Sun Names OpenSolaris Board

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-04-05

Sun Names OpenSolaris Board

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Monday announced the five members of its OpenSolaris Community Advisory Board to steward the evolution of that community and its governance model, including open-source luminary Roy Fielding, the co-founder of The Apache Software Foundation.

The board will have five members initially, two of which have been selected from the pilot OpenSolaris community, two from Sun itself and one from the greater open-source community.

In a media teleconference late Monday afternoon, Sun officials announced that they had recruited Fielding, chief scientist at Day Software, as the board member elected from the greater open-source community. Fielding is also a co-founder and member of The Apache Software Foundation and the primary architect of current HTTP protocol.

Fielding said he sees his role on the board as "a voice for the open-source side of the equation. I also helped produce the governance model for The Apache Software Foundation, and I am really looking forward to becoming involved in this new community," he said.

The two board members elected from the pilot OpenSolaris community are Rich Teer and Al Hopper. Teer is an independent Solaris consultant and author of "Solaris Systems Programming" in British Columbia. "Im honored to be part of the board, and this is the culmination of my dream as an evangelist. I hope to do a lot to help OpenSolaris going forward," he said.

Hopper, an engineering consultant for Logical Approach, in Plano, Texas, describes himself as a "Sun zealot" for more than 15 years. "I am a big believer and proponent of Solaris on commodity hardware, and want to promote it on commodity hardware," he said. "Being on this board will allow me to influence the direction of OpenSolaris."

Hopper was one of the "Secret Six" who railed against Sun in 2002 for its decision to suspend indefinitely support for Solaris 9 on x86 hardware. Sun ultimately reversed that decision after a rollercoaster of conflicting decisions and moves.

Click here to read about Suns decision to deliver Solaris 9 on x86 hardware.

Sun elected Casper Dik, a senior staff engineer who focuses on security, to the board. Dik said he looks forward to helping people and to making Solaris an even better product than it is today.

The other Sun staffer elected was Simon Phipps, its chief technology evangelist, who said he is happy to see the move toward the open sourcing of Suns software products continue. He said hes committed to creating genuinely open and transparent communities around this and to setting the governance, transparency and membership of the OpenSolaris community, so everyone has an equal say in the process.

The boards chairmanship position will rotate, and the board is essentially "a group of equals," Teer said, adding that the board is not there to tell Sun how to develop software.

Fielding said the boards primary scope is to bootstrap the community, and it is essentially working on the by-laws of incorporation. Asked what the possible pitfalls could be, Fielding said one of the most common problems with sponsored open-source projects is "being loved to death" by the original sponsors.

"We are very conscious of the fact that Sun really wants this project to succeed. At the same time, it is acknowledging by forming the board that the OpenSolaris group needs to be independent, it needs to be able to act separately from what Sun does internally, and it needs to have a self-governing group that can promote through efforts of meritocracy rather than through assignment-to-work projects," he said.

The board will work on governance proposals over the next few months, and this will be done on a public mailing list so the entire community can be involved, ask questions and point out any possible mistakes, Fielding said.

Sun is delighted to have Fielding on the board, Phipps said, as he brings his aggregation of experience from The Apache Software Foundation and the other activities he has been involved in.

Next Page: Reaching out to the Linux community?


When asked if Sun would be reaching out to the Linux community, Tom Goguen, vice president of Suns operating platforms group, avoided answering directly, saying that Sun is "always talking to people at a variety of levels within a variety of organizations. We look at this as a way to gain access to new operating system technology and leverage this in a variety of new and interesting places. As much as we contribute to that, Im sure well be involved with those folk," he said.

Hopper was more direct, saying that the boards focus is Solaris and OpenSolaris "so we are really independent of any other operating system development activity that is going on in the marketplace. Obviously people gain ideas from the work done by others, but our focus will be entirely on OpenSolaris, to promote it, to augment it, to add facilities to and innovate on it," he said.

Fielding also noted that while there will initially be a large number of Sun employees in the OpenSolaris community, and that they will be its predominant source of members, they will be identified as individuals and given a voice as such rather than as part of their central corporate function.

"We will also be able to bring in people outside of Sun and create a community of people using Solaris, of the various developers and application shops that are developing drivers and additional applications on top of Solaris," he said. "We want to bring them in and give them the opportunity to participate, just as we have done with Sun employees in the past."

Suns Phipps said the OpenSolaris model will focus on contributors and many people from Suns partners contribute to the existence and growth of Solaris. "We fully expect that they will be fully represented within the OpenSolaris community as well and the community will elect their two members to the advisory board next time," he said.

Asked if OpenSolaris will be able to be built using open-source tools like GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) rather than a Sun compiler, Goguen said Sun will ensure there is buildable source code and all the tools to allow you to do that. Sun has not yet announced what those tools will be, he said, noting that Sun currently builds the Opteron version of the operating system using GCC today.

John Loiacono, executive vice president for software at Sun, told eWEEK recently that Sun is also on track to deliver before the end of June all the OpenSolaris source code, which is most of the code for its shipping Solaris 10 product less some third-party drivers and other technology not legally owned by Sun.

Sun has distributed more than one million registered licenses for Solaris 10 since Jan. 31, when the software became available on Suns Web site, he said, but he was unable to say how many of those were paid licenses rather than free downloads.

With regard to the two pieces of technology that were not included when Solaris 10 shipped earlier this year—the 128-bit Solaris ZFS file system and the Janus technology that allows Linux binaries to run natively on Solaris—Loiacono said both are coming along and will be available by the middle of the year.

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