Community Approach to Sun’s OpenSolaris

Open source is as much about the ability to collaborate and participate as it is about the code that is open. Sun Microsystems understands this.

Sun is moving to open up its OpenSolaris project to allow for even more participation from its community of users and developers in terms of both governance and technology contributions.

The OpenSolaris project first
released code
in June of 2005. The effort began as a way to build the next generation of Solaris open system in an open source-community-inspired approach. At the project’s one-year anniversary, Sun highlighted the importance of community contributions to the effort.

It’s a community that now is going to get even more opportunity to participate and shape the future of OpenSolaris.

Stephen Harpster, Director of Open Source Software, explained that the OpenSolaris community just drafted and finalized a constitution that describes how OpenSolaris will be governed in the future. Currently OpenSolaris is governed by the Community Advisory Board (CAB) made up of five members, two of whom were appointed by Sun and the rest of whom were elected.

The plan is for OpenSolaris governance to move to a new board, which will be called the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB). The OGB will have seven members all of whom will be elected by members of the OpenSolaris community.

“The CAB was there temporarily to get all the governance set up and to get the real board — the OGB — into place,” Harpster told “It’s not going to be different than the way it has been run in the past, it will just be more formalized.

“It’s not like Linux where there is a benevolent dictator [Linus Torvalds],” Harpster explained. “Each community has its own set of leaders and they decide how they are going to run their community and then the OGB oversees the communities at large.”

Code contributors aren’t the only ones that will get to vote for the new OGB either. Under the new constitution, anyone that contributes and is a member of an OpenSolaris community will get a vote. OpenSolaris is made up of a number of communities, including non-technical ones for marketing and documentation.

Sun is also working on allowing its community to actually directly contribute to OpenSolaris with a new source code management system. Currently the source code resides in a source tree inside of Sun’s firewall, in a legacy Sun product called Teamware that is not open to the outside.

“The way it has worked for the last year and a half is that if you are not a Sun employee and you want to make a change to the source code what you have to do is e-mail your changes into a Sun employee and then the Sun employee has to apply the changes for you,” Harpster explained. “Obviously that doesn’t scale and is not desirable.”

The OpenSolaris tools community evaluated a number of different open source version control systems, including CVS and Subversion, and has decided on using Mercurial, which will be implemented this year.

Harpster also explained that OpenSolaris is working on integrating more tools to improve the development environment. Efforts to integrate PHP and Ruby on Rails among other dynamic languages are under way.

“We want to make it easier for developers to not only work on OpenSolaris but to also develop applications on top of OpenSolaris,” Harpster said. “Getting more people to participate and making it easier for developers to start developing on Sun Solaris is the key thing we’re focusing on.”

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