Friday Oct 03, 2008

Stallman on OpenSolaris

Interview with Richard Stallman, Founding Father of Free Software: "OpenSolaris is already free software, and I can endorse it as such. If Sun releases it under GPLv3, that will be even better; however, when choosing between free programs, the main factor is practical." -- Richard Stallman

Nice to see OpenSolaris come up in this interview. Stallman also chimed in on an OpenSolaris conversation a few years ago talking about licensing. I remember that conversation well. Stallman's mail got caught up in the opensolaris-discuss moderator queue (me) since he wasn't subscribed to the list, so I had to approve his messages. Fun.

Tuesday Oct 09, 2007


CBR Online suggests that Microsoft open source Windows -- Is it time to open source Microsoft Windows? That would be interesting, don't you think? Can you imagine the source analysis you'd have to do on that thing? My goodness. Although the article speculates about the benefits of an open source Windows, it doesn't offer a perspective license. GPL is probably out given past statements from the company. But CDDL might work just fine, especially since I'm sure there are probably more than a few licenses already tangled up in Windows source. Hey, you never know. Did you ever think you'd see OpenSPARC, OpenJDK, and OpenSolaris?

Sunday Feb 11, 2007

The OGB's Decree

Last week, four out of the five OpenSolaris Governing Board members issued the CAB/OGB Position Paper # 20070207 in an attempt to outline their position on the issue of potentially dual licensing OpenSolaris with GPLv3 and CDDL. I responded to the OGB's position paper because I have concerns about the language they used to articulate their position and their attempt to thwart an open conversation on OpenSolaris by issuing a "decree" saying that "[f]urther discussion on GPL\* is merely a diversion and distraction that should be discouraged." That's a remarkable statement and needs to be challenged.

For the purposes of this discussion, I don't particularly care about the distinctions between GPLv2, GPLv3, and CDDL. All I ask is that the elected representatives of the OpenSolaris community not use inflammatory terms like "fostering FUD towards OpenSolaris" to describe a fellow open source community and also not try to stop an open debate on our forums. There are perfectly valid differences of opinion between the proponents of all licenses, and there's no reason we can't explore all of the issues whenever we want.

To me, the most important words written about Opensolaris are contained in the OpenSolaris Community Principles:
  • The project will evolve in full view of the world. By opening our code, processes, documentation, and historical information to everyone, we offer a real opportunity for others to join our community and contribute from an equal footing. Technical information will be withheld if there are legal restrictions, never because it is incomplete or of poor quality.
  • We will be inclusive. Proposals will be evaluated based on technical merit and consistency with overarching design goals, constraints, and requirements.
  • We will be respectful and honest. Developers and users have the right to be treated with respect. We do not make ad hominem attacks, and we encourage constructive criticism. Our commitment to civil discourse allows new users and contributors with contrarian ideas an opportunity to be heard without intimidation.
  • Quality is always a top priority. The OpenSolaris project will continue the long tradition of quality engineering established by the Solaris Operating System.
  • We are independent. Decisions within the project are made independently from those concerning Sun's business. Sun's management controls the business aspects of the Solaris product, but will not exert undue influence within the OpenSolaris community.
The third bullet is most important in this context: "We will be respectful and honest. Developers and users have the right to be treated with respect. We do not make ad hominem attacks, and we encourage constructive criticism. Our commitment to civil discourse allows new users and contributors with contrarian ideas an opportunity to be heard without intimidation."

I think I'll continue following the OpenSolaris Community Principles. I can not accept the OGB's decree.

Tuesday Feb 06, 2007

The GPLv3 Conversation Continues

Stephen O'Grady jumped into the OpenSolaris, CDDL, and GPLv3 conversation this week -- Should OpenSolaris Use the GPLv3 License? The Q&A. It's a long and thoughtful post with about 20 comments (so far). O'Grady is a voice of intelligence and moderation who is most welcome in this debate.

Things seem to be winding down a bit from the initial conversation, which split into two dozen sub-threads on the OpenSolaris forums (see below for thread links). More background here and here, too. I've learned a great deal during this conversation, so I'm thankful Stephen Harpster started it. And I see Harpster's original blog has about 12 comments (so far).

Many in the OpenSolaris community clearly asserted themselves, but many more remained quiet. Too many, actually. At times things got a bit rough, too, which was unfortunate since I know for a fact we are many times way too intimidating for new people to engage. I hope that changes over time, but I also believe that the flamers are a distinct minority. In general, though, I'd say that there were some very thoughtful arguments presented on multiple sides of the license issue, as well as multiple threads outlining critical engineering and community development issues. I bet this all spins up and down for a bit longer as the issue comes to fruition. And that's all good. The fact that Sun is not making a decision on this all alone is critical. To me that demonstrates that Sun respects the OpenSolaris Community and is very much part of the community.

Some people have asked me if discussions like this really escalate our conversation numbers. And the answer is no. What happens, actually, is that massive community debates like this suck all the wind out of the room and replace other conversations. They rarely go much past one week, too. So, the past six days of GPL talk put numbers on the board that look pretty much like the six days before that. Interesting.

OpenSolaris and GPLv3 threads (I may have missed a few):

More to come, I'm sure ...

Friday Nov 24, 2006

CDDL's Paradox

From Stephen O'Grady -- Will the Spurned CDDL Come Back Stronger?

Could, paradoxically, Sun's rejection of the CDDL for Java project be the best thing that ever happened for the license? It seems counterintuitive, but consider that the biggest obstacle to CDDL adoption - negative impressions of Sun - are in serious decline following the release of Java.

An interesting observation. I'm not sure it's counterintuitive, though. I think it's pretty accurate.

I never really bought the criticism of CDDL because other open source projects using MPL-based licenses seemed to be quite successful and also seemed to escape the flames that flew our way. To me the stress around CDDL had nothing to do with the value of the license or the issue of proliferation and had everything to do with the political and economic situation at the time. Go back a few years: Solaris and Sun were both supposed to be dead. Competitors were circling. Many developers were skeptical. The language blowing around out there got harsh to say the very least. During this time, our open source interactions were confusing at best. Also, Sun was simply not performing in the market, so poor numbers placed us in an even more compromising situation. No amount of honorable intentions (which we certainly had) or even perfect communications (which we certainly didn't have) could have solved those problems. We had to just tough it out and defend ourselves while we got things back in shape at home. And we did. Fast forward: absolutely everything has changed. Also during this time, the company's core technologies were opened: OpenSolaris, OpenSPARC, Java. I'd like to think that since OpenSolaris went first in this sequence that we may have made it a bit easier for OpenSPARC and Java, and I'd also like to think that since they went out under GPL that things may be a bit easier for us as well. These are complex technical and business issues for Sun, but the communities of people forming around these technologies all have tremendous value no matter what license is used.

So, in some ways I agree with Stephen -- that due to Sun's being seen in a better light these days, CDDL may get a second look from those who need or want to use an MPL-based license. That's great. However, I think it will take some time for CDDL to be accepted by those who so strongly critizied it when it was released. And that's probably a bigger issue than the perfect storm from which we just survived. I also think there's more than enough room in the world for CDDL. It's certainly done well by OpenSolaris, hasn't it?

Tuesday May 30, 2006

Correcting Cohen

Stuart Cohen, CEO of the Open Source Development Labs, wrote an editorial in BusinessWeek recently -- Sun's Big Open-Source Bet  -- that contained several inaccuracies about OpenSolaris. Stephen and Patrick responded to Cohen, but I thought I'd add my comments to correct Cohen as well.

First ...

Last year, Sun made its flagship operating system -- Solaris -- available as open source. Sort of. You see, Sun wrote its own open-source license. It's a license that many in the open-source community don't like, and with good reason. 


OpenSolaris is not "sort of" open source. It's open source as outlined by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) -- which was literally a core requirement for everyone on the project team before we even began opening the Solaris code. The license in question is the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). It was a new license last year, but Sun didn't go off in a corner and write it from scratch; instead, we modified an existing, already successful, already OSI-approved license -- the Mozilla Public License (MPL). The CDDL is not Sun's "own" open source license. Anyone can use it. It's a template license that can actually help consolidate many of the MPL derivatives that have developed over the years. Additionally, if "many in the open source community" don't like CDDL, as Cohen suggests, wouldn't it also logically follow that those same individuals have a problem with the MPL too? After all, the CDDL and the MPL are really very much alike (see redline diffs at the CDDL link above). Perhaps they do, but I generally don't hear very many people calling Mozilla's code "sort of" open source. Do you? Now, was the CDDL controversial with some in the open source community when it came out? Yes it was, but that's another issue altogether and has nothing to do with the fact that OpenSolaris is open source. For more on the license discussion from last year, you can see these links: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here.

Next ...

Unlike with Linux, all the rights to any changes to the source code for Solaris go back to Sun. So any developers contributing to Solaris are literally working for Sun for free.


If you change an existing CDDL file, your changes go back to the community -- not Sun. If you write a new file and license it under CDDL, it's community code -- not Sun's. If you write your own proprietary file and link that file to a community CDDL file, your proprietary file is yours -- not Sun's. CDDL code is shared in an open commons, which includes non-Sun developers mixing rather freely with Sun engineers. If people were "working for Sun for free" then how does the following list make any sense: SchilliX, Nexenta, BeleniX, marTux, the PowerPC port, the DTrace port to BSD, the ZFS port to FUSE/Linux and DragonFly BSD?

Next ...

In my experience, people will work for free when they see that work as contributing to the greater common good -- but not to the bottom line of a global computing vendor. This part of Sun's strategy escapes me.


That's not our strategy. I'm sure Sun's true strategy "escapes" Cohen, but that's only because he doesn't understand it. This is really just a rhetorical trap where a position is mischaracterized and then called into question. It's a common technique practiced for thousands of years and easily seen for what it is --  a unsubstantiated misrepresentation.

Next ...

Time will tell if Schwartz can build a viable software ecosystem and vibrant development community around this approach.


OpenSolaris is already a "vibrant development community" in its very first year, which is a huge accomplishment. We can demonstrate this quite clearly by contributions (code, documentation, scripts), open conversations that reach hundreds of thousands, thousands of participants, user groups, communities, projects, millions of lines of source code from multiple Solaris Consolidations, a published roadmap, non-Sun distributions, an open development process (draft), a published Charter, an open governance (draft, draft), and ports (DTrace, ZFS, PowerPC). And there is a lot of infrastructure coming that will help encourage even more community participation. I'd say that the OpenSolaris community has already built a fine foundation in its first year. Wouldn't you?

That's it.


Wednesday May 24, 2006

The License for OpenSolaris

There was a piece in InformationWeek recently in the form of a Q&A --  7 Answers To Key Questions About Java's Move To Open Source -- where the writer asks and then answers his own questions about open source and Java. I've never seen this format for an editorial, but I suppose it could work. It can be confusing, though, if you don't read carefully. Anyway, the section on the OpenSolaris license isn't quite accurate. It reads:

Q. What's the licensing model?

A. You can rule out the General Public License, which effectively bans proprietary additions or combinations. The Mozilla Public License is a step in the direction Sun wants to go. Changes to the source code come back to the community, but some proprietary uses are allowed. Sun's license for open source Solaris allows compiled, executable Solaris code--not source code--to be included with proprietary code in a commercial product. It encourages developers to use Solaris in commercial products.

First, the license for OpenSolaris is the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). The license, the redline diffs from the Mozilla Public License, the executive summary, and the detailed description are all here. Second, the CDDL is a file-based license, and you certainly can mix source files from different licenses -- open or closed -- to build executables as long as all the licenses involved are compatible. So, you can combine CDDL source files with proprietary source files and create a binary and ship it as a product. Sun's Solaris Express is an example of that. Third, you can't use Solaris in a commercial product because Solaris is itself a commercial product. You can, however, use the OpenSolaris source in a commercial product, and there are already several non-Sun distributions moving in this direction. Fourth, the license doesn't encourage anything; it simply outlines all the possibilities for use of the source code. And finally, Jonathan addresses some of the other issues relating to the GPL.


Thursday Oct 06, 2005


Some nice comments on CDDL and the OpenSolaris community from Paul Murphy today talking about the challenges in open source licensing. According to Paul:

The best answer so far, at least in my opinion as a non lawyer, is Sun's community development license. Basically this is a have your cake and eat it too deal: developers keep proprietary code proprietary, participate in the free as in freedom world being built up around openSolaris, and work inside a patent umbrella held up, not just by Sun, but by mutual agreement among participating developers. In other words, Joe developer can adopt openSolaris and the CDDL ( Common Development Distribution License) without spending a nickel on legal fees and be reasonably confident that not doing something criminal (or just criminally stupid) will suffice to protect himself from legal action.

Combine the CDDL with the fact that Solaris is the best OS around, and it's easy to see why the openSolaris community is exploding ...

Wednesday Jul 13, 2005

GlassFish and CDDL

I see the Java guys are dealing with some CDDL FUD out there regarding GlassFish. Not to worry, guys. They'll get used to the idea that things have changed around here (with more to come). Give them some time. They'll get used to it. They weren't expecting it, that's all, and they are lashing out -- which is unfortunate but understandable. If they weren't nervous on some level they wouldn't be reacting. It's just that simple. Good job. And great logo, too.

Sunday Jun 12, 2005

Some CDDL Clips

Here are two CDDL clips I tripped over recently and a couple of excerpts:

Changes in open-source licensing hot topic at LinuxWorld, by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols and Peter Galli

As a result of the enterprise's penetration of open source, the open-source licenses will change as well. Exactly how this change will play out isn't clear, but [Steven] Henry [an IP attorney at Wolf Greenfield & Sachs] expects "economics to prevail over doctrine."

One shape this might take, according to Steve Garone, vice president and senior analyst for the research house Ideas International Ltd., is Sun's CDDL. "Sun just might be on the right path," he said.

What is the biggest problem with open source? by Dana Blankenhorn

What is the biggest problem faced by the open source community? Is it marketing or our business model?

I think it's marketing. Over the weekend I proposed a Web ad campaign called "I am open source." Picture big corporate users of GPL software, real business celebrities, and link to case studies. Show people that open source is not pushed by commie-fag-junkies, but by serious people with serious problems.

I shared this perspective with Paul Murphy. He disagreed. "I see Linux succeeding as a political movement but weakened by the lack of economic incentives," he wrote. Open source has a business model problem, one which licenses like the CDDL can help solve, he added.

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 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.


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