OpenSolaris: No Excluded Middle

Logic is a funny thing when modulated by the trade press and marketing. We are used to dealing with simple statements in which one predicate is either true or false because there's a singular definition of "true" for the question that has been phrased. Either I'm wearing a red shirt or I'm not wearing a red shirt. Unless you debate the definition of "red" and "shirt", this one is pretty clear. Logicians refer to this as the law of excluded middle and that works fine provided you can be clear about your definitions of truth.

The middle ground excluded by nice, clean logic reappears when there are several possible true states "in between" the two extremes posited in your reasoning. And this is why some of the publicly promoted logic surrounding Sun, open source, OpenSolaris, and Linux has been so flawed. "Sun has open sourced Solaris, so it must hate Linux" is equivalent to "Either Sun does OpenSolaris or it embraces Linux". The flaw here is that the excluded middle in that (highly flawed) preposition contains a variety of other truths, involving Sun endorsing - through support, sales, and source code contribution - a variety of operating system platforms.

Opening the source code for Solaris doesn't mean we dismiss Linux. Using the CDDL license doesn't mean Sun finds the GPL distasteful or wrong. Starting today, there's a world in which OpenSolaris and Linux (and the Apache Foundation and now the Fedora Foundation) represent multiple, independent points of truth. No excluded middle. CDDL, GPL (and MPL and APL and BSD licensing) exist as multiple truths in a twisty maze of legal passages. These are ecologies; they exist in nature, in communities of practice in medicine, and in electronic form.

Ecologies stimulate evoluation -- innovation in our technical world. I'd rather have multiple, vibrant communities of operating systems and the legal eagles governing their distribution than a world with one dominant OS be it Windows, Linux or any other Unix variant. Variety isn't just the spice of life, it's a critical ingredient for its evolution.

Starting today, any average developer can access the OpenSolaris distribution. The middle ground isn't shrinking or excluded; it's just about to be invented.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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