"Much fanfare, but not much avail"

[Update & Correction: It was not Dave Rosenberg who made these statements below on which I'm commenting. It was Peter Yared. I guess I got confused by Dave's post. I thought he was summarizing and adding commentary to Peter's post. Apologies to Dave for the mistake.]

Dave Rosenberg writes about how he thinks open source has changed the business models of some big companies -- Big Company Behavior Patterns Around Open Source. This is how Sun is reacting -- according to Rosenberg, I mean:

We're Open, Too - Sun
"We're Open, Too" players open source their competing proprietary products long after a successful open source project has eclipsed their proprietary alternatives. Sun open sources their products in this way to much fanfare, but not much avail, examples include Solaris vs. Linux, NetBeans vs. Eclipse, SunONE Application Server vs. JBOSS, SPARC vs. x86, etc. This strategy is a stark contrast to the IBM "join the party" strategy, where IBM takes the best of their proprietary products and adds it to existing successful open source project like Linux.

Wrong on many fronts. Simon Phipps points out most of the errors in a comment to the original post. I couldn't find a permalink to comments in the blog, but you can easily find it off the main post. There are only two comments currently. Anyway, I wanted to point out a few other items ...

First ... we didn't release OpenSolaris "to much fanfare" as Rosenberg states. In fact, the truth is exactly the opposite, and anyone who knows anything about this project would know that. Last year we opened 10 million lines of code with one press release and a couple of hundred engineering blogs. That's it. There was no big advertising campaign or proclamations and all that crap. Instead, the engineers led the launch in absolutely every important way. And since then we've opened more code -- sixteen times -- with absolutely zero fanfare.

Early on, we intentionally understated the marketing, PR, and advertising on the project, and I've been a strong proponent of that strategy from the very beginning of the project. Not that we didn't want to get the word out -- far from it -- but more so because we wanted the project to gain credibility with OpenSolaris developers from the ground up, not from the top down with some billion dollar advertising campaign. We wanted to earn our credibility from the quality of our code and from the talents of our developers, not from the spin of our messages. Basically, we wanted to engage developers, not commentators. It's really that simple. Code comes first, not spin. Also, we were opening Solaris in stages, and we knew it would take time to not only release all the code and tools but to also build the community and the infrastructure for open development. That's all happening at the same time.

Now, however, the situation is changing. We have an enormous amount of code out there, the community is growing, and more infrastructure is in place. So I would expect -- and would support -- a stepped up marketing strategy that reflects our current position and direction. The engineering comes first, though. OpenSolaris is a developer program, not a marketing campaign.

Second ... the "but not much avail" comment is rude and dismisses the entire OpenSolaris community -- thousands of people working hard to build an innovative project we can all be proud of. An apology would be nice, don't you think?

Third ... Rosenberg says that we are opening our "competing proprietary products long after a successful open source project has eclipsed their proprietary alternatives." He then juxtaposes SPARC vs x86 as an example of this. Fascinating. I didn't know that OpenSPARC was in response to the previously open source x86 project. I must have missed that one.

The SPARC vs. x86 comment by Rosenberg was incorrect, as you pointed out. But the other examples are very valid, I think - Netbeans never recovered from Eclipse's head start, despite (finally) becoming a good IDE now. Nobody uses SunOne AS, JBoss owns the low-cost market - it works and I know it, why should I care about SunOne?

And while you verbosely dismiss the claim that Sun hyped the release of the Solaris source, you do not deny that it was a (desperate?) reaction to the success of Linux. The IBM comparison is telling, and supports Rosenberg's assertion: IBM chose to incorporate their AIX code into Linux instead of establishing yet another open source OS. I think that's the right way, bundling our forces.

Posted by Stephan Jaensch on June 21, 2006 at 05:56 PM JST #

Hi, Stephan.

I don't see how Eclipse had a head start when NetBeans was open first. There are many people who feel NetBeans is better, and there are many people who feel Eclipse is better. I'm not addressing that issue. I'm only addressing the fact that NetBeans was open first. The original post implies that NetBeans was in response to Eclipse. It wasn't.

I didn't comment on SunONE app server (though I don't think we're using that branding anymore) in the original post. If you use JBoss, cool. I understand it's a very good product.

Regarding your comment about us being "desperate" regarding OpenSolaris, I think that overstates the situation to the extreme. There were many reasons why we opened Solaris, but they all rest on the notion of building an OpenSolaris developer community around the OpenSolaris source code. Now, the changing of the market certainly had an effect on us, and the success of Linux is something we can learn from -- a position I say internally all the time because I'm extremely impressed with their accomplishments. But also we've always said that many of Sun's Solaris customers wanted us to open the code, we've always said that universities told us that they wanted the code open (for teaching, research, publishing, etc), we've always said that individual Solaris developers and administrators wanted to contribute to OpenSolaris development, and we've always said that many in the OpenSolaris community wanted to take the code into new markets in new ways. Sun's Solaris engineering leadership also wanted very much to open this code and extend the community that was already there. Those factors were just as important to us when we made this decision. And some of the planning for all this has been underway for years. Using the word "desperate" mischaracterizes all that. When I observe Sun's Solaris engineers in their opening of this organization, I don't see desperation now and I didn't see it when I joined the group a few years ago. They just don't behave that way. But if observers take all that and conclude that we're desperate, well, all I can say is that I hold a different opinion.

Regarding IBM's various strategies, I have no idea what they are doing, to be honest, which is why I didn't comment to that part in the original post. I know I'm verbose. Sorry. :)

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on June 22, 2006 at 01:07 AM JST #

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