Wednesday Jan 07, 2009

"Built Entirely from Closed Engineering Efforts"

When to use Solaris vs. Linux: Operating system comparison: "So what's the difference between OpenSolaris and Linux? First and foremost – Linux distributions will use the Linux kernel and OpenSolaris distributions will use the Solaris kernel. This important to note, because while Red Hat Enterprise Linux is built entirely from open source Linux, Solaris is (or was until recently) built entirely from closed/propriety engineering efforts by Sun Microsystems engineers." -- Ken Milberg, Search Enterprise Linux

"Built entirely from closed/propriety engineering efforts by Sun Microsystems engineers?" Sorry. Not quite.

The OpenSolaris kernel is over 40,000 files now (kernel, system commands, libraries, networking, filesystems), and there are thousands of files from BSD and thousands of files from AT&T and many of those of files are core to the system. And, of course, there are many other bits that come from other open source communities. Also, since we started opening in January of 2005 (that's four years ago, not "recently" as suggested above) the OpenSolaris community has been contributing. We have about three hundred contributions integrated from a couple of hundred contributors in two dozen countries and also contributions to projects and other distributions as well.

Now, given the obvious infrastructure constraints this nascent community has been working under, that relatively modest contribution level could be seen as a pretty good start. It's something to learn from and build on with the opening of more infrastructure and the creation of new package repositories in an effort to increase contributions. That's pretty much what we are doing. Are we behind on some of this? Yep. Are we satisfied with where we are? Nope. Are we "entirely" closed? Nope. In fact, that assertion is entirely wrong. Is all of this well known in the community? Absolutely. So, although it's true the majority of code in the kernel has been written by Sun engineers, we've never stated otherwise. It's simply the reality of where the project is at the moment and how it evolved. But to understand where the project is going you need more context, and that perspective is not offered in the quote above. Nor is it present in the paragraph that follows the quote and concludes the article. I'm not saying the article is all bad. There are some positive things in there about OpenSolaris, but the overall impression you are left with is that this is all a half hearted attempt to jump on some bandwagon. And, well, I just disagree.

Tuesday Jan 06, 2009

Attacks in Politics and Marketing

I see attack politics and attack marketing as pretty much the same thing. Or, a distinction without much of a difference, anyway. Politicians generally attack enemies who threaten their getting elected or getting some policy implemented. If you aren't a threat, though, you are basically ignored in that system. And if you are a little guy trying to attack powerful politicians, you are generally ignored, too. This is why collective protest is a necessary prerequisite for change. Strength comes in numbers. You have to make yourself a threat to even get noticed, and that has to happen well before you have a shot at changing things (whatever your thing is). But from the politicians point of view, since they have the power, it seems the attack principle dictates that they shouldn`t want to give too much exposure to a competitor or group they don`t support, so many politicians actually tend to attack pretty carefully. The rhetorically skilled know this very well. They think out a few moves ahead. Who should do the attacking? What`s the venue of the attack? What will the counter punch look like? Where will it come from? And when? What does it mean when no counter attack comes back at all and instead they are met with silence? And heck, what if the opponent praises in return instead of attacking as expected? The answers to these questions are imprecise at best.

I used to do competitive marketing, and I went through this exact same process. However, I always told my clients that attacks are best done by third parties and only in response to a precipitating attack. In other words, you don`t attack first. It`s not worth the headline. Instead, you be the one responding. Here`s why: those who attack first generally give away at least some of their position, and that gives you much more flexibility to respond. Unskilled politicians and marketers make this mistake all the time when they shoot their mouths off, but the concept holds up pretty well over time. I`ve said before that I think people attack for basically two reasons: (1) they are afraid that someone smaller than them may grow up and kick their butt, or (2) they are small themselves and want to pick a fight with a big guy to get attention. Either way, if you study your attacker you can learn a lot.

It's a game, granted. And everyone in it knows this. Most attacks can be quite easily turned around with some basic facts and logic. But rationality is irrelevant in the arena of delivering really good emotional propaganda for the purpose of influencing behavior. That's why attacks can work in some cases if they generate a strong reaction from the attacked. Attacks spread fear. And many times that fear shapes how people think if it`s not characterized properly. In fact, the term used to describe this process is sometimes called FUD -- fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It`s a silly sounding term, but it should be taken seriously because the best propagandists out there can be rather dangerous people if they have a power base and resources supporting them (a country, a company, an interest group, a foundation, a university, a union, whatever). In other cases, however, attacks and fear mongering backfire badly, and we saw this in the recent political campaign in the U.S. where pols on both sides took some things too far and the people (remember the people?) called them out on it.

So, what should you do if you are attacked in the marketplace? First, stop. Think. Don`t react immediately with the first counter attack you can think of in the first publication you can find. You`ve been attacked so you now have the upper hand for a period of time (not forever, though). What is the attack telling you about your attacker? Is he or she responding go your attack? If so, you deserve the counter attack so enjoy your stupid little fight. If not, though, something else is going on and you may be in a much better position than you think. It means that you got someone`s attention for some reason. You may have not even intended to get this attention, but that`s what the attack may mean and that`s valuable competitive intelligence if you can confirm it. Remember, if you were really irrelevant, chances are you`d be ignored. So, dig right there before responding and respond to defend and deflect not to attack back. And if you can praise the attacker (or his product or community or company or whatever) so much the better. Attackers are generally simple minded and angry and unable to deal with praise as a response. Alternatively, your attacker could just be engaging in bad marketing or politicking. Consider that too. Either way, you have the upper hand if you do the responding, not the attacking.

Tags: propaganda attacks

Wednesday Dec 17, 2008

It's Still Too Late

OpenSolaris 2008.11 update woos Linux users: "Jones said, however, that Sun's moves to create an open source product and grow a developer community were on target but arrive too late. 'It's the right thing to do … but the party is already finished,' Jones said. 'Sun might be able to stem the tide from Solaris to Linux [by continuing to improve OpenSolaris]. But their grandiose plan of replacing Linux isn't going to happen. They are attracting more developers, but not from Linux.'" -- Richard Jones, vice president, Burton Group.

I don't know what the party reference is all about, but the too late commentary is about four years old now. Yet we still go about building community, products, and infrastructure. I think we fell behind on the infrastructure part, but the community is clearly coming along, and the main distro is earning its way from an engineering perspective as well. Warts and all, it's really quite good for its relatively young age. And as far as the "grandiose plan of replacing Linux" is concerned, I still haven't seen it. People talk and some are competitive with Linux (which is fine, by the way), but the vast majority of plans we are implementing are designed to build community, products, and infrastructure to grow the project organically. One thing I do agree with in the quote above, though, is that we are attracting new developers (and uses, too). Jones' position on that part is exactly what I've been saying for four years -- Linux will grow but so will we. I've never moved from that view. Yes, people will go back and forth but that's a side show. Although we are still a small community compared to Linux, we are indeed making progress in our own way. I do a lot of work in emerging markets, and it's easy to see that we are reaching new people now. It's probably too early to show up in massively big business metrics in the West, but that's what early project management is all about. You work in the dark for a long time. I've seen this repeated in multiple industries now.

So, is it too late to catch Linux? I'm not sure it matters much in that context. It's a big world, and there is room for all of us to fit. We simply have too much work to do learning from Linux in some areas where they are strong, focusing on some of our clear advantages in other areas, transforming the existing Solaris base into an open community, and reaching out to new users and developers who have never even heard of us. It's not too late. Not by a long shot. I just don't view projects from that perspective.

Monday Oct 13, 2008

Dissecting an Attack

Paul Murphy takes apart -- point by point -- a recent InfoWorld article attacking OpenSolaris -- Anatomy of an attack: The New York Times on Solaris. As hit pieces go, the original article falls flat on its face because it's so obviously overkill. I commented on it as well.

Sunday Sep 28, 2008


Shock headlines and unsubstantiated assertions. That's what you'll find in this InfoWorld piece on OpenSolaris -- Is Sun Solaris on its deathbed? It's an unfortunate article because it's so obviously unbalanced, and it's sad to see the New York Times undermine its credibility by just reprinting the darn thing. But that's ok. The community can talk back now. There are many comments challenging the conclusions in the article right in the comments section, as well as some pointing to some legitimate issues on the project. I appreciate that. That's all welcome conversation. And I see other conversations about the article taking place on, OSNews,, and Slashdot. There is bound to be more of this back and forth in the media, but I think one of the better summary posts on the Linux vs OpenSolaris issue was written earlier in the year by Stephen O'Grady at Redmonk.

In general, there are certainly many things to criticize about the OpenSolaris project -- as there are about any project -- but this "death" bit that comes up from time to time seems way over the top, don't you think? I've commented about these issues so many times before I can't even remember, as have many others too. The only thing I'd say about the article is that I'm happy the Linux community is doing well, I think we can still learn a great deal from Linux about how they build community, and I think the real market battle is between all the Unix's and Windows. I hang out with the Linux guys in Tokyo, and I'm now trying to get to know the Linux guys in Beijing. It's great to be part of international groups like these two and others that openly welcome me and anyone who wants to participate. I see BSD guys in these communities. I see Ruby guys. MySQL and PosgresSQL. Java. OpenOffice. NetBeans. Eclipse. Web 2.0. Perl. Creative Commons. Etc. It seems to me that should be the model here -- communities getting together to share ideas about engineering, community development, and open source software.

Meanwhile, on the OpenSolaris project I think things have been looking up for a while now after some rough patches last year. We keep releasing source and binaries and building community around the world. We are also making progress on fixing some of our mistakes as well. See Simon on getting open, Bonnie on contributions, David on build 98, Tim on the future, the SCM project on infrastructure, Chris on the new wiki, Alan on the webapp, the OGB on the reorg, and Sun on Solaris. And there's much more, of course. Some really good stuff going on. It's hardly perfect, sure, but it's certainly far from death. And to all of those people out there doing all this hard work with passion and dedication for the technology and community they love, I'd say some of us are pretty jazzed about the future we are building.

Wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday Jul 02, 2008

Kicking a Puppy

Red Hat In Boston, Part 2.3: openSUSE And Openness, Period: "On Sun re: OpenSolaris: 'They're 10 years too late to create a community [around OpenSolaris]. I hate to say anything about about a free Unix because I feel like I'm kicking a puppy, but on the other hand I'm very disappointed that they can't just bite the bullet and participate in Linux. The work that's done for Solaris is done only for Solaris. And if you're a customer, do you really want to adopt an open source OS where the only real vendor option is Sun? It's great to work with Sun in community projects where Sun is an equal member, but not as much fun to work in a community that is controlled by Sun.'" -- Joe Brockmeier, community manager for openSUSE.

Interesting comments.

At first I was disappointed to read this coming from a community guy and all, but then I slapped myself silly. I know better. I've been doing this for a while now. People in this business (any business, really) attack for basically two reasons: (1) they are afraid that someone smaller than them may grow up and kick their butt, or (2) they are small and want to pick a fight with a big guy to get attention. There are other reasons, but those are the biggies.

Anyway, if you read this article in its entirety, that paragraph up there on OpenSolaris really sticks out. One wonders what the real context was because it doesn't really fit the piece that well. Regardless, the bit about the "work done for Solaris is done only for Solaris" doesn't make sense since there are things in OpenSolaris now that are not even in Solaris yet. Anyone with any knowledge about OpenSolaris knows this. And those ZFS and DTrace bits now living nicely in BSD/MacOS also don't fit the attack that well, too. I think we have a few distros out there now, as well. Not as many as Linux, surely, but our technology is starting to spread, and that's great. But the "10 years too late to create a community" is the real kicker. To accept that statement is to believe that tiny little markets like China and India and Brazil and Russia are fully developed and there's no room for another operating system, no room for another community. Just no room. Wrong. And obviously so.

Whatever. I run MacOS at home and it's great. I run OpenSolaris at work and at home and it's great (nascent though it is). I also run Linux (Ubuntu) at work and at home, too. In fact, I have more and more respect for the technology in Linux (what I can understand, anyway, being a non-techie myself), and I regularly learn from Linux guys about community building issues. I'm also proud of all of the software Sun has contributed to the FOSS community that runs on Linux and helps make Linux successful around the world. I haven't tried openSUSE yet and I don't know much about the community, so I really can't comment on that -- other than I've heard great things about both. More from Patrick.

Friday Jun 20, 2008

The OGB Breaks Wind

Sam Varghese scratches out a very humorous quote here -- Hey FOSS project, what's your pedigree?
"The project is so tied up in its own bowels, trying to draft structures for its own operation, that the only thing it has left to chance is probably the order in which members of the governing board break wind - and in which minor key they do so. I wouldn't be surprised if even that was specified in an amendment some years down the line."
Sam, I have to admit, that's a great quote. You know pretty much nothing about OpenSolaris (just ask Patrick), but that's a very funny quote indeed. I'm saving it.

The context for Sam's quote is the whole "organic vs inorganic" open source argument. Linux is great because it's "organic" and springs to life from the great wild, and OpenSolaris sucks wind because it's "non-organic" and is driven by Sun and the OGB has flatulence. That's pretty much it. Whatever. I'm a fan of Linux (I use Ubuntu), but I really don't know enough yet about the Linux community to comment about its lack of pesticide use. I know more about OpenSolaris, so I can comment there.

OpenSolaris is still very much a mix. Some parts are most certainly organic -- porting of DTrace and ZFS to MacOS/BSD), the non-Sun distros, the user groups, the OSDevCon conference, etc. Some parts are represented by transparency on Sun's part and the interaction with other communities, such as the specification and testing of the SCM choices, the new wiki applications, the OpenSolaris Summit operations, etc. Some parts are characterized by various open development projects on the site with live gates outside the firewall with external committers, such as desktop and g11n, or just engineers working in the open as much as possible, such as some of the technologies in the new OpenSolaris distro (install, packaging, etc). And other parts of the project are still largely internal to Sun but plan to move outside, and that's probably represented best by the ON consolidation -- the kernel. The kernel source is out there, of course, and the community is contributing via the request-sponsor process, but the main gate is still inside. So, give or take few inaccuracies on my part, it's pretty much a mix of organic and inorganic. Or is it non-organic. Anyway. The problem with all this is ... what? What's the big deal? This is all normal operations for a large, multi-phase, long term project to open Solaris from within a multi-billion dollar corporation that still has build, ship, and support products.

OpenSolaris can't live up to an artificial standard of being a totally "organic" project. I'm not sure anything could, actually. And we never claimed such a characteristic, actually. I think it's fine for those involved in the project to criticize various things (and they do), but that's all in an effort to fix things and move forward. Again, it's normal. You will find that in all projects in all industries. I'll give Sam one thing, though. There is a kernel of truth in that we have spun ourselves around silly on some issues these last few years. But that's very much changing now. Sure, you can argue with the changes, but the fact is that the project has changed significantly lately and for the better. But did Sam choose to get involved and help out in the true spirit of open source? No. Instead, he chose to use a two thousand year old rhetorical technique (well documented by Aristotle) to attack while sitting safely on the sidelines.

It's not big deal, really. I just loved the quote.

Saturday Apr 26, 2008

Open Source from a Company Perspective

As OpenSolaris gains in popularity, we are finding ourselves back in the spotlight. That's fine. This stuff comes and goes. For a long while we were pretty much ignored, but I have a feeling that things will be hot for a while with the upcoming release of the OpenSolaris distro. That's ok, too. It's all part of building a business and a new development community -- and figuring out how the two mix since they both grow from the same sponsor. And that's the key. Sun is the company and Sun is opening Solaris, and Sun is also the primary builder of the OpenSolaris community in these early stages. Matt Asay brings this up -- The difficulty of building community around commercial: The OpenSolaris example -- based on some posts he links to from Ted T'so' What Sun was trying to do with Open Solaris. I commented on both blogs and also tried to start a conversation on advocacy-discuss -- Corporate Open Source -- so we can discuss some of these bits here in our community. I also think we need to address some of these issues in the Advocacy discussion at the OpenSolaris Summit next week -- not the specifics of any given blog, obviously, but the larger issues of how we grow and how we get our story out there so it's considered along with everyone else's. I don't particularly care about spin and noise in this particular context, but rather, I'm interested in specific programs we can initiate in the Advocacy CG to actually help build a global community that thrives across language, cultural, and geographic barriers and one that is empowered to contribute back. Once we do that, much of the story will take care of itself. In other words, the work has to come first so the story resonates as true.

Friday Apr 04, 2008

Downloads and Attacks

Patrick clarifies. Great post.

Sunday Feb 17, 2008

A Chuckle?

I left a comment on Micheal Dolan's blog -- Emily Ratliff covers Roy Fielding’s Departure from OpenSolaris -- the other day, but it has not made it out of moderation yet. Or, the comment just didn't take. Not sure. I didn't see one of those warnings saying my comment is being moderated, but when I tried again it said I had already submitted that comment. But no comment. So, I gave up. I'll just post it here instead.

Hello, Michael.

It's sad that you get a "chuckle" about some of this stuff. Many people here are trying hard to make the OpenSolaris project work (under difficult circumstances sometimes), and they don't deserve your sarcasm.

The request-sponsor program you laugh at was never intended to scale as a general integration program. Everyone involved in OpenSolaris knows that. It was always designed as a temporary solution, but since we are clearly behind in  moving the main ON gate and some of the integration tools outside, the request-sponsor program has had to fill the void. And yes, it's quite backed up. Everyone knows that, too. Emily's quote you cite is somewhat misleading, though, because it assumes that the Linux and OpenSolaris processes are the same (or at least similar enough to compare). They are not. Linux is an open development community that has been open for a very long time. It started small and grew large in the open over many years. OpenSolaris, however, is still very much emerging and trying to open from the inside of a company. We started big (in terms of size of code base and number of engineers and processes, etc), and are trying to open in stages in a responsible way since Solaris is one of the core products of the company. Also, it has proved to be a complex engineering, legal, business, customer, marketing, and cultural task of moving such a large operation outside and teasing apart the development process from the productization process while we simultaneously build, ship, and support a product. Linux never had to do what we are doing, so the issues are extremely different. A better way to look at it would be to compare the opening of Solaris with, say, the (potential) opening of HP-UX and/or AIX if those systems are ever opened. I can only imagine that the issues would be pretty similar given the size and age of those code bases, the complexity of their development methodologies, and how important they are to their respective companies. But regardless, we are certainly far behind where we'd like to be at this point. If you'd like to follow the SCM migration project, you can check in with one of my colleagues here: Mike has some pointers in that blog that will take you to the project pages on

Also please keep in mind that the request-sponsor program is only one part of the OpenSolaris project, and it's only one way people are contributing (and it's only about code, whereas people contribute in non-code ways as well). And it largely represents integrations to the ON consolidation, not all other consolidations and development projects on the site. If you wanted to really compare OpenSolaris and Linux from an engineering perspective in terms of the flow of code being integrated into the kernel, you'd have to look inside Sun for that since the ON consolidation gate is not opened yet. Then the data points would be quite different, and the "teeth brushing" analogy may not hold up so well. But one really can't compare the two systems that way, of course, since our development process are still largely behind the firewall. That will change over time, though. Currently, we are more of an open source project, and we are slowly (very slowly) moving to an open development project as well. In fact, some consolidation gates are already outside, and there are already external contributors.

And there is no need to be "irked" about the user group example you cite, either. I left a comment on Emily's blog about this. There are no NDAs on OpenSolaris. The issue there was the building security procedures since the meeting was at a Sun site. Sometimes it's cumbersome holding community meetings at corporate facilities for just this reason. Many groups that are run by Sun employees deal with this ok now, but others choose other facilities, and other groups are led by non-Sun employees at universities or other companies. It's not a big deal, and it in no way reflects poorly on those people involved. If you feel we are "messed up" in our approach to building a community and feel you can help, we'd be more than happy for you to get involved. We are still learning and trying new things all the time. However, uninformed opinions expressed from the outside without any direct participation have relatively little value. So, I encourage you to subscribe to advocacy-discuss here since that is the Community Group that is home to the OpenSolaris User Groups. That's a good place to start since we are kicking around some ideas for UG community-building in two recent threads here and here so you may want to participate in those discussions.

Finally, when you say that you should have applied for a job at Sun to fix this "mess" that, too, is hurtful to the people working on the project, most of who are honorable people just trying to do a good job. We are a small and young community and we are doing our best given the circumstances in which we find ourselves. All projects in all industries in all regions experience rough patches in their life cycle. That is clearly the case with us in some areas. However, there is a great deal that is going extremely well on OpenSolaris, too, and we can't lost sight of that. That's what I keep telling people in the community, and many people agree and are willing to do the work necessary to improve things. And in terms of a job, you'd have to check with Sun HR on that. But you don't need a job at Sun to participate in OpenSolaris, though. Just jump in. But if you think you can "fix it myself" I'd humbly suggest that you will have to talk to many thousands of developers, many of who are Sun's top engineers, to earn consensus for your ideas. OpenSolaris has a distributed leadership model, so no one individual gets to run things. We certainly have a long way to go, though, so please feel free to contribute. All the lists are here and that's the fastest way to talk directly with the kernel engineers.

Tuesday Oct 02, 2007

"It's Too Late! CIOs Don't Care Anymore"

The future of Unix Part 1: IBRS' view: Here's Kevin McIsaac of IBRS responding to a question about Sun's port of Solaris to x86/x64: "But too late! Linux has come along, Windows has come along and it runs really well on Intel. CIOs don't care anymore. There is a lot of great stuff about Solaris but guess what? The mainframes had a lot of that for twenty five years and I left the main frame to go to Solaris back in the eighties. I think organisations like Sun are kidding themselves. They should know from their historical roots that good enough trumps best and Linux and Windows are for most people, good enough!"

Again with the "it's too late" bit. I haven't seen this one crop up in a long time, though. And this time it comes with an exclamation point for extra special emphasis! My goodness. When people say it's too late for what we are doing (Solaris 10, OpenSolaris, new x86/x64 systems, new SPARC systems, etc) that only demonstrates that they are ripe for being disrupted. They are not paying attention. It's not too late. The timing is perfect.

Sunday Sep 23, 2007

Linus and Solaris Bugs

Seems Linus called Solaris a "buggy piece of crap" (here, here). Cool. But I'll listen to Casper, Joerg, Martin, and Richard instead.

Tuesday Sep 11, 2007

Deathmatch or Lovefest?

Noah Gift at O'Reilly has an interesting conversation going about OpenSolaris and GNU/Linux. Check it out:

Wednesday Sep 05, 2007

Headlines! Headlines! Headlines!

Solaris raring for a fight with Linux: "And we thought it was all about peace, love, and ... Solaris. But no, Sun is gearing up for one of the classic open source battles. We've had the various Linux distributions duking it out, and we've had MySQL versus PostgreSQL. Now we're getting Solaris versus Linux, and this is a fight that I believe may actually be worth having." -- Matt Asay


This "battle" tone is all over the web now. I'm not sure where it started, but it seemed to flame up last night around midnight. What I find interesting is that Matt uses the phrase "we're getting Solaris versus Linux" to point to an article titled "OpenSolaris will challenge Linux says Sun" which is actually an abridged article from the more aptly titled "Sun: Coders key to Solaris' rise" published last week.

I blogged about that original article because I loved the quote in there about the OpenSolaris Community. But the version that has people all worked up today is missing eight paragraphs of text from the original. Why? Read both of them and you'll see the clear difference in tone. And why all the wild headline changes, too? Even if you read the version Matt points to you'd be hard pressed to find anything in the article to substantiate the headline. I mean, really, this is silly. Sun's Ian Murdock and Marc Hamilton were talking about how the OpenSolaris community is growing, how the technology is improving, and some of the plans we are kicking around to improve things. That's pretty much it. So, where's the war here?

Oh, and also, the OpenSolaris community isn't taking the bait, which is very cool. This is now the second or third time recently where the community has utterly ignored media and/or blog flame fests. Heck, we've had enough of our own flames in the past, so perhaps we're moving on and just focusing on the job at hand -- building the OpenSolaris community organically and improving this technology openly.

Wednesday Aug 08, 2007

Andrew Morton on OpenSolaris: Part II

Following up from Part I.

More quotes are emerging from Andrew Morton's keynote at LinuxWorld in San Francisco -- Linux Kernel Maintainer: Get Involved!: "I think it's a great shame that OpenSolaris still exists," he continued. "I wish they had killed it. They've fragmented the non-windows os world and for no reason. There is no reason why they couldn't have gone to Linux."

Wild stuff, eh? You know, I've been saying that OpenSolaris is a successful project based on what we've accomplished so far. But at least for right now, we are still a work in progress and all this takes time. No need to rush. No need to shoot our mouths off. Just go about the business of building our community. Well, I can see now that we've actually come much further than I had thought. When the big guys start saying things like what Morton is saying about the little guys, that's a very clear sign that someone's not happy about what may happen in the future. Maybe the big guys aren't so big? Maybe the little guys aren't so little? Attacks like these are actually complements, and the OpenSolaris community should be proud. I certainly am. I remain disappointed that Microsoft hasn't slapped us around yet, but that day will come I feel certain. And I'm also disappointed that I've been so supportive of Linux inside Sun for so long. I feel embarrassed. Oh, well. Live and learn. Move on.

What's really cool, though, is that in these last two articles I learned that Intel is largest corporate contributor to the Linux kernel. That's really excellent since Intel is also getting involved in OpenSolaris.

Tuesday Aug 07, 2007

Andrew Morton on OpenSolaris

Linux kernel maintainer allays fears about forking: "Meanwhile, Morton did not put much stock in Sun's rival OpenSolaris project. 'From where I sit, I don't hear much about it. I don't see much evidence of people switching over,' or seriously considering OpenSolaris, said Morton. Sun should have moved off of Solaris and onto Linux, Morton said. 'They've fragmented the non-Windows operating system world and they continue to do so,' he said. But he acknowledged he did not see much chance of Sun moving away from Solaris." -- Andrew Morton

Oh, well. I guess not everyone has to love you, right? I wonder, though, why the jab now? Linus was critical of OpenSolaris recently, too. Anyway, I actually put a lot of stock in Linux -- especially Ubuntu because it's so open to non-technical users like me.

Tuesday May 01, 2007

More OpenSolaris and GPL

Interesting (though somewhat inaccurate in spots) article in BusinessWeek -- Sun Mulls Deeper Open-Source Dive. What's interesting about it is that no one in the article is actually saying we are "mulling a deeper open source drive" or anything of the sort. Should be an interesting time at JavaOne, though, with all the communities getting together at CommunityOne. I'll be there. And I'm sure there will be a lot of these sorts of articles between now and then, too. But I wonder ... do serious developers and customers and partners pay attention to stuff like this? I'm mixed. Some people tell me the media speculation is garbage and they ignore it, but others get quite animated about it. Who knows. I've never really seen it quantified, so I suppose it will remain a mystery.

Thursday Aug 17, 2006

More IBM on OpenSolaris

So, today was IBM on OpenSolaris day. Well, last nite and today. I commented yesterday on this as well. Here are some links to stuff I found resulting from IBM's comments:

By the way, the conclusion expressed in the "Open Battle Royal" link up there is wrong. I never hit back at IBM on AIX. The press has been asking IBM about that, not Sun. I'm sure Sun has poked IBM about AIX being closed in the past, but it doesn't seem to be part of this round of press articles. Personally, I'm on record saying that it's just fine that AIX is closed and that's IBM's business, not mine. I also applaud IBM's contributions to various open source communities, most notably Linux, Apache, and Eclipse. It's fine for vendors to compete, but that doesn't take away IBM's contributions to the broader open source effort.

I'm quoted in the Cnet article, which seemed to contain the most hostile comments of the bunch. Which is unfortunate in general since we are working hard on this project to open up all this stuff and build a community, and we are trying to take advice from all who participate. And IBM is certainly welcome to participate in our community. I'm not sure they are offering advice here, though:

According to Dan Frye:
  • "Sun holds it all behind the firewall. The community sees nothing."
  • "It's a facade. There's lots of marketing, but no community to speak of."
  • "They would push their design discussions out into the forums, so people can see what's going on."
  • "They have done nothing to build a community," with only 16 non-Sun people contributing code to the project in its first 11 months ... Linux, in comparison, had 10 times that number in the same period after it was launched by Linus Torvalds in 1991-- and that was with no Internet and no advertisements.

All I can say that the opening of Solaris is still taking place. Don't you think it's unfair to judge it so harshly when we're only a year into it? I think we've been pretty open about telling people that this would take time. The opening of Solaris is itself a multi-step engineering and community development process, and the OpenSolaris community is very much part of that process. Anyway, I read through all of the articles and I came up with a few links that may help offer some information around IBM's assertions. I think I have them all covered to one extent or another, but people can argue with anything, I suppose. Here they are:

Now, do we have more to do? Yep. But are we well on our way? Absolutely. Does all that equal "a facade" as suggested? Absolutely not.

And finally, when Frye mischaracterizes our progress and then compares that to the Linux community you should know that we are not comparing ourselves to the Linux community. Heck, it's hard enough just keeping up with OpenSolaris let alone bringing in another system and community into the mix. I've said many times that the Linux community impresses me massively, and the OpenSolaris community can learn a great deal from them. Both technologies and both communities stand on their own.

Wednesday Aug 16, 2006

IBM Attacks OpenSolaris -- Again

Well, there they go again. IBM kicked OpenSolaris again -- IBM says Sun's open source strategy lacks support. This latest effort comes to us from LinuxWorld in San Francisco courtesy of Scott Handy, who also attacked OpenSolaris last year, and Dan Frye. Their statements about our community only represent their own ignorance because their rhetoric is so easily undermined. It's a shame, though, don't you think? IBM should be applauded for their efforts in the Apache, Linux, and Eclipse communities (and others, I'm sure), but I'm having a difficult time praising them since they seem so mean spirited toward OpenSolaris. We're not going away, guys. In fact, we're only getting bigger and stronger every day. But actually, from a community point of view, I think we've been somewhat humble this first year. We are trying to build a community that leads with technology, not spin. Maybe that's just my hope, but I think we've largely done a pretty good job of respecting others.

I don't know very many people at IBM, but I did have the opportunity to interact with some IBM engineers one time, and they were absolute professionals. Oh, well. What can I say. I commented on a previous attack from IBM's Ross Mauri last week. Most of that applies here as well. Just to keep the continuity going here ...

Saturday Aug 05, 2006

IBM's Ross Mauri

Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM's System p group, takes a shot at OpenSolaris in a Q&A interview with Cnet yesterday -- Newsmaker: Firing up IBM's Unix business. Jump to the very last question on page two for this little gem:

Do you ever consider open-sourcing AIX the way Sun is open-sourcing Solaris?
Mauri: No, we're not. I think that OpenSolaris is a little bit of a game Sun is playing to try to get good PR. But I don't think it's in the spirit of true open source.

We have been very happy to get directly involved and contribute to Linux and Apache and the Eclipse Foundation. We're not going to open-source AIX. It's best run on the current model, where we have the expertise. We enhance it. We work closely with our customers to listen to their requirements. But in the end, it's best that we control that source code.

Any substantiation for any of those references to OpenSolaris, Ross? I love the "in the spirit of true open source" bit, though. It's code for those afraid of being direct. Whatever.

This response fascinates me, though. Rhetorically, Ross has himself all boxed in here, which can easily happen when you're distracted by attacking others. Remember, competitive attacks are more difficult to pull off than most people realize. I've only met a few people who could deliver them effectively, too.

Stephen Shankland (the reporter) didn't ask Ross if Sun was playing PR games with OpenSolaris, and he didn't ask if OpenSolaris was "true" or not. The emphasis of the question was on AIX, not OpenSolaris. He asked if IBM had considered opening AIX like Sun had opened Solaris. Pretty clean question. Ok, you could argue that the question may presuppose that IBM should open AIX like Sun opened Solaris, but it's pretty subtle and easily ignored. But even leaving out OpenSolaris, it's a perfectly logical question to ask given IBM's investment in Linux and AIX.

Anyway, instead of answering the question by focusing on AIX development and IBM's customers and engineers, Ross uses the opportunity to first attack OpenSolaris by saying it's a "PR" move and a "game" and not "true" open source. Huge mistake. Now he has to go back to AIX and answer the substance of the question. But to be credible, everything he says should be consistent with the reasoning behind what he said while attacking OpenSolaris. This is where he drowns. In an effort to substantiate himself, Ross provides examples of communities that his company contributes to, which by itself is fine. However, juxtaposed against the untrue OpenSolaris,  we are led to believe that Linux, Apache, and Eclipse are the "true" open source. Perhaps. But people usually compare OpenSolaris with Linux, and I think that's what Ross intended here but decided to toss in Apache and Eclipse for good measure. Who knows. The trouble is that he actually undermines his own statement about OpenSolaris since all three communities he cites are licensed differently, and two of them don't fit with what Ross appears to mean by "true" open source. And if that's not what he means and Apache and Eclipse are also "true" open source, then OpenSolaris should also be described as "true" by that definition as well. I mean, is Mozilla "true" open source in Ross's opinion? I don't know. Maybe not.

The result is that Ross demonstrates his own lack of knowledge about OpenSolaris -- PR is actually not that involved, it's an engineering community from top to bottom, it's open source as specified by OSI (they don 't offer a "true" category as of yet), and we don't play games with the company's core technology. Sorry, Ross. You don't know what you are talking about, and this is a PR disaster for you. But delicious nonetheless.

Now, Ross is probably a smart guy. He probably runs a pretty large organization at IBM, and you can't do that without being smart. So, I can respect him for that. But even smart guys can sound foolish when they lack competitive rhetorical skills and get distracted by attacking others. None of this would have happened had Ross simply focused on IBM and AIX and ignored OpenSolaris. However, I do think he has to work on his AIX/Linux answer, though. Although IBM has consistently stated that its strategy with AIX is to keep development closed (which is a perfectly fine business decision), I think the reason Ross offers undermines his statements supporting the benefits of open source development. I mean, open source is supposedly good for Linux, Apache, and Eclipse, but it's simultaneously bad for AIX because the AIX code needs "control" by the "expertise" at IBM? I don't get that. And OpenSolaris? Well, that's so low it's a "game" not even worthy of being "true" so it's dismissed with contempt.

But maybe I'm reading too much into it.


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