Perspective and History

Interesting article on Project Indiana -- Indiana's Calling, Is Anyone Listening? The first sentence of the article is most fascinating for me: "Telling the story of Project Indiana is not an easy one."

Ha. I'll bet. The article then goes on to talk about how many commentators are seeing all this from the perspective of Linux. Well, of course they are, my goodness. That's been the case for several years now. In fact, this is probably the most significant messaging issue around OpenSolaris -- and Solaris, for that matter -- since we started the project. I can remember arguing for a year before we opened that we should not fuel this issue by criticizing or comparing ourselves to Linux in any way whatsoever. Just get people focusing on OpenSolaris, growing our community organically, and praising the Linux community for the outstanding job they've done (which they clearly have). Not that anyone listened, but that was basically my pitch. In other words, we should just shut up and build our community, which we knew would take years so just get started. I figured that we needed to lead with humility as the single most important element in order to have any shot at earning our own credibility so we wouldn't always be seen from the perspective of Linux.

Well, two years later I can see that my efforts in this area were basically meaningless -- for both good and bad reasons. The Good: The engineers participating all along didn't need the lecture since they got the concept of community building because they were already a community. That's been cool to see (but we have a lot more to do). The Bad: Market perception had already moved well beyond seeing OpenSolaris from the perspective of OpenSolaris. Instead, it would be compared to Linux in almost every way possible, and changing this would take years. Plus, our own flamers (the distinct minority who clearly lack credibility) did their very best to continue picking fights with Linux and distracting the OpenSolaris community on our very own lists. Oh, well. What saved us? A few things. OpenSolaris was credible early on because of the advanced nature of the code and the distinct lack of hype from Sun. Plus, everyone thought we'd fail. Also we didn't have a king or anything, so everyone who participated shared pretty equally in the conversations. That's what defines the leadership model on OpenSolaris, by the way. It's distributed widely and not focused on any one individual. Anyway, OpenSolaris was just an engineering project focusing on the phased opening of code and infrastructure to build a little community around the concept of open development. That's it. In that respect, we've been successful, and we've been slowly earning our credibility as we build our community. Cool.

Yet as Sun hired a big Linux name in Ian Murdock a few months ago, we've clearly started generating a lot more press coverage as a result, and along with that comes the inevitable comparisons to Linux. Yet again. Sigh. The increased attention is good, of course, and it will be interesting to see how much longer the media market sees OpenSolaris through a Linux lens. Clearly, a lot more coverage is coming, so I hope we can finally overcome this Linux perspective because the project has been standing on its own feet for two years now and deserves to be seen from the perspective of it's own successes and failures. So, if Indy's ideas can successfully build on the good work that has gone before, that would be a welcome contribution.

Ok, back to the article and this quote right here: "'We came into this with an understanding of what we needed to do, which was in a world where so many more people know Linux than Solaris, how do we figure out how to make the wonderful technology in Solaris more accessible?' Murdock explained. To break the Project down, Indiana is meant to create a binary distribution of OpenSolaris within the OpenSolaris community, not inside Sun proper. This is not to say Sun employees aren't involved in the process. Teams within Sun are working on various aspects of the project, such as installation, packaging, and GNU userland. In fact, Murdock said, some of these efforts have been going on for some time."

The "distro" part of that paragraph is somewhat confusing since Sun already has a binary distro (all distros here), and we've been working toward open development for two years, so none of that is new. But I think people get the point that the distro model will be changing, and that's explained pretty well elsewhere. And there are parts of that change that are very appealing and will help grow the OpenSolaris community significantly. Regardless, the most important, part here is the recognition that much of this work has been underway for some time now. And the fact that it's being highlighted now is cool.

Anyway, it's a pretty good article on some of the evolutionary changes coming to OpenSolaris. A lot of us are looking forward to the Indy project coming to fruition along with many other projects in the OpenSolaris community that have been underway for a couple of years. The SCM migration is probably the most important, actually, and the most challenging, too. But as we grow and evolve and look forward, we need to keep looking back from time to time to understand the perspective of our history. It's difficult to keep these things straight in a world of so many changing messages.

More on Indy here and more on some of the related projects here as well. Many additional links at both locations.
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