Sun Wont Rush Open-Source Plan

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