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Sun Cracks Open Solaris

UPDATED: Sun Microsystems launched its OpenSolaris initiative today, complete with a new community, advisory board and intellectual property rights.

The initiative applies only to the current Solaris 10 release and all future versions of its Unix-based server operating system. Sun is making the framework available at a new Web site (OpenSolaris.org) and seeding it with a limited amount of code -- starting with Sun's diagnostic DTrace application. Buildable source code for Solaris will be available at the OpenSolaris site during the second quarter, the company said.

"We understand the focus out there and DTrace is a show of our seriousness," Tom Goguen, vice president with Sun's Software Group, told internetnews.com. "We expect to have our engineers committing to the community in an open fashion."

Sun CEO Scott McNealy said the measure of success of OpenSolaris.org would be more contributors, more embedded OEM use and an adoption by other open source communities.

"We think a lot of people will be writing drivers," McNealy said during a conference call with reporters. "We hope we get surprised . . . this will morph and evolve. Someone could take the code an build a set-top box, or take the gaming APIs out of Solaris and build gaming platform, or put it in next-generation handsets."

As part of the launch, McNealy also announced the OpenSolaris project would include more than 1,600 of Sun's patents associated with the Solaris OS. The patents are completely indemnified against current IP controversies such as the legal battles between IBM and SCO Group , McNealy said.

As previously reported, Sun released the code base under Sun's Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) -- a modified Mozilla open source license recently approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI). The license gives Sun all the rights to the Solaris brand and logo. The company said it would continue to assess the source code of any distribution and require that those enterprises follow the same compatibility testing guidelines as Sun requires for its Java technology.

"If IBM wanted to take the code and call it AIX they could but what they wouldn't get is the set of applications to run certified on OEM Solaris products," Goguen said. "They would have to go through the same test program and procedures for creating Solaris today. We are not setting up a parallel branding program."

Part of Sun's push for an open source Solaris is to take away market share from Linux distributions like Red Hat , which is feeding Sun's low-cost x86 server line but chipping away at its Solaris licensing business.

Because of that, Sun continues to make comparisons between the OpenSolaris initiative and Red Hat's Fedora project. Whereas with Fedora, the qualified version requires developers to sign a support agreement for a fee, Goguen said Sun's Solaris distributions would be pre-tested by ISVs and available for free.

OpenSolaris' other distinction is the establishment of a totally open and separate advisory council. Sun said the founding and interim group would be comprised of two Sun employees, two members of the OpenSource community and a fifth -- a marquee name that Sun won't reveal until March.

"The community structure will be driven by the advisory board to put the structure in place and in an open fashion," Glenn Weinberg Vice President, operating platforms group told internetnews.com. "It will probably expand and grow as the community grows. Keep in mind that the advisory board is an interim structure. We have a community in Sun of more than 1,000 engineers that contribute to Solaris and we think it can be adapted to scale."

Solaris 10 went into beta in March 2004 and was fully released in November 2004. Different features have been trickling out on a monthly schedule through Sun's Software Express program. Late last year, Sun promised it would open the source code of all of its Solaris operating system as a way to garner more third party developers and to commoditize the OS. The current release includes more than 600 improvements.

The DTrace application comprises three main parts: a set of at least 25,000 dynamic probes in the software; a framework that activates and deactivates those probes and gathers information from them; and a simple C-like scripting language (called "D") that is used to control and automate the collection and enable the display of the system data.