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Sun's Source Code Donation Met With Skepticism

Sun is donating the source code for the Sun StorageTek 5800 system to the OpenSolaris storage and Java.net communities to spur more cost-effective technologies and help solve digital archive and preservation challenges facing enterprises.

OpenSolaris is currently under the CDDL license.

Developers can download the free Sun StorageTek 5800 binary code, formerly code-named "Honeycomb," by clicking here. It runs on any x86 system.

The StorageTek 5800 is a digital archive storage system powered by Sun's OS, Solaris, and built on open source software.

Sun has donated a large amount of storage software before to OpenSolaris. A company spokesperson told InternetNews.com that the availability of Honeycomb code marks the the first time a product with metadata archival capabilities has been open sourced within the industry.

[cob:Related_Articles]"Sun hopes that this will continue to build momentum for open storage for Sun as well as the industry as a whole," said the spokesperson, adding that developers can do "cutting-edge things within next-generation archiving" that was previously proprietary.

But at least two industry pundits aren't sure what Sun's motivations are and how valuable the donation will be in spurring storage advancements.

"Well if you can't sell the product to get it into the market and installed and in use, the next option, particular for Sun, which is very open source focused these days, is to try and jump-start the technology by placing it into the open source community," Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO, told InternetNews.com.

"Time will tell if this is an act of desperation to stimulate adoption and the partner ecosystem, or, a graceful way to phase a technology out while getting some open source news and coverage," Schulz said.

Sun is hoping other vendors will follow its lead. "Sun is not acting in a bubble. This is the beginning of a new wave within the storage industry," said Sun's spokesperson, using the analogy of the evolution in servers when open source software was initially added on top of general purpose hardware.

The code has been submitted to the Storage Networking Industry Association and is under consideration. The Fedora Commons open source group will contribute its software into OpenSolaris and Java.net and use the Sun StorageTek 5800 source code for its development efforts.

Despite Sun's viewpoint of what the free source code will do, one analyst has doubts.

"I'd call it an intriguing PR move that aims to boost use and adoption of the Sun StorageTek 5800," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, Inc. told InternetNews.com. "Whether it’ll work depends on who the release intends to influence."

"In time, the decision could benefit developers in the OpenSolaris and Java.net communities by reducing or eliminating StorageTek 5800 license fees now owed to Sun. However, I doubt that’s a huge group in the first place," King added.

A driving factor for the donation, Sun said, is the increasing push to digitize and preserve corporate records, images, e-science work and high-performance computing data that is making file-based data and storage management "a serious challenge."

Meanwhile, library technology solutions company VTLS has ported its VITALapplication to the Sun StorageTek 5800, based on Solaris 10 OS and the Fedora open repository framework.

"We use the Sun StorageTek 5800 to manage our fixed content object storage. The release of its source code and creation of new digital archiving communities drives better economics and enables us to solve data preservation challenges quicker and more efficiently," stated Susan Stein, federated services manager, the Alberta Library, in a statement.

But King isn't convinced the donation will help solve data preservation challenges.

"Frankly, a great many fractious issues clutter the digital archiving space due to the highly proprietary nature of many solutions," he said. "But system source code is not as serious or significant an issue as, say, the document format battle between Microsoft and ODF proponents."