DTrace Community OGB Questionnaire

Leaders of the DTrace Community had a number of questions for the OGB candidates. Here's a copy of the questions and my answers. You can also see the other candidates' responses in the DTrace mailing list archives.

  • DTrace is one of only a small handful of OpenSolaris technologies that has actually been incorporated into other operating systems. Thus, your position on dual-licensing is very important to us; what is your position on dual-licensing in general?

    As I noted in my position paper: (a) the OGB does not control licensing, and (b) to the extent that the OGB would be consulted on the matter, I'm opposed to dual-licensing.

    The well-known opportunity it offers for license-based forks is a significant drawback that would have to be balanced and more by compelling benefits. No one has yet articulated such benefits, and I have found no evidence myself that they exist. The advantages presented by proponents of such a licensing scheme appear to be predicated on the idea that the second license would be GPLv3 (which is not complete), and that its use would dramatically increase the size of our community by drawing in the FSF as a partner in our technical work. Those are two large 'ifs' for a 'maybe' we're poorly positioned to handle.

  • Do you agree with the conclusions and decrees of CAB/OGB Position Paper # 20070207?

    Generally, yes. See above.

  • The OGB is responsible for the representation of OpenSolaris to third parties. If a third party were to inquire about incorporating DTrace into a GPL'd Program, what would be your response or position?

    I would note that my lay reading of the GPL would preclude that party from distributing the resulting product without violating the terms of that license. I would also advise that party to seek legal counsel, as with any licensing concern. That's as far as I'd go, however; the OGB does not hold the copyright to DTrace and is not in a position to warn or litigate against infringers.

  • DTrace is currently a Community Group, but some could argue that it would make more sense for DTrace to be a Project in (say) the Observability Community Group. In your mind, what is (or should be) the difference between a Community Group and a Project -- and where should DTrace fall?

    These two questions are not necessarily well-linked. The difference between a Project and a Community Group is straightforward. A Project owns one or more gates and does direct technical work with the intent to add or improve a specific aspect of the software they contain. A Community Group is the unit of independent government as defined by the Constitution; it is responsible for directing and guiding Project teams and others doing work that affects a broadly-defined set of interests.

    Others have suggested that a Project is defined to have a defined life span (presumably terminating upon integration into a consolidation). I disagree with this definition - a project (like DTrace) which provides a large and useful set of functionality will never be fully complete unless and until it is replaced wholesale. So long as the Project's work remains in use, it is important that some collaborative unit exist to provide a home for those using and improving it.

    DTrace is unquestionably a Project. Whether it deserves a Community Group of its own[0] depends on the granularity at which we wish to distinguish among Community Groups and the amount of overlap among them. That is, if Observability is held to be a Community Group distinguished from others at the correct granularity, DTrace should not be a separate CG, as its function would be a strict subset of another valid CG's. Instead, the DTrace leadership would be expected to participate in the Observability Group's activities, offering guidance and advocacy for consumers of its work. As part of that transition, mutually acceptable agreements regarding contributorship grants and leadership structure would need to be in place regarding the merged community (much like any corporate merger). Alternately, however, I could envision a finer-grained set of Community Groups with some overlap; DTrace might fit alongside, for example, a Debuggers Community Group in such a scheme. My personal preference is for a smaller number of larger Community Groups, some of them controlling the long-term maintenance of consolidations and others providing guidance to project teams (and the consolidation owners) based on their particular areas of technical expertise. I believe this would promote a vision of our software as an integrated whole. Just as importantly, even under such a system, any large and ambitious Project would fall inside the scope of several Community Groups' areas of interest. Expecting project teams to interact with dozens of Groups' leaders would seem to introduce excessive and unneccessary complexity.

    [0] The existence of DTrace as a Project ought not preclude the existence of other Projects which seek to enhance it.

  • The Draft Constitution says next-to-nothing about where the authority lies to make or accept changes to OpenSolaris -- only that Projects operate at the behest of Community Groups, and that Community Groups can be "terminated" by the OGB. In your opinion, where does or should this authority lie? And do you believe that the Constitution should or should not make this explicit? Finally, under what grounds do you believe that a Community Group should be "terminated"?

    As I noted in my position paper, I believe the authority for code acceptance should reside with Community Groups responsible for the targetted consolidation. Those CGs would be expected to delegate some or all of that authority in turn to specific individuals forming the C-Team for a particular release. While some minor changes will be needed to this strategy to accomodate open development, the basic process has worked well for a long time, and I see little reason to alter it radically.

    As I've noted in several messages, I would prefer that the Constitution had made at least some of this more explicit. The absence of this specification leaves the OGB with a set of illegitimate Sun entities excercising effective control over matters the Charter clearly leaves to the OGB, and offers no transition plan, timetable, or framework in which to take over these functions. This will present an additional challenge to the first elected OGB.

    Community Groups formed under a coherent and comprehensive strategy such as the one I hope the OGB will provide should generally be terminated only for inactivity or other clearly self-induced act of dissolution (such as a voluntary merger with another Community Group, approved by the OGB). Unfortunately, we also have a large number of existing Communities which do not fit well within any strategy one could retroactively imagine, and the OGB will be obligated to rationalise this situation. The process of doing so will likely involve terminating a number of these Communities and/or merging them with other Communities to form strategically valuable Community Groups. In the process, it is not unrealistic to suppose that some Communities may be terminated without the consent of their leaders. The OGB should seek to offer reasonable accomodation to the leaders of such Communities and work with them to find acceptable solutions that fit the strategic plan. My hope and expectation is that events of this type would occur very rarely after the initial realignment.

  • The Draft Constitution says that Community Groups (and in particular, the Community Groups' Facilitators) are responsible for "communicating the Community Group's status to the OGB"; what does this mean to you?

    My understanding was that the Working Group introduced the position of Facilitator for the purpose of maintaining a single first-line point of contact for each Community Group. The OGB should expect each Community Group to provide its membership list as required by the Constitution on a regular basis, and for proposing desired changes in structure or termination (if any). Beyond that, I believe this requirement has little meaning to the OpenSolaris community; it seems to make more sense in the context of an Apache-like organisation in which many completely disjoint software engineering efforts are undertaken simultaneously by likewise disjoint groups overseen by the Foundation. Since the OGB is not responsible for technical decisions, it makes little sense to expect Community Groups to provide detailed information about the work they oversee in the absence of a specific conflict or other matter requiring the OGB's attention. In short, it makes no sense to sample data which you cannot usefully consume.

  • According to the Draft Constitution, "nominations to the office of Facilitator shall be made by the Core Contributors of the Community Group, but the OGB shall not be limited in their appointment to those nominated." Under what conditions do you believe that the selection of a Facilitator would or could fall outside of the nominations made by a Community Group's Core Contributors?

    The only example I can imagine is one in which the designated Facilitator has a proven history of unreliability or deception. It seems unlikely that such an individual would be nominated by a responsible Community Group, so in practice I doubt this clause will ever be exercised.

  • According to the Draft Constitution, "non-public discussion related to the Community Group, such as in-person meetings or private communication, shall not be considered part of the Community Group activities unless or until a record of such discussion is made available via the normal meeting mechanism." In your opinion, in the context of a Community Group like DTrace -- where a majority of the Core Contributors spend eight to ten hours together every work day -- what does this mean? Specifically, what does it mean to be (or not to be) "considered part of the Community Group activities"? And in your opinion, what role does the OGB have in auditing a Community Group's activities?

    I choose to interpret this as a Blue Sky provision, requiring that important decisions be undertaken in public with the opportunity to participate for all those whose input might be considered useful. Since the Constitution provides no definition of "Community Group activities" other than voting, by implication this works in the same way as similar provisions in Municipal charters.

    In the context of the DTrace Community Group, I take it to mean that matters which require a Community Group to vote must be presented on a public list with reasonable opportunity for comment before such a vote is taken.

    Outside of bootstrapping activities around organising and rationalising Community Groups, I see little proactive role for the OGB in auditing CG activities. The OGB should generally handle only conflicts which cannot be resolved within one or more CGs, and then only when requested by a party to the conflict. The Constitution does preclude the OGB from interfering with a CG's internal governance.

  • Historically, binary compatibility has been very important to Solaris, having been viewed as a constraint on the evolution of technology. However, some believe that OpenSolaris should not have such constraints, and should be free to disregard binary compatibility. What is your opinion?

    Those people are wrong. Binary compatibility is a great strength, one which can in nearly all cases be preserved without retarding progress. To the extent that binary compatibility requires deeper thought on the part of engineers, it also directly enhances the quality of new work. Solaris customers praise and appreciate this engineering philosophy and the results it offers them; we should offer the same benefits to customers of other distributions as well by maintaining compatibility and architectural consistency within all recognised consolidations. Naturally, consumers of OpenSolaris are free to incorporate the technology into their own products in whatever manner they choose, including the introduction of changes that violate these constraints. Such activities are outside the scope of the OGB to regulate.

  • If a third-party were to use and modify DTrace in a non-CDDL'd system, whose responsibility is it to assure that those modifications are made public? To put it bluntly: is enforcing the CDDL an OGB issue?

    The answer to the first question is "No one." Neither use nor modification triggers the requirement that those modifications be made distributed in source form (and additions, in particular, need not be distributed at all). Only distribution triggers this requirement, and it is extended only to those to whom binaries are provided. If such a party did distribute the binaries containing DTrace, it is that party's responsibility to ensure its own compliance with the license terms.

    Enforcement of the CDDL is not an OGB consideration. The OGB does not hold any copyrights and has not issued any licenses. If the OGB is notified of a license violation, it should (as a group of good citizens) pass the information along to the copyright holder, if his/her/its identity is known. For much of the code in OpenSolaris including DTrace, that copyright holder is Sun Microsystems, Inc. Further action is at the discretion of the copyright holder.

    It may well be within the scope of the OGB's activities to help educate contributors about the terms of the CDDL, but such a campaign would require the OGB to obtain legal counsel.

  • Do you have an opinion on the patentability of software? In particular, what is the role of the OGB -- if any -- if Sun were to initiate legal proceedings to protect a part of its software patent portfolio that is represented in OpenSolaris?

    The OGB does not own software patents (or any other property), and I have no position on the patentability of software in general. Sun has the right to enforce its property rights under the laws of the countries in which it operates, and the OGB has no authority to interfere with that enforcement. Since community members who adhere to the terms of the licenses offered for OpenSolaris have limited (but adequate for all uses permitted under the CDDL) licenses to patents represented within that body of code, there is no reason for the OGB to worry about this. If such an event were to occur, the OGB might profitably offer a simple statement to this effect, clarifying the facts of the situation and denying incorrect rumours. Whether such an action would be necessary or appropriate would depend on the specific circumstances.

  • When you give public presentations, do you run OpenSolaris on your laptop? Have you ever given a public demonstration of OpenSolaris technology?

    Yes, I use OpenSolaris exclusively with the exception of interoperability testing. Yes, I have demonstrated new technology in Solaris 10 (now in OpenSolaris as well) at OSCON in 2004 and 2005, and the early OpenSolaris build system technology at SVOSUG in 2005.

  • And an extra credit question: Have you ever used DTrace? When did you most recently use it, and why? The answers "just now" and "to answer this question" will be awarded no points. ;)

    Yes, I've used DTrace. I most recently used it earlier this week while diagnosing the behaviour of two machines in an HA cluster. I've also written a (never-integrated) System V IPC provider for OpenSolaris and introduced USDT probes to enhance the observability of several aspects of daemon behaviour.

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