Page Three

By Matthew Broersma  |  Posted 2004-06-16 Print this article Print

Sun has hinted that it might use the GPL for open-sourcing Solaris but, for a variety of reasons, is more likely to use a less restrictive license, or to create its own. Its hands may be tied: SCO last week asserted that Suns licensing rights to SCOs Unix System V intellectual property may be broader than those of any other Unix licensee, but arent broad enough to allow them to release SCOs intellectual property under the GPL. Sun has said that a licensing deal with SCO last summer has cleared the way for its open-source plans, but it remains in question whether the licensed components of Solaris will be available for the creation of derived products. If not, whatever Sun ends up releasing might be of limited interest to developers, analysts said.
And attracting developers is the whole point: Theoretically, an open-source license will attract a developer community that then pushes the product forward more quickly and at lower cost than would otherwise be possible. This promise has been realized in the most successful open-source projects, such as Linux, argues Claybrook. "The economics of open source are just too overwhelming to not take advantage of," he said. "Eventually, Microsoft will have to have open-source software in its software stack, or it will not be able to compete."
However, success isnt guaranteed, and most of the time adopting an open-source license wont have any positive impact for a software company, say some. "For the most part, in my opinion its a fallacy that that will happen," said IDC analyst Al Gillen. "The concept is that developers will look at the source code and say, Wow, Ive got to go work on that. But an individual will only contribute to a project if it will offer some benefits to them somewhere down the line. People arent going to work on it unless they have some reason to care about it." This isnt necessarily the case with Ingres, which CA open-sourced after it failed to make the desired impact on the database market, or even with Solaris. While the company considered its options for four years, Solaris on the x86 architecture ceded much of its market share to Linux, analysts noted. "I dont think that (Sun) will gain the advantages that they would have if they had open-sourced [Solaris] in 2000, when they first started talking about it," said Claybrook. "You have to have a community of users, and more importantly developers, to make a go of it with an open-source project." Check out eWEEK.coms Linux & Open Source Center at for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

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