Here are some interesting comments (and my reactions) from a piece in
Network Computing Magazine -- Will
Sun Shine Again?
-- where Sun's John Fowler, EVP of Systems, was
interviewed on a variety of issues. I just picked out the OpenSolaris
IBM has embraced Linux and Microsoft OSes as
well as it's own OS stable all of which has paid off for the company.
Sun's response to this desire for openness wasn't to embrace
instead to create OpenSolaris. Fowler says the goal wasn't necessarily
to get others contributing code to the Solaris kernel
but instead to create a conversation about the source code.
Sure, we didn't necessarily need
code contributions to the
kernel because the code base was already mature and stable and being
developed by 1,000 engineers around the world. However, we always wanted
code contributions, and we always wanted those contributions to
represent new ways to use and extend the system. In other words, we
wanted to grow in new ways that didn't necessarily represent Sun's core
markets. And we started that process by opening the code and engaging in
conversations about the code. So, Fowler is absolutely correct. And I agree, too.
says that it'll take a decade for strategy to prove itself, so we
shouldn't judge it yet. Be that as it may, the notion seems
Fundamentally flawed? Actually, the strategy has been quite successful even
in these early years. In just two years we've built a nascent
development community, we are clearly growing globally, we are taking
code contributions (and other contributions), we have an
early governance model, we are opening our infrastructure, there are a
few distributions based on the kernel, and now we are expanding the program even further
with a new binary to engage not only new levels of developers but also users
as well. And that's characterized as flawed?
If what you're looking for is a huge developer
community that values the ability to see the source code for the
operating system, Linux will obviously win over Solaris.
Why must one system live and the other die? Instead, why can't both
thrive? Also, the "huge developer community" probably has as much to do
with the binary as it has to do with with the source code. Some would
argue more, actually. That's what Indiana and the other
distributions are designed to address -- to engage users and
application developers building on top of the system.
The number of developers actually interacting at the kernel source
level and helping to build the system itself is much smaller, and it
will always remain much smaller. Regardless, our
strategy always included a long term, phased approach of opening code,
infrastructure, and people and building a multi-layered community
around the core. This can't be done all at once. It takes time. What
you see now is a snapshot in time. We were different a year ago, and
we'll be different a year from now. So,
again, I fail to see how this strategy is "fundamentally flawed." Also,
I fail to see
how any comparison to Linux (or IBM or HP, for that matter) makes any
sense whatsoever. I think over
time, people will come to realize that community building is not
necessarily a zero
sum game. There is room for diversity. The world is a big place.
And by opening
the source code, Sun has both created a product in OpenSolaris that
won't have a revenue stream and given its Solaris faithful a reason to
look at AIX and HP-UX based systems.
Actually, the exact opposite is true. By opening the code, the Solaris
faithful are sticking with Solaris, and some who left are coming back.
Also, it was the "Solaris faithful" who wanted us to open the code in
the first place. They told us this quite directly, in fact. But we
didn't open the code exclusively for the faithful. We opened it to
reach new people, too. And we are. By the tens of thousands, actually,
and we've been able to do that because
the code is open. And regarding revenue streams --
remember that OpenSolaris is a development
project. Sun's product is Solaris. There's a difference.
Sure, as the OpenSolaris binary distros evolve, I'm sure business models will
emerge and Sun will participate as well. But for right now there's no reason to
confuse the obvious -- OpenSolaris is a development project run by a
community, and Solaris is a product supported by a company.
For some applications, that closed development process used by the
likes of HP, IBM and formerly Sun, that results rock solid software
married to rock solid hardware is desirable, if expensive. While
there's no doubt that Solaris is still a solid OS, there is some doubt
about where Sun sees its fortunes and its future for Solaris.
Just because we are opening our development processes doesn't mean we
are throwing out our development processes. Over time, non-Sun
community members will earn their way just as Sun community members.
This is already occurring, actually. As far as the "doubt" bit, well,
you can't convince everyone, I suppose. When I look at the massive
engineering and business investment Sun is making in Solaris and
OpenSolaris and new support from AMD, Intel, IBM, and Dell on top of HP
claiming they sell more Solaris systems than anyone else, well, "doubt"
is not the first word that pops into my mind. I can think of a few other words that come to mind, though. Can you?