Solaris Code Opened to Lure Developers

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-06-27

Sun Microsystems Inc.s recent decision to release the millions of lines of source code for OpenSolaris, the open-source version of Solaris 10, may be just the thing the company needs to expand the developer base for, and applications written to, OpenSolaris.

The single code base gives developers and customers access to the code for all the innovations delivered in Solaris 10, which was released earlier this year. Suns goal is to use the open-sourcing of Solaris to drive a turnaround of the companys software business, which has lost mind share—if not market share—in the Linux-versus-Windows crossfire.

Glenn Weinberg, vice president of Suns operating platforms group, in Santa Clara, Calif., said Sun is also making the Sun Studio tools available to developers, while the GNU Compiler Collection could also be used to build OpenSolaris.

"Some 1.7 million Solaris 10 licenses have been distributed, and more than 1 million of these were for Solaris on x86 hardware," said Weinberg. "Our value is innovation, and we will continue to out-innovate our competitors."

While there has been criticism about the business value of giving away the Solaris source code, Jonathan Schwartz, Suns president, said the release of that code is expanding the number of opportunities in front of Sun and does not decrease the economic potential of the platform going forward.

But some competitors are not convinced that opening the source code will improve adoption. Bill Hilf, Microsoft Corp.s technical director for platform strategy, in Redmond, Wash., said business software purchases are made based on value and return on investment, not because the user could hack the operating system.

"Also, its important to take a hard look at the specifics of the license Sun is using for this program and how it does or does not engender a community around Solaris and how it differs from other open-source software licenses and projects," Hilf said, referring to the CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License) for OpenSolaris, which is not compatible with the GNU GPL (General Public License).

While some in the open-source community have criticized Sun for creating the CDDL, which they said will exclude Linux developers from participating in the project, Claire Giardano, director of OpenSolaris marketing at Sun, said Sun believes that the open-source community is a "community of communities."

Giardano said Sun knows that community development was a magnet for developers and that OpenSolaris was designed to help the company engage more with its development community. Sun has been working with a pilot community of some 150 developers on the OpenSolaris project for several months. Early in that process, with little involvement from Sun, a number of the participants in the pilot started collaborating on what it would take to do a PowerPC port, she said.

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