Split Reactions to Sun’s OpenSolaris

Reaction to Sun Microsystems’ launch of its OpenSolaris initiative is apparently related to the size
of the enterprise and its attachment to the open source community.

In some cases, the larger the company — and its investment in Linux — the more
vocally opposed it is to Sun’s liberation of Solaris source code and the release of more than 1,600 of Sun’s patents associated with the OS.

Sun started its foray into open source Solaris Tuesday with a code release of
its diagnostic DTrace application. Buildable source code for Solaris
will be available at the OpenSolaris site in the second quarter of 2005,
the company said.

On the same day it released Solaris source code, Sun’s main open source
rivals IBM, Novell and Red Hat made public statements through indirect channels. Each dismissed Sun’s open source moves.

“Sun Solaris has lost its grasp in the server market. Opening Solaris
is a last resort by Sun to hold on to its customer base. It is a case of
too little, too late,” said Lisette Kwong, a representative for IBM,
which released
the source code
on its embedded database Cloudscape technology in
August 2004.

Novell Linux marketing director Greg Mancusi-Ungaro told the
Financial Times that Sun should prepare itself for a
confrontation if it is serious about building a community that runs parallel to other open source initiatives like Linux. “Sun is on the
first square on a board with many squares,” Mancusi-Ungaro, who serves
as marketing director at Novell’s Linux unit, told the publication.

“How is Sun going to instantly attract hundreds or thousands of
developers to Solaris when they have never had the opportunity to work
with the source code before?” Red Hat Associate General Counsel Mark Webbink mulled in a letter issued to the
press. “Red Hat has experienced this before with some of the companies
we have acquired. It is much harder to build a community around
pre-existing software than one might believe.”

Oracle and SAP — two traditional core supporters of Sun Solaris — have yet to made public statements. However, Dana Gardner, a senior
analyst with IT research firm The Yankee Group, predicted a future in which Oracle promotes Unbreakable Open Solaris. The analyst also
suggested SAP packaged with Open Solaris for SMBs could also be a potent

“Sun has the opportunity to redefine what’s the best new mix of build
and buy — not build or buy — for both enterprises and ISVs,” Gardner
told internetnews.com. “If exposing many valuable parts of
Solaris 10 through an open source license allows operations-minded
developers to gain higher performance for their applications in
production, this is good. Too much emphasis in open source has been on
up-front costs, and not enough on integrity and performance that will
cut total costs over time.”

Gardner also commented that the embedded market in particular is
seeking consolidation, and an open source Solaris will bear careful
comparison to Linux in real-time applications.

“And we should not just compare Open Solaris to Linux, we should also
carefully compare it to Windows Server System,” Gardner said. “On issues
of datacenter performance, security, and cost over time, those Unix
shops considering a move to Windows should take a hard look at Solaris
and Open Solaris in tandem.”

While a broader acceptance by the open source community was sorely
missing at the OpenSolaris.org launch, some distributions are hoping to
bridge the gap. In its weekly newsletter, Gentoo said it is planning to
add OpenSolaris support to its Portage software platform.

“Pieter Van den Abeele has been working closely with Sun’s
management, legal and engineering teams to prepare this move,” Gentoo
said in its newsletter. “Gentoo will be leveraging the hard work of
long-time Solaris users and Gentoo Developers-in-training Sunil Kumar
and Jason Wohlgemuth, whose ‘Portaris’ project has been running on top
of Solaris 9 and 10 builds for quite a while already.”

Michael Dortch, a principal analyst with IT consultancy Robert
Frances Group said that now that Solaris is well on the road to being an
open source offering, Sun would do well to embrace Linux instead of
fighting it.

“Solaris 10 brings some potentially significant strengths to
enterprise deployments and explorations of Linux, and Sun could engender
a lot of ‘anti-FUD’ about Linux, Solaris, and Sun itself by articulating
road maps that embrace and support Linux in ways that translate into
business benefits for enterprise customers,” Dortch said.

Perhaps Sun’s biggest internal “cultural” challenge with OpenSolaris,
said Illuminata senior analyst Gordon Haff, is that Sun will have to
cede a measure of control if it wants to foster a vibrant development community.

“Contributors and developers will have to feel that they have a real
say in the future of Solaris,” Haff said. “Sun will still play a big
role but it can’t be a dictator — even a benevolent one.”

Sun CEO Scott McNealy said an IP contribution of this
magnitude has the potential to strengthen the overall open source
community — or at least get nay-sayers off its back.

“We’ve done everything that was expected and even more,” McNealy said
during a conference call with press and analysts. “The measure of
success of OpenSolaris is more contributors, more embedded OEM use and
adoption by other open source communities.”

Historically, McNealy pointed out, Sun has contributed more
code to open source initiatives than all other organizations with the
exception of UC Berkeley, and remains committed engineering
support for Apache, Mozilla, Gnome, OpenOffice, Grid, JXTA, ODSL and
other open source projects.

In addition, McNealy boasted the significance of Sun’s donation of the source code of
StarOffice software. The alternative to enterprise productivity suites
like Microsoft Office is based on the OpenOffice suite and bundled with
most versions of Linux.

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