Monday Apr 18, 2005

OpenSolaris: Too Little, Too late

"Too little, too late" is my favorite hit on OpenSolaris. It seems to be the most pervasive hit, too, probably because it's just so easy to say. It's kind of catchy, don't you think? Omar Tazi thinks we are doing too little and are doing it too late. But, as is generally the case, it's baseless and he offers no substantiation whatsoever. This is what he says:

I may be wrong but I think it’s too little too late and I even wonder if Sun’s move serves the Operating System open source community. It was doing just fine focusing its resources on the thriving Linux, sometimes more is less. Somebody must be happy up in Redmond.

Yes, Omar. You are wrong. We'll prove it over time ... this is just a heads up.

First, why would Redmond be happy? Microsoft's Windows is a competitor of ours in many markets. Microsoft can't be happy that yet another enterprise operating system is going open source while Windows is still locked shut. Second, why are you denying Solaris developers and users from contributing to the OpenSolaris community the same way that Linux and BSD developers contribute to their communities? Seems pretty selfish to me. OpenSolaris will simply help provide more validation for open source around the world, particularly in emerging markets where we have teams hitting the streets right now. The more open source communities the better. There's room for us all, Omar.

Actually, the timing for opening Solaris simply could not be better. We have serious executive support. We are multi platform. We have new SPARC and Opteron systems coming out that fly. We scale from tiny laptops to supercomputers (and don't be surprised to see Solaris on your cell phone in the future). We have really great code in Solaris 10 with features not found anywhere else, and we have numerous areas for improvement in which the community will immediately contribute. We have an excited market that has downloaded a million or so copies in just a couple of months. We have an innovative open source license that will help enable the new community. We are building a responsible co-development model that our customers expect. We have a solid community advisory board. We've been running a pilot program since September. Seems like things are lining up, don't you think? But above all, we have some nervous competitors out there who simply don't know how to react to all this. After all, this wasn't supposed to happen. We were supposed to be dead by now. I guess it's not too late, after all, eh?

OpenSolaris: Too little, too late? Bullshit.

Sunday Apr 10, 2005

Sun Attacked on the High Seas

Here's a new slam piece -- Correcting course or sailing in circles.

It's filled with the required -- yet recycled -- rhetorical and propaganda catch phrases and crafty key messages remnant of a PR FUD campaign designed for maximum negativity. But, like many of these articles lately, it's also so far over the top that it's really a caricature of itself. Some people have told me that I shouldn't point to blogs or articles like this (because I do it all the time), that I shouldn't draw attention to negative opinions. I disagree for a couple of reasons. First, it's fun. Second, we need to know what people are saying about us so we understand where we are doing ok and where we need to improve.

So, here's a quick list of the highlights -- or lowlights, actually -- that we are supposed to remember from this article. This list forms the subtext of the article. Let's not bury these bits in the text. Let's pull them right out into a big bulleted list for all to clearly see. This is what Sun is to this writer in this article:
  • marginalized
  • criticism
  • sunk its claws
  • begrudgingly relaxed its iron grip
  • arrogance
  • denied the importance of the x86 market
  • flipping
  • hubris
  • skepticism and dismissive tone
  • struggling
  • still in search
  • dismisses
  • too little, too late [Editorial Note: this is my favorite!]
  • fail
  • denial
  • doubts
  • unwilling
  • problems
  • big bellow
  • inflating
  • lost
  • dilemmas
  • Sun spin
Wow. That's quite a list. And scary, too. I should really probably be looking for a new job right about now, but I'm not because this list is garbage. I don't buy it for a minute. But that's what we are supposed to think about when we read this article because that list outlines quite nicely the negative messages pervading the piece.

On a more macro level, this article uses a "nautical" image throughout. It's just a cheap marketing message delivery tactic, complete with a graphic of a big fat sailor  struggling against the wind to guide the Sun ship. Go take a look. It's pretty funny.

Anyway, let's take a look at some of this article, starting with the oh-so-objective headline:

Correcting course or sailing in circles?

Naaa. No bias, PR spin, or agenda there. "Sailing in circles" isn't designed to leave a negative impression at all. Right.

Sun Microsystems is on the verge of becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of systems companies. Although Sun shows signs of turning the corner financially, it doesn't get much respect.

Ok, the "Rodney" thing is cute -- and I'm a huge Rodney fan, don't get me wrong -- but it's been used before to slam Sun. Can we find a new attack metaphor next time?

The problem is not technology. Sun still gets good reviews for hardware and software, which is produced by some of the industry's most talented engineers, armed with an ample R&D budget. The Sun brand still has some cachet, and although investors don't have much to cheer (see "Sun's Recent Financial Performance," below), they're glad Sun is sitting on more than $3.6 billion in cash and short-term investments (as of December 2004), banked when the company was one of the big bellows inflating the Internet bubble.

So, our engineers are good guys. Thanks! I agree. This is the only positive part of the article, though. Sorry, it's not enough. The cash figure seems low, too. I found $7.464 billion lying around in Sun's Q205 January 13th press release. Perhaps the article uses an old figure, I don't know. But why would you use an old figure when that $7.464 billion number took me fifteen seconds to find? I don't know ... I'm not a numbers guy. Now, the Internet "bubble" reference is really cool -- this article is slamming us for not only "sailing in circles" right now but it seems that we are also getting slammed for being a "big bellow" and "inflating" the "Internet bubble" back when everyone thought we were successful in the 90s! Man ... talk about not getting any respect. We can't do anything right for this guy. Truth is, both extremes are completely wrong, as extreme positions generally are. Here's more:

Where Sun loses respect is for its recent business decisions, which cause observers to wonder if the ship is just sailing in circles. At the root of Sun's problems are three factors, which critics say it hasn't adequately addressed. Linux has taken hold in corporate America, proving capable of many computing tasks that used to require Unix. The price/performance of the x86 architecture has become favorable against Sun's SPARC architecture. The Internet bubble burst. As a result of all three, Sun has lost customers.

Ok. True, we missed some market shifts. And guess what? We admitted our mistakes and changed our strategy. I remember Scott himself saying so during his keynote at LinuxWorld Expo when we launched our new (at the time) Linux boxes. I was 10 feet away. My friend wrote the speech. I also remember Jonathan Schwartz and John Loiacono saying so many times in the media the last couple of years. Why are those admissions not cited here? Why no mention of Solaris on x86 and Sun's massive commitment to commodity hardware? What ... no Opteron references? Fascinating.

Immediately after the Internet bubble burst, Sun posted record losses, from which it has only recently recovered, thanks to layoffs and other cost cutting. But its management has come under criticism, because it appears to be unwilling to face its problems or refashion itself as some other kind of company. "Denial" is routinely used to describe Sun's attitude toward x86 and Linux. On top of everything else, some analysts still have doubts that CEO Scott McNealy is the man who can captain the ship out of these doldrums (see "Scott McNealy's Dilemma," December 2003).

No, not "thanks to layoffs." Those are friends who were let go. People. And just how are we "unwilling to face our problems?" Seems to me there's a lot of change going on at Sun that directly address the challenges we face. And then there's the "On top of everything else ..." My goodness, there's just so much we had to have an "On-top-of-everything-else" tossed in for good measure. Funny. But what's even better, though, is that the "On-top-of-everything-else" reference leads to an old article way back in 2003 to substantiate it's claim. Can't we use some recent references? Any reason we are dragging up old references to substantiate new claims? Sounds like there's some recycling going on around here.

Skipping around a bit:

Characteristic are comments by Amy Wohl, editor of the newsletter, "Amy Wohl's Opinions," who points out that the open source license Sun chose for Solaris is the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), not the General Public License (GPL) of Linux. "Because the terms of the CDDL license do not permit CDDL code to be used with GPL code," she says, "nothing in these patents can be used with Linux. Sun thinks that if it just releases its OS, suddenly the open source community will decide to write open source code that won't work with GPL. I don't understand what these guys are thinking."

No. We do not think and we have not said that if we just release Solaris "suddenly the open source community will decide to write open source code that won't work with GPL." I'd love to see that reference. What we have said is that we are building an open source Solaris community -- OpenSolaris. Solaris is the key word there. The OpenSolaris community will, indeed, write open source code for the OpenSolaris project. And on the CDDL vs GPL part. I thought it was the other way around. This is just another example of someone who sees OpenSolaris from the perspective of Linux or some other community or based on a simple lack of knowledge. Sooner or later people will see Linux for what it is and see Solaris for what it is. It will take time for people to get used to this, though. Both have value.

No matter what Sun does, someone dismisses it.

Of course. Name one company. Just one. Where this is not also true. Even the blindly loved Apple has serious and responsible critics.

Why does this skepticism persist? Critics say Sun's moves don't add up to a comprehensive program.

"It's still in search of a sustaining strategy," argues Rob Enderle, a longtime Sun watcher and president of the Enderle Group. "It tends to move from idea to idea when it needs to stay on one line to execute. It says it's a services company. Then it says it's a software company. But it remains a hardware company. It's on and off with open source. It's trying to do some desktop stuff, but it's still a server company. It's struggling for a direction in a changing world."

Cute quote. Very dramatic, too. It fits the stormy-seas-nautical-theme of the article as well. But we are a systems company. I've never heard Scott say otherwise.

One thing seems clear, and perhaps this is the lesson for others: The skepticism and dismissive tone now are the fruit of Sun's past hubris in implying that only it understands the market.

Naaa. That's not sarcastic or condescending.

"For years it denied the importance of the x86 market and Linux," says Graham-Hackett. "To its credit, it's reexamining those beliefs. But having been in denial for so long and then flipping, it will get some criticism.

"Some criticism?" Just some? My goodness. And we are not "re-examining our beliefs." We are implementing a new strategy, backed up with engineering and products and marketing. That's hardly "re-examining our beliefs."

"When you talk to the company now, it is still hard to believe that the arrogance has gone away. It's convinced of its value in the marketplace, but it's not where it needs to be. It's been marginalized and runs the risk of continuing to lose market share."

If we are so marginalized why are we getting attacked so much? Perhaps people are in denial and are getting nervous about the changes we've made. Sure we can screw this up, but what if we don't? What if? What happens if we are right about the moves we've made in the last year or so?

Linux and x86 hardware are both nemesis and opportunity for systems companies, depending on how they choose to view them. IBM recognized the opportunity early in the game, and Hewlett-Packard followed soon after. Until recently Sun had sunk its claws into the belief that Linux and x86 are nemeses and only begrudgingly relaxed its iron grip.

I love the "begrudgingly." Especially since x86 and Opteron are basically the hottest things going on inside Sun right now. Begrudgingly, of course.

Sun spurned any x86 strategies until a little more than a year ago, when it started to peddle Advanced Micro Devices x86 Opteron servers; it now sells more of them than its own SPARC-based hardware. Sun went to the trouble to port Solaris to Opteron, but most Opteron Sun sells are outfitted with Linux, not Solaris. Sun now partners with Red Hat and SuSE Linux to offer the Linux option. Its dilemmas don't seem to end.

We are "peddling" AMD's stuff? Again with the sarcasm and condescension. We are doing a bit more than peddling here. And give me a break. Solaris 10 just shipped. This is so misleading. Intentionally so, I believe. And I'm still looking for the million Solaris licenses that are missing from this piece ... mostly on x86, too. Imagine that.

Sun argues that results from its moves may not be evident soon. "Elements of our strategy took literally years to complete," says Gogune. "Solaris 10 is the culmination of $500 million in R&D and thousands of engineering years. Open-sourcing Solaris required vetting all of the 5-million-plus lines of code. Free Solaris is a bold maneuver that required getting a comprehensive set of services in place to monetize the market expansion."

Tom's name is spelled wrong. In fact, it's wrong in several places in the article. For the correct spelling, go here.

With a ship, it can be hard to tell whether it is turning.

Hard to tell? Sorry. I'm not buying it. I think it's just denial.

The Solaris Killer

So a new start up is coming out with some sort of system that will "kill" Solaris -- Brand New Linux Distro Expected To Be a "Solaris Killer"


According to the article:

It will supposedly eliminate "bloated package management," allowing for upgrades or rollbacks in less than 30 seconds. To compete, Red Hat, Novell and Mandrakesoft would reportedly have to "completely re-engineer their solutions away from RPM and other package management systems."

The company thinks - allowing for market reaction - that it "could spell the end of server operating systems as we know them today, and would likely put an end to Solaris."

Love the qualifier there ... the "allowing for market reaction" bit. Funny. That's pretty much the only qualifier in the entire article. But even better is the headline ... the  "Solaris Killer" reference. Now that's an attention getter, eh? Makes for great PR spin for some, I suppose. But it sounds pretty violent and angry to me. Perhaps someone's scared and confused and lashing out. When I read the headline I thought there was a lot of content picking apart Solaris, but there really isn't. It's just a selective attack, that's all. But it gets even better, though, and this part is my favorite. After the first few graphs, the writer, Maureen O'Gara, scribbles this incredible sentence:

Oh, heck, let them tell their own story. This is what his e-mail says:

Amazing. She then proceeds to simply cut & paste a 2,109 word email from the company's CTO talking about his new product. Which is fine for a blog. Or an advertisement. Or a press release. Or even an editorial, I suppose. But the article is not really marked as any of those. How's that for objective and credible journalism? And I wonder why O'Gara was so kind to this CTO and yet so utterly obnoxious to Sun in an attack piece just the other day? Oh, well. I see Rich Teer completely ripped open the so-called article and exposed it for what it is -- propaganda.

Monday Feb 28, 2005

IBM's Scott Handy on OpenSolaris

Ok, I get it that Sun and IBM are competitors. Nothing wrong with that. But I don't get comments about OpenSolaris like this:

Some of the biggest criticisms of Sun Microsystems' OpenSolaris project have come from IBM's vice president of worldwide Linux strategy, Scott Handy, who during an interview regarding the new IBM Chiphopper program said he did not expect OpenSolaris to generate the following that Linux had accumulated.

Citing the "passionate community" that had supported Linux throughout the years, Handy said the current ecosystem for operating systems was one of Windows and Linux -- with no room for a third.

"I generally don't think that there is a following there," Handy said of OpenSolaris. "And if it cannot get beyond its core following then it won't work."

You don't think there's a following there? You are obviously not talking to Solaris developers. They seem pretty psyched about all this to me. Perhaps the Solaris community is not as big as the Linux community is (right now, anyway), but that doesn't mean it's not passionate and talented and valuable. Their time will come. Wait till you meet these guys, Scott. It won't be long now. And what's with the bit about the current ecosystem for operating systems is Windows and Linux with no room for a third? Let's see ... Mac OS, the BSDs, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, and just how many operating systems does IBM sell and support through its global services operation? More than two, I bet. There's plenty of room in the market for diversity ... that's what makes markets healthy and innovative. And fun, too. And finally, the "won't work" bit? Just watch.

Technorati Tag: OpenSolaris
Technorati Tag: Solaris

Tuesday Feb 08, 2005

eWeek: Cut and Paste Journalism

Nice to see Greg Papadopoulos, Sun's CTO, blogging, eh? And his first post today was on OpenSolaris. Excellent!

eWeek picked up on Greg's blog and wrote an utterly fascinating article -- Sun CTO: New License Protects Developer Rights. And it's rather telling how eWeek characterizes Sun, Greg, HP, Linus Torvalds, and OpenSolaris in the piece.

First the eWeek writer, Peter Galli, quotes Greg's blog from today:

"Open software is fundamentally about developer freedom," Papadopoulos said.

"We want developers to freely use any of the Open Solaris code that we developed for their purposes without any fear of IP [intellectual property] infringement of Sun: either patent or copyright. We chose a license, the CDDL, an improvement of MPL [Mozilla Public License], that clearly and explicitly gives that freedom," he said.

Then Galli quotes Linus Torvalds from this article on December 13, 2004:

But Torvalds said he sees no such freedom in the license choice, telling eWEEK recently that Sun "wants to keep a moat against the barbarians at the gate."

"I think there are parallels with the Java 'we'll control the process' model," he said. "I personally think that their problem is that they want to control the end result too much, and because of that, they won't get any of the real advantages of open source."

Ok, it's a really old quote, but at least it's characterized as an old quote with the "recently" reference. But my question is this: why did eWeek feel the need to recycle an old quote from two months ago in the first place? It's just odd. Especially since Linus commented on OpenSolaris and CDDL in CRN just last week and said this:

"It all looks good. I was disappointed in their Java work, it was a complete disaster, and Sun took control of it," Torvalds told CRN, alluding to the Java Community Process. "But CDDL is different. Everything is in place for it to work well."

So, not only does Galli not mention Torvalds' more recent positive statements in CRN, but he then juxtaposes Greg's recent comments directly with Torvalds' comments from two months ago, giving the reader the impression that the two men are debating when they clearly are not:

In comments posted to his first "official" blog on Monday and titled "My views on open source," Papdopoulos disagreed, further defending the CDDL by saying that complementary to developer freedoms are developer rights. He said code developers do have rights to the code they have developed, as this is, after all, the fruit of their labor.

I don't know about you, but I hate it when reporters do this.

Next Galli recycles some negative comments from HP from that very same December 13, 2004 article but doesn't attribute them as such. So, we are led to believe that these comments from HP are recent. They are not.

Some of Sun's largest competitors are welcoming the dissention over the CDDL. Efrain Rovira, worldwide director of Linux marketing at Hewlett-Packard Co., in Palo Alto, Calif., told eWEEK that he enjoys competing with Sun when it continues to make mistakes such as this.

"They will not be able to build a viable community to support Open Solaris if they use the CDDL," Rovira said. "What they are saying to the community about their support for open source and Linux is that they are half pregnant.

"There are no half measures here: You either are or you aren't. This is part of the schizophrenic attitude we continue to see coming out of Sun," he said.

But Papadopoulos said developers could take any or all of the Solaris modules and, if they respected the basic license terms of propagating it and making public any improvements or bug fixes, they could "do with it as they please."

Did you catch that last paragraph? Galli now has Greg debating HP -- separated by two months in time but clearly positioned otherwise.

Next Galli offers more of Greg's blog from today:

"Embed it any product. Build your own custom distributions. Intermix with any other code you wish -- assuming that code lets you do it. You can do any of that, and you get a grant to any patents we might have covering our code. That's an explicit part of the license," he said.

The only thing Sun asks in exchange was the same thing that Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation and author of the GPL, and Torvalds and every other open-source developer asked in exchange: "that the license be honored," he said.

Ok, fine. But now Galli goes back in time again and recycles a quote from Cybersource, which can be found not only in that December 13, 2004 article but also in a January 19, 2005 article as well:

But some users said they disagree with that assessment. "I suspect Sun would be overjoyed if open-source software continued to flourish, but Linux somehow vanished from the scene," said Con Zymaris, CEO of Cybersource Pty. Ltd., a Linux and open-source solutions company in Melbourne, Australia.

"I will now have to choose between supporting development and adding momentum to Open Solaris or to Linux. I will choose Linux. Our customers have."

By the way, if you read Torvalds' comments from the December 13, 2004 article, you can find the very same comments recycled in the January 19, 2005 article as well.

This is all very confusing, isn't it? All this cutting and pasting and recycling of parts to artificially create a debate across time that simply never took place. Interesting choices the writers and editors at eWeek are making these days, don't you think? I wonder, what agenda is eWeek pushing here?

Wednesday Feb 02, 2005

Linus Torvalds on OpenSolaris

Linus Torvalds chimes in today on OpenSolaris in CRN -- Torvalds: Waiting To See Sun's Open Solaris.

"It all looks good. I was disappointed in their Java work, it was a complete disaster, and Sun took control of it," Torvalds told CRN, alluding to the Java Community Process. "But CDDL is different. Everything is in place for it to work well."

Torvalds said he doesn't know if there will be enough interest in Solaris to grow a viable open source community, or if the Unix OS has become too "marginalized," but he isn't complacent about Sun's efforts. "A lot of people still like Solaris, but I'm in active competition with them, and so I hope they die," the Linux creator and chief developer quipped.

Sun's Danese Cooper comments on the CDDL:

After the panel Danese Cooper, Sun's chief open source evangelist, said that while the CDDL has different provisions of the general public license (GPL) that affect developers' use and distribution of Open Solaris, Sun won't bring patent litigation to the courts. "We're not going to sue anyone," she said.

Technorati Tag: OpenSolaris

Tuesday Dec 21, 2004

Torvalds: Solaris is a Joke

Some unfortunate comments from Linus today in a long Q&A with Stephen Shankland at Cnet. Most of his previous statements recently on OpenSolaris have been reasonable. I've been a big supporter of Linux here at Sun, and I have a lot of respect for Linus. So it's difficult hearing some of this from him. Oh, well.

Q: What do you think of what Sun is doing with Solaris 10--technology improvements, open source, and the move to x86 chips?

A: I'm taking a very wait-and-see attitude to Sun. They like talking too much. I'm waiting for the action.


Q: It seems to me that they have taken some action besides just grandstanding. They have resurrected the x86 version and added several interesting features--containers, DTrace, and ZFS, for example--that are available today in beta versions of Solaris 10. They're actively rounding up support from developers and software companies. And they announced that the production version of Solaris 10 on x86 will be available for free. What do you think about the x86 move and the new Solaris features?

A: Solaris/x86 is a joke, last I heard. (It has) very little support for any kind of strange hardware. If you thought Linux had issues with driver availability for some things, let's see you try Solaris/x86.


Q: When Sun releases Solaris as open-source software, will you take a peek?

A: Probably not. Not because of any animosity, but simply because I don't have the time or the interest. Linux has never been about "others," it's been about getting better than itself, so I don't really have any motivation to play around with Solaris. I'm sure that if it does something particularly well, people will be more than happy to tell me all about it.


Q: Surely if you like the idea of standing on the shoulders of giants, there might be some handy ideas in Solaris. Why ignore it?

A: Because I personally don't think they have anything left worth taking after I've applied the general Unix principles. I really do think Linux is the better system by now, in all the ways that matter.

But more importantly, if I'm wrong, that's OK. People who know Solaris better than I do will tell me and other people about the great things they offer. To try to figure it out on my own would be a waste of time.

Tuesday Dec 14, 2004

Linus Comments on OpenSolaris

I read these comments from Linus Torvalds yesterday in eWeek:

Sun "wants to keep a moat against the barbarians at the gate," he wrote in an e-mail interview. Torvalds said he does not expect developers clamoring to start playing with that source code.

"Nobody wants to play with a crippled version [of Solaris]. I, obviously, do believe that they'll have a hard time getting much of a community built up," Torvalds wrote. "I think there are parallels with the Java 'we'll control the process' model. I personally think that their problem is that they want to control the end result too much, and because of that they won't get any of the real advantages of open source."

He is speculating, of course, on the OpenSolaris license, which we have not announced yet. He doesn't know. And neither do I, to be honest. That discussion will be for another day.

I disagree with his comment about developers not clamoring to start playing with the code, though. The Solaris community very much is clamoring to play with the code. In fact, we can't get it out to them fast enough! I see it every day. I bring Solaris developers and system administrators into the OpenSolaris Pilot Program. One at a time. All day, every day. And I can assure you, they are a lively bunch of talented developers.

However, I think Linus has touched on a significant issue here -- control. Just how much control a corporation like Sun asserts over a project such as OpenSolaris is a subject of constant discussion internally and within the OpenSolaris Pilot Program. No one has been in our position before, so we're learning as we do all this. And thoughtful people can disagree (and they do, believe me!). In this respect, I see Linux and Solaris at two very different stages in their lives. I see Linux growing up from a grass-roots community into a fully viable desktop and enterprise operating system that now has the backing of major corporations but remains open source. I see Solaris as growing from the community, then moving under the stewardship of a major corporation, and now returning to its roots after many years of highly focused enterprise engineering.

So, here's my question -- can you judge the Solaris community (as it exists today) based on the experiences of the Linux community (as it exists today)? I mean, we are open sourcing an operating system that already has a large installed base around the world, already has a business model driving Sun, already has developers who will be fully enfranchised as an open source community very shortly, and already has a sophisticated development methodology that we are updating and carefully moving across the fire wall. It seems we are in a very different place as we open source Solaris right now than Linux was when it went open source. Am I wrong? That's not rhetorical ... I'm actually asking. I see it as a distinction with a very big difference. When questions of "control" come up they are sometimes characterized as a negative when in reality shouldn't they be considered complex business and technical issues that need to be responsibly resolved? Well, that's pretty much what we are doing.

Tuesday Nov 23, 2004

Michael Tiemann on OpenSolaris

This from Red Hat today in Computerworld:

Reacting to claims by Sun Microsystems COO Jonathan Schwartz that Red Hat is a proprietary incarnation of Linux, Red Hat's vice president of open source affairs Michael Tiemann believes Schwartz should get his facts straight and expressed doubts over how open any open source Solaris is likely to be.

Don't worry. You won't be disappointed. It will be.

"Sun has said that it is going to make Solaris open source but it hasn't identified a license. So we're still forced to take it on faith that it is going to actually open source Solaris as opposed to simply claim it has done it without proving it," he said.

We're forcing Red Hat to take it on faith? How is that possible? We're just not finished, that's all. Just wait a little longer ... we'll get back to ya on this.

"The second issue is that we haven't yet seen what the governance model is ...  is it going to be limited to simply allowing people to look at code?"

Nope. We've already said we are interested in building a community here, a community that contributes to the code base. In fact, we are actually moving development across the firewall. Now, please understand that that's going to take some time. Be patient. We'll get there. No need to rush this.

And lastly ... thanks for the complement!

Tiemann said the company is doing a "great job" with its work on the open source Gnome project.

Sunday Nov 14, 2004


I hate qualifiers. They pervade our conversations and add almost nothing. Aside from spin, that is.

Take this one. Why did this writer have to ruin Laura Koetzle's perfectly reasonable quote with a "gnarly" introductory phrase in a piece from LinuxInsider a couple of weeks ago:

As gnarly as Sun's open-source foray may be, it also has great potential for the company, Koetzle, [senior analyst with Forrester Research] asserted. "It's a risky move, but it could well pay off for them in the long run," she said. "It will build tremendous credibility with the development community."

Again. More qualifiers in the same article here from the writer and Dwight Davis of Summit Strategies:

Although Sun may not be able to dam the surge behind Linux, it can still be a survivor, said Dwight Davis of Summit Strategies. "I don't think Sun can counter the entire Linux trend and the momentum for that operating system, but I think they can make a good case for a battle-tested, commercial version of Unix as an alternative to Linux."

Why all the presuppositions and unnecessary competitive complexity?

I just don't see it this way at all. My view of OpenSolaris is simple, and I have no qualifiers to explain it. We have great code. We have a large internal community of 900 engineers scattered around the world. We have a global customer and developer base in the tens of thousands (probably bigger). And now we are looking to upgrade our already well-defined development processes, simultaneously make them open source, and step that new development methodology carefully across the firewall as we finish Solaris 10 and build a community. And why? Because we want to tap the talent of the Solaris developer community around the world to help make Solaris even better, to help find and fix bugs and build new features, to enable the community to use the code in new ways and drive the entire system into new and unforeseen markets. Very simply ... to grow. You see? No qualifiers. No war with Linux. No risky or gnarly moves. No surviving some surge behind a dam. Just a simple evolution of the Solaris platform for the benefit of Sun, the Solaris developer community, and our customers and partners. Simple.

I know. I'd be a crappy marketeer. I realize that.

Wednesday Nov 10, 2004

Reality Distortion Zone

110904_theage Now here's a really, really wild article out today at The Age. You're going to love this:

Once upon a time it was all so simple: Linux would take on and destroy the Microsoft "evil empire" and liberate us all from crippling software taxes.

However, the operating system's success has earned a new class of corporate enemies - some of which once were friends to the open source upstart. Sun Microsystems is undoubtedly more threatened by open-source systems than perhaps any other major vendor and has made clear its intention to give no quarter to leading enterprise open source player Red Hat.

So, let me get this straight .... "Sun is undoubtedly more threatened by open-source systems than perhaps any other major vendor?"


Let's see ... just off the top of my head here: We ship two Linux distros. We do Jxta. We do Grid. We do We do NetBeans. We do OpenOffice. We contribute to and ship GNOME and run it internally on our systems (including my SunRay). We contribute to many other open source projects, not to mention a bunch of global open standards bodies. I've heard that SPARC is based on an open spec, too. And although Sun's Java technology is not under an open source license, it sure as heck looks like an open community they are running over there at the Java Community Process. And didn't we do something with NFS a while back? Not sure. Oh, and how could I forget ... doesn't the Sun Java Desktop System (JDS) have some open source code in it? And I'm dying to see Project Looking Glass, which is under the GPL, run as part of JDS in the future. Also, JDS runs on Linux, which is open source, of course, and it runs on the Solaris platform now, too. Which brings me to the biggest one of them all: OpenSolaris ... which is coming soon and will represent probably the largest contribution of code to the community. Ever.

Yep. Sure seems to me like Sun is "more threatened by open-source systems than perhaps any other major vendor." Scott may argue about that, though. Just a hunch.

Monday Nov 08, 2004

Cat Calls from the Sidelines

Boy ... I take a few days off, and the critics pounce on OpenSolaris. What happened? Oh, well. You can't make everyone happy, I suppose. Why try, right? However, at Sun we dish this stuff out as much as anyone, so when it comes back we need to at least acknowledge it. We can take it. What's interesting to me is that there are elements of truth woven throughout these articles below, but you'd be hard pressed to find them or draw any reasonable conclusions among all the other baseless assertions.

After nine awful years sparring with competitors through the media and wrestling with all levels of the hostile press, I've come to complete resolution on stuff like this -- it's just conversation and needs to be understood in that context. It can be important conversation, though, so take a read of these articles. You'll see the same names cropping up saying the same things. Part of that is our fault, though, and we should address it. I think we could have been even more open than we have been, although I can't think of another corporation that has been as open as Sun as we engaged the market for feedback on OpenSolaris. Can you?

Fortunately, very soon the OpenSolaris community will speak for itself. I'm dying to hear what these guys have to say, aren't you?

I'm getting an early feeling for this community's personality from the OpenSolaris Pilot Program. Right now it's approximately 100 guys (30 or so external, 70 or so internal). More and more of Sun's 900 Solaris engineers are getting involved. Eventually, they all will. This stuff takes time, though. We are getting participation or interest from all our markets. Our ISV partners. Wall Street. Government. Education. Sys admins. Developers. Kernel guys. Driver guys. App guys. Networking guys. Testing guys. SPARC guys. x86 guys. Linux guys. They are all coming, and they are all coming at their own pace. Conversations are well underway, too. The community is offering significant expertise to the project. Some guys complement us when we do something right, and when we are lacking, they criticize us and expect more. We're listening carefully. Community feedback is channeled directly and immediately to managers, engineers, and executives. Sun engineers are engaging with the community step by step by step. Learning is taking place on both sides. Our customers are being briefed at several levels of the company, and entire groups at Sun are getting involved in this process. There are multiple conversations going on with multiple communities, including the open source community. Some of it is public, some of it is private. Source code management and development tools are being carefully considered. A thousand other things are being thought out as well, including that damn license. And, yes, executives and engineers are debating the legitimate business, economic, legal, and technical issues involved in open sourcing a code base that tops 10 million lines (and that's just the first release!) and sits at customers sites all over planet Earth. It's a big deal. I can't think of anyone in technology who has the b\*\*\*s to take on a project of this size and complexity. Can you? Will we get everything right? Hell no. But we will get there.

For now, though, here are some cat calls from the sidelines. Enjoy.

Sun Stalls on Open-Source Solaris, TechnewsWorld

IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky told LinuxInsider that Sun has repeatedly said and done things that set the teeth of the open-source community on edge.

"I'm not sure that Sun is going to reach its hand out and say let's create a brotherhood of Solaris and go forward," Kusnetzky said. "And I'm not sure how many members of the open-source community will grab the hand that's extended."

Sun Solaris Open-Source Release Still Undecided, Internetweek

"Had they open-sourced Solaris in 2000, it would have been a game changer, [but] today it is too late," said Marc Fleury, president of JBoss, Atlanta.

Sources close to the vendor say a significant internal debate rages at the highest levels within Sun about the company's open-source Solaris plans, which were unveiled in June.

Solaris 10 source code release facing delays, PCPro

It just remains to be seen how the open source community takes to Solaris. There is, after all, no guarantee that you can create a thriving community around a code base by virtue of the fact that it's open source.

Solaris source code schedule slips, ZDNet UK

OpenSolaris, the open-source version of Solaris, won't give the operating system Linux's status, [Eric] Raymond, [president of the Open Source Initiative] predicted. "The most likely effect is they shore up loyalty in existing customer base, but I don't see them winning new seats. I'm a bit sceptical about their prospects for gaining any market share, but I'm glad they're here."

Another sceptic is Bruce Perens, a prominent open-source advocate, who said Sun's track record isn't good. Sun released the source code of OpenOffice, an alternative to Microsoft Office, but built only a "miniscule" programming community around the project, he said.

And, Perens added, it's too late for open-source Solaris to make a difference. "If they had done it five years ago, everyone might be running OpenSolaris, but at this point Linux is a very advanced operating system," Perens said.

Debate Rages over Sun's Open Source Plans, Newsfactor

"This is a defensive, 'me-too' move on Sun's part," Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio told NewsFactor.

Open Source Solaris Stalls, ServerWatch

If you were expecting a sneak peak of an open source Solaris or to buy a commercial version when it launches on Nov. 15, don't hold your breath.

Thursday Sep 16, 2004

Linus on OpenSolaris

Linus chimes in on OpenSolaris in the last paragraph of this eWeek article: Linux founder Linus Torvalds is also withholding judgment on OpenSolaris. "My guess would be that they use some kind of MS-like 'shared-source' license, and even then they don't release enough to actually build a working system," Torvalds said. "But hey, maybe for once I won't be disappointed by Sun. Hope lives eternal."

Saturday Sep 11, 2004

A tale of two stories ...

Two interesting stories today caught my attention ... one giving Sun some long overdo praise, and the other one trashing Sun with a back-handed, baseless cheap shot. In the center? Linux. Of course. We keep fighting this battle of perception -- a perception that I'm betting will change in our favor in the long run.

Part I

The first piece is a long, thoughtful commentary at Linux Journal by Tom Adelstein. Doc Searls digs out the very best bit from Adelstein's piece:

Of the Linux vendors, the company with the least stake in Linux and the worst consumer relations group has given more to the GNU/Linux community -- Sun. Few of us doubt that a Linux desktop would exist if Sun had not bought, paid for and given StarOffice to the community. Let us not forget the Mozilla and GNOME projects staffed by Sun employees. Sun also put Real Networks players and servers in our hands and continues to march forward with its open-source joint venture called the Helix project.

As a Sun employee, I like that little paragraph. Some parts painfully honest, some downright praising. I can work with that.

Adelstein articulates the need for good community relations and that the big vendors (Red Hat, Novell SuSE, IBM, HP, Sun) sometimes neglect that important task. From his conclusion:

As Linux distributors march to the beat of their enterprise wins, they will continue to discover that the community is the source of their real success. As such, they owe the community better relationship managers than those they have furnished so far.

Government has turned more and more to off-the-shelf components for projects such as the Mars Rovers. It might be the efforts of a few Linux advocates who build a DVD encoder that make it possible to discover a cure for some deadly disease. So, let's not forget the people who brought Linux so far in the beginning. You need us.

To me, as the
Community Manager for the forthcoming open source Solaris project, this last sentence is critical. Vendors need to invest in  community relations people, true, but that's not nearly enough. Instead, companies need to realize that they are a part of the community on which their software systems are based. So, in my mind, everyone's involved in community relations -- engineers, marketeers, sales, PR pros, and executives. All of 'em. All our jobs, to one degree or another, involve community now. And our ability to learn the culture of community will determine who succeeds and who fails. Certainly, you don't have to lose your identity as a corporation, but it seems to me that you must adjust and contribute if you expect to have the support of the community. Any community.

Part II

Ok, now on to the cheap shot at Investor's Business Daily (sorry, no link). Our PR team every day distributes via email articles of interest. In today's News Digest I read an IBD piece by
Ken Spencer Brown titled, "Bud No Longer, Some Bloom Off Maturing Linux Rose." Basically, the article talks about how Linux is all grown up now and has to compete with the big guys in the enterprise. It's not as easy as it used to be, in other words. And I think many in the Linux community realize that. No big deal. No controversy. Till you get to this part --

IBM has pledged not to sue Linux makers or users for patent issues. That leaves lots of other firms that may have an ax to grind over Linux.

Two of those firms are Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. The software giant and the Unix server maker -- until a few months ago sworn enemies -- have redoubled their attacks on Linux.

Microsoft has funded several studies that say Linux is more expensive over the long haul than Windows.

And Sun argues that Red Hat, the dominant Linux seller, is adding things to Linux that makes it too hard to switch to other versions. That leaves customers in the same position they were with Windows.

Wow. Amazing.

First, "sworn enemies" is a bit much, especially considering what's going on in the world right now with truly "sworn enemies." Isn't it more accurate and reasonable to simply say we are competitors? We are. It's that simple.

And what's with the "until a few months ago" all about? The Java settlement? Probably. Well, we're still competitors, and it drives me nuts to be placed side by side with Microsoft in a sentence that explicitly ties us together in our treatment of Linux. Just how is that credible?

Next ... "redoubled their attacks on Linux." We have? How's that? We sell Linux. In fact, although I'm writing this blog on a Sun Ray running on Solaris, yesterday I used JDS on Linux on my laptop all day long. We employ Linux engineers. I talk to 'em all the time. I'm not saying we're perfect on this issue. We clearly are not. But give me a break, Ken. Are you saying we are not allowed to compete against Red Hat? I don't get that. Red Hat is a corporation. They sell products. We are a corporation. We sell products. We say our stuff is better. They say their stuff is better. We are both part of multiple developer communities, some of which completely overlap, and we both compete in multiple marketplaces. What's the big deal?


So, two stories today. Which one do you believe? I like the first one better.



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