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Open Source Sun Microsystems

Sun Considering GPL For OpenSolaris 215

Posted by kdawson
from the it's-spreading dept.
narramissic writes, "At an event today to formally open-source Java, Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's president and CEO, and Rich Green, the company's senior VP of software had an exchange in which Schwartz put Green on the spot about using GPL for OpenSolaris: 'Are you averse to changing the license, Rich Green?' Schwartz asked. 'Certainly not,' Green responded, prompting the Sun CEO to fire back in a half-joking manner: 'Will you GPL Solaris, Mr. Green?' 'We will take a close look at it,' Green said, adding that it was possible that the familiarity and comfort level many developers have with the GPL may result in Sun adopting it for OpenSolaris." Another note about Sun's decision to use the GPL for Java comes from reader squiggleslash, who writes: "According to Jonathan Schwartz, the decision of Novell and Microsoft to '(suggest) that free and open source software wasn't safe unless a royalty was being paid' is what prompted Sun to finally come down on using the GPL for Java. So I guess every cloud has a silver lining."
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Sun Considering GPL For OpenSolaris

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  • Money Pressure (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:34PM (#16830312)
    Remember, SUN makes money on hardware.
    Novell and Microsoft do not.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:47PM (#16830488) Homepage Journal
      Remember, SUN makes money on hardware.
      Novell and Microsoft do not.

      Yep. Microsoft doesn't make [xbox.com] any [microsoft.com] money [microsoft.com] from hardware sales [zunescene.com] at all. No siree. Not a dime. And Novell never made anything from hardware sales either [everything2.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DAldredge (2353)
        Other than their keyboard and mouse operations all Microsoft hardware operations operate in the red.
      • They lose money on the majority of their hardware businesses.

        I think the only thing they make money on is Windows and Office and mice and keyboards.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Chosen Reject (842143)
        You would have done better by never mentioning the Xbox, which has put MS over $4 billion in the red. I have no numbers to back my next statement up, but I am guessing they have not sold enough keyboards to make up for that amount.

        Also, the Zune has not yet made a dime for MS, and I've seen rumors that it is also being sold at a loss.

        In addition, Novell has not sold hardware for a long time. In fact, they haven't done it since they became a profitable software company.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Let's not take this out of proportion, it's not like microsoft is the ultimate evil.
    • by YA_Python_dev (885173) on Monday November 13, 2006 @06:23PM (#16831032) Journal

      More interesting than this, IMHO, is to note that for Java they choose to use the "GNU GPL v2 only" (plus Classpath exception) license, not the more common "GPL v2 or any later version".

      This is what the Java FAQ says about it:

      Q: What about GPL v3? Have you considered using that license?
      A: While Sun has been working with the Free Software Foundation as an active participant in the development and review of the GPL v3 license, this license is not yet complete. It is Sun's strong desire to complete the open sourcing of its Java technology implementations in a timely manner, so we made the decision to use an existing, established license paradigm rather than wait for GPL v3 to be completed. Using GPL v2 does not indicate anything negative about GPL v3. Sun continues to be very actively and positively involved in this new license's development.

      And, from this InfoQ article [infoq.com] about the GPLed Java:

      GPLv3 was not chosen since it is not finished yet, but when asked if Sun will move to GPLv3 an official said "at this point we don't know what the final license will be."
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wikinerd (809585)
        This GPLv2-only licensing may create some practical problems in the future, but it is sensible from a business point of view, and I can certainly understand it. It's better to have their code in GPLv2 rather than not have it at all. We were given a gift, so let's not whine for a while.
        • We were given a gift, so let's not whine for a while.

          You're right, of course, and I'm not whining at all, simply noting the details of the license choice. And I just found this bit from Sun's Jonathan Schwartz blog [sun.com]:

          And yes, we picked GPL version 2 - version 3 isn't available, but we like where the FSF is headed.

          Emphasis mine. So apparently Sun likes the proposed GNU GPLv3!

        • by Cyclops (1852)
          I doubt very much Sun will use Free Software that's not copyrighted by them on Sun's Java, even if it's GNU GPL'ed. Expect to have to sign copyright attribution agreements when submitting code.

          That's not bad per-se, but it's much better if acompanied by a promise to never release as non-Free Software (like the FSF does).

          I'm pretty sure that if Sun wants to change to GPLv3 in the future they'll only need to shout the order.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ClamIAm (926466)
        I don't think this is really that interesting. Sun, being a big company, must run things past the lawyers. GPL v3 is not finished, and they are probably extra-extra-concerned about the patent revocation clauses and how exactly that stuff will be worded. So basically they're just covering their asses.
      • by evilviper (135110)
        they choose to use the "GNU GPL v2 only" (plus Classpath exception) license, not the more common "GPL v2 or any later version".

        Actually, omitting the "or any later version" is VERY common. I certainly don't have any statistics, but I know for a fact that HUNDREDS of major/popular GPL'd programs omit that clause, including the kernel itself.

        It's not at all unusual. I guess developers don't have much blind faith in FSF/RMS.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Kjella (173770)
        It's not really that big a deal when a company decides to use GPLv2 only for a big product. That basicly means "GPLv3 isn't out yet, we'll consider it when it is." They have the power to relicense Java to GPLv3 with the stroke of a pen. I guess it still remains to be seen how they'll allow contributions, but it needn't be a problem in the future either.

        That is a sane position for a company. The trouble comes when you need to relicense hundreds if not thousands of small contributions, many of which you can't
    • by molnarcs (675885)
      Remember, SUN makes money on hardware. Novell and Microsoft do not. Not quite. MS makes money on software, yes, but Novell makes money on support, not by selling software per se. A fairly large portion of SUN's money comes also from support.
    • by spitzak (4019)
      Yet when asked why Apple does not open-source their code (or otherwise allow others to make machines using it), the response is "Apple makes money on hardware, not software!"

      Brilliant! Apparently you can use that reasoning to argue for anything
    • Remember, SUN makes money on hardware.

      Do they?

      There was a time when I understood what exactly Sun makes money on. They had some proprietary hardware (the sparc achitecture) and they had an OS that took advantage of the strengths of that HW. Fine. But these days, sun servers are just Opteron boxes, no? And the OS is opensourced.

      So how exactly are they making money?

      • by Alioth (221270)
        Their *LOW END* hardware is Opteron based. I suspect they make their bread and butter off the high end stuff which is still Sparc. Sparc is still being developed and pushed forwards. They just don't use it in the low end stuff.
  • by RLiegh (247921) * on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:35PM (#16830318) Homepage Journal
    Sorry for the fanboyish response, but I think releaseing various parts of Open Solaris under the GNU license would lead to some great developments. As I understand it, that would enable a lot of features of the Solaris kernel to be imported into Linux and vice-versa.

    Of course, there'd be a problem with that whole "gnu's NOT unix" thing... ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      On the other hand, the CDDL is a Free Software license (according to the FSF and the OSI), and is not Copyleft (or 'viral' if you prefer), so I would consider it to be more interesting than the GPL. For everything I've tried, my Solaris box is nicer than any Linux machine I've used (although I really don't like the Solaris userland), so I don't really see what Solaris would gain.

      I think Sun made a very clever choice with the CDDL for Solaris. It's Free, and the Linux guys can't just take the best bits

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RLiegh (247921) *
        >so I don't really see what Solaris would gain.
        Device drivers
        • The driver models used Linux and Solaris are sufficiently different that a port from one to the other is non-trivial. You could use the Linux driver as reference for writing a Solaris driver, but that's about it, and you can do that already (the *BSD guys already do that when Linux gets support first).
      • by Argon (6783)
        > my Solaris box is nicer than any Linux machine I've used (although
        > I really don't like the Solaris userland)

        Then you should really give Nexenta [gnusolaris.org] a shot. Some debian folks have legitimate trouble with the licensing (mixing GPL software with CDDL libc). However, barring this niggling issue I think the Nexenta team has done an amazing job. I've tried it out myself. dtrace and zones work, so you should be at home.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Sorry for the fanboyish response, but I think releaseing various parts of Open Solaris under the GNU license would lead to some great developments. As I understand it, that would enable a lot of features of the Solaris kernel to be imported into Linux and vice-versa.

      And I'm sure that there wouldn't be any little companies from Utah [sco.com] that wouldn't just LOVE to see that Unix code REALLY get imported into the Linux kernel.

      Where's those guys with their "itsatrap" tags when you need them?

    • If it were released under the GPL, it could be imported into the Linux kernel.

      I think this is awesome.

      I can't decide whether Sun has balls of spent Uranium or if they're just really disparate. Possibly both. But I really like this, and I hope their services and hardware businesses benefit accordingly.
      • Re:ZFS (Score:4, Insightful)

        by EvilRyry (1025309) on Monday November 13, 2006 @06:29PM (#16831132) Journal
        ZFS has some really awesome features. Pooling, snapshots (no, not quite like LVM), RAID-Z, and native compression and soon encryption.

        I'd love to see all this in Linux but I'm thinking even if it were GPLed there would be a lot of work to do to port it. And of course after its ported, the Linux devs would probably make a big stink about accepting it using lines like "a file system should only put files on a block device!" ZFS however is a different approach to storing files and in many ways much better.
        • by volsung (378)

          Hopefully this guy [wizy.org] will finish his port of ZFS to FUSE on Linux someday, in which case a lot of the work will have been done. You will still have to do some cleanup to make it run again in kernel space, and port it to the Linux VFS layer, of course. His choice of FUSE is in part due to the license, I imagine. A kernel port of the ZFS code could never go into the Linux kernel due to the license issues between the CDDL and GPL, where as this is perfectly fine in userspace.

          That said, it's too bad the F

          • by swordgeek (112599)
            "Nothing is where I expect it to be."

            This is just life, going between OSes. I spend 95+% of my time on Solaris. In the last two weeks, I've had to work on OSF/1, HPUX 11i, and HPUX 9.04. You get used to switching between variants, and start to get a feel for where things are. ("Oh, that's in /sbin instead of /etc, so that means that THIS should be in...")

            Trust me, it's good for the soul. And ZFS rocks. (Not to mention zones, dtrace, and now brandz).
          • "A kernel port of the ZFS code could never go into the Linux kernel due to the license issues between the CDDL and GPL, where as this is perfectly fine in userspace."

            That's why it would be cool if Sun released Solaris under the GPL.
          • by bhima (46039)
            Man, I am *NOT* using a filesystem for long period of time through FUSE.

            I can see using FUSE on a temporary basis but day in day out?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drsmithy (35869)

        I can't decide whether Sun has balls of spent Uranium or if they're just really disparate. Possibly both. But I really like this, and I hope their services and hardware businesses benefit accordingly.

        Sun makes the vast bulk of their money from hardware sales and support. They have little (if anything) to lose from GPLing Solaris.

        Contrast this to, say, Microsoft, who makes most of their money from software sales. Clearly, GPLing their software would be financial suicide.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by johansalk (818687)
      No it won't, for the simple reason that Linus is "a bastard, and proud of it!". Just google "linus" and "solaris" and see how dismissive he is of it, calling it "a joke", just like he's been dismissive of the BSDs.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LizardKing (5245)

        Just google "linus" and "solaris" and see how dismissive he is of it, calling it "a joke", just like he's been dismissive of the BSDs.

        Which probably explains why it's taken Linux so long to start resembling the Solaris kernel in terms of architecture. Linux was a poor second to the BSD's in the early to mid 1990's because it was largely written by hobbyists who didn't have the resources or knowledge that had been fed into Unix over 20 odd years. Until 2.6, Linux was a poor second to Solaris because of L

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BalkanBoy (201243)
      That's not a fanboy response at all - it's probably the only other response, beyond any financially motivated ones, that makes sense. Solaris is considered by many (with more than just passing knowledge of UNIX) to be still 'l33t'-er than either Linux or BSD (I beg to differ of course, being a Linux/BSD 'fanboy' and all). Eventually any technical differences between those two (Solaris, Linux) ought to fade, and we could have a great, free, open-source, commodity server OS that anyone can look at, improve,
  • Excellent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:39PM (#16830378)

    This could be a bigger boon than a lot of people realize. The licensing differences between Solaris and Linux are one of several factors slowing them from adopting ideas and code from one another. OpenSolaris users could benefit from ease of importing more cutting edge features from Linux. Linux could benefit by having access to some of the cleaner implementation ideas from Solaris. I've felt for some time that much of what holds linux back is the unwillingness to adopt newer and better features out of a fear that a given distribution will be less compatible with others and because Linux is trying to wear many hats. Too many decisions are made to benefit its use as a server or make it easier to use on a portable, while leaving it behind others for a workstation.

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

    • by 0racle (667029)
      And in the end one of them dies because they're exactly the same thing. I really don't see what the point of GPLing OpenSolaris would be.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dunstan (97493)
        As a long term Solairs SA, I can assure you that they're nothing like the same thing. While the OpenSolaris and Solaris Express releases are fluid, the GA release (at present, Solaris 10) is not. Sure, new functionality is added during the life of a major Solaris version (most recently, ZFS was added), but the existing published kernel API will not change. This means that device drivers and other software which links into the kernel (e.g. storage software) will continue to work.

        This is not a minor issue. Th
    • Re:Excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jericho4.0 (565125) on Monday November 13, 2006 @06:18PM (#16830954)
      "OpenSolaris users could benefit from ease of importing more cutting edge features from Linux."

      Linux would get DTrace, ZFS, etc. Those techs are about as cutting edge as it gets. What would Solaris get?

  • by the_humeister (922869) on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:39PM (#16830380)
    It certainly removes one barrier. But look at Darwin. It's open source, but who else but a handful of people outside of Apple are working on it? So the point is not to knock the potential change. The point is will developers flock to Solaris as a result of this? Slowly but surely or not fast enough?
    • by Kadin2048 (468275) <`ten.yxox' `ta' `nidak.todhsals'> on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:52PM (#16830576) Homepage Journal
      This is just my understanding, but Darwin doesn't have nearly as many 'interesting' features that don't already exist in Linux. There is some neat Solaris-only stuff that people have wanted to bring into Linux for a while, but have not been able to because of licensing problems, and the work it would take to clean-room it.

      The thing that I always hear talk about is dtrace (currently CDL, and tightly integrated with the Solaris kernel), but looking at the WP article [wikipedia.org] on it, apparently it's been partially brought over to BSD and OS X. Then there are also containers and that "self-healing" fault-isolation system, which I don't pretend to understand.

      Perhaps there are just as many cool, compelling features in Darwin that aren't talked about, and deserve being shared with Linux and other OSes ... but I've definitely not heard as much 'buzz' about them as you hear about some particular features of Solaris that are supposedly very neat.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)
        There's nothing interesting in darwin. Anything neato that MacOSX does is done in a service, not in the kernel. Darwin's kernel is a combination of Mach and BSD called XNU. Mach is a pretty lame microkernel, as microkernels go... which is why the hurd is going from mach to L4. Of course, some would say the hurd is pretty lame, and that it deserves mach, but that's another conversation. The point is that there's no compelling reason to do anything with it, and many reasons not to touch it.
        • I seem to have heard that GNU/Hurd development was moving from L4 to something else...(checks)...Wikipedia seems to be confused as to whether its moving to "Coyotos" or whether there is only some talk about that, and of course the GNU/Hurd pages don't prominently refer to anything but Mach...
          • by naasking (94116)
            Wikipedia seems to be confused as to whether its moving to "Coyotos" or whether there is only some talk about that [...]

            L4, as great a microkernel as it is, still has some serious security shortcomings. The Hurd devs are currently discussing issues with the Coyotos devs; whether Hurd will actually use Coyotos is unclear last I heard. You can see various discussions they've had on the coyotos-dev mailing list.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by davecb (6526) *

      Actually, quite a number of folks who are my consulting customers use Darwin (really BSD) sources as the "reference copies" of programs they're adapting for their own use.

      This is in part because of the good quality of the code, and the company which stands behind it. In part it is because of the larger BSD community who stands semi-invisibly behind Apple... some customers really understand the strength of community. And finally, for the license-paranoid, in part this is because of the use of the very old

  • Yeah sure... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Serapth (643581) on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:40PM (#16830394)
    According to Jonathan Schwartz, the decision of Novell and Microsoft to '(suggest) that free and open source software wasn't safe unless a royalty was being paid' is what prompted Sun to finally come down on using the GPL for Java. So I guess every cloud has a silver lining. If you believe that, want to buy some old dot com stocks I traded for some swamp land a few years back? Honest, ill give you a great deal!

    A company the size of Sun does not move that quickly, especially so far as legal matters go. Besides, there has been talk of GPLing Java before Christmas for months.

    Sun saw a chance to take a shot at Microsoft/Novell and they took it. Can't say I fault them, but its fairly obviously a lie.
    • Re:Yeah sure... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday November 13, 2006 @05:50PM (#16830534)
      A company the size of Sun does not move that quickly, especially so far as legal matters go. Besides, there has been talk of GPLing Java before Christmas for months.


      There's been talk of open sourcing it by Christmas, and reports that it might be under the GPL (and reports that it might be under a different license.)

      That does not prove, however, that the Novell/MS deal didn't prompt the final decision for Sun. Certainly, they'd already done the analysis and had a pretty good idea of the pluses and minuses of the various options. But certainly the Novell/MS deal remixed those slightly, and might have tipped things in the GPL.
    • by ronanbear (924575)
      A Novell/Microsoft patent case against Linux has something else to think about now. I don't think Sun are in any rush to GPL Solaris but they're letting Microsoft know that Sun are the big winners in a big legal case between Windows and Linux.

      They're basically saying "go ahead, drive an army of developers and users to us, see what good that does ya".

  • To me this sounds like a simple off-hand comment and unlikely to happen.

    That said, can someone who is more familiar with the whole thing tell me: did has opening Solaris had much of an effect at all in any way? Has it stopped market share loss? Increased market share? Increased software availability? Has anything really changed?

    • by anlprb (130123)
      Depends on what you mean by anything. If you mean has there been a large takeup of drivers or features, no. But that does not have to do with the license. It has more to do with the snail's pace that Sun's development process follows. The whole CAB thing is interesting, but you cannot get a feature into OpenSolaris without it being sponsored by a Sun employee. It is still and if Sun has anything to do with it, continue to be, a very cathedral approach to things. Now, it does slow down development whic
      • by Alioth (221270)

        But that does not have to do with the license. It has more to do with the snail's pace that Sun's development process follows. The whole CAB thing is interesting, but you cannot get a feature into OpenSolaris without it being sponsored by a Sun employee

        The thing is - Solaris has a stable kernel ABI. It won't be necessary to have your drivers (the bulk of extra development that Open Solaris needs) sponsored because it'll be perfectly possible to develop a driver for your hardware, package it up with your har

  • Wow, if that ever happened, wouldn't it be ironic - I can imagine a future where linux has been effectively preempted by the mega corporations, while Solaris is fully GPL'd and becomes the default first choice for the typical savvy unix admin.

    In any case, I'll be getting to know Solaris 10 better in the coming months, but the GPL would just put it over the top.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Oh lordy, then what's the RMS fan club going to bitch about?
  • I support Sun GPLing Java and possible OpenSolaris. If I ever buy a rack server, I will make sure it's a Sun model.
    • by hritcu (871613)
      I think this would be the best way to support SUN and AMD, and not (semi-)monopolies like Microsoft and Intel.
  • If they're this optimistic about such, why not pull some build out that worked with sun4m and make it just as open as what exists today - even if it amounts only to being a olive branch to systems long since devalued by that move. That, and it gives a very compact/cheap option for SPARC that doesnt skimp on the hardware (unlike U5/U10's cheapened design).
  • Yeah Right (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tharkban (877186) on Monday November 13, 2006 @07:20PM (#16831732) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, Right....I bet they'll GPL java before they allow that to happen. :)
  • What about hardware support?

    Not to start an argument, but wasn't there an article [slashdot.org] posted on this very website telling us how OpenSolaris was/is the Linux killer*? So far how has that one panned out? Other F/OSS operating systems never really make it to relevancy because frankly, their hardware support is always years behind that of Linux. That very reason is why I switched (at least for now) from BSD, back to Linux.

    *I must note that it funny that they compared OpenSolaris to SUSE - clearly
  • You can't lock out competition.
  • ZFS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by scott_karana (841914)
    The best part about Sun being GPLed (the CDDL is a fine license itself) is that ZFS can be implemented as a kernel module rather than in FUSE. The idea of running non-trivial enterprise filesystem in user-space is abhorent to me.
  • Q: Are you open sourcing the Java language or the Java SE platform specifications?
    A: We are not open sourcing the Java programming language, nor the platform APIs and specifications, which are governed by the JCP. We're open sourcing Sun's implementations of the Java SE and Java ME specifications. - FAQ [sun.com]

    Sorry if this has already been posted, but it's important to note that Sun seem to be GPLing Java implementations which already face Open Source competition, but not Java itself. You might not realise thi

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