree that most people feel they are very problematic, "but they are the one instrument that we have to work with today, and so we needed a license that addressed that," he said. Suns refusal to reconsider licensing Solaris under GPL 2.0 also appears to effectively remove any chance that code from that software can be co-mingled with that from the open-source Linux operating system, which is currently licensed under GPL 2.0. Thats because Linus Torvalds, the Linux kernel project leader, has said that he has no plans to relicense the Linux kernel under GPL 3.0 when it is released early next year. "I dont think the GPL 3.0 conversion is going to happen for the kernel, since I personally dont want to convert any of my code," Torvalds said. Read more here about Torvalds decision not migrate Linux to GPL 3.0. Thus, if the Linux kernel code does not get licensed under GPL 3.0, even if Solaris does, the current restrictions on the co-mingling of code from the two operating systems will essentially remain in force. In fact, when Sun submitted the CDDL to the Open Source Initiative for approval, Claire Giordano, a member of Suns CDDL team, said as much in a letter accompanying the submission. "Like the Mozilla Public License, the CDDL is not expected to be compatible with the GPL [2.0], since it contains requirements that are not in the GPL. Thus, it is likely that files released under the CDDL will not be able to be combined with files released under the GPL to create a larger program," she said. Next Page: Benefits, challenges of going to GPL 3.0.

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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