Thinking About GPL3…

Customers appreciate choice. Here’s proof: in less than a year, developers have requested nearly 4 million Solaris licenses – and 65% of the downloads are running on non-Sun hardware. Which means we’re reaching new customers, because we gave them the freedom to choose the hardware they like.

With that volume building, you’ve no doubt seen that HP has joined ranks with IBM to support Solaris on their x64 platforms – creating even more options, and leaving only one tier 1 vendor (based in Texas, rhymes with swell) without a committed Solaris support plan.

Having Solaris available on all these systems creates options for customers – as legacy systems near end of life, or as with Intel’s Itanium, inch toward decommitment.

We also recognize that diversity and choice are important – which is why we’ve begun looking at the possibility of releasing Solaris (and potentially the entire Solaris Enterprise System), under dual open source licenses. CDDL (which allows customer IP to safely comingle with Solaris source code) and under the Free Software Foundation’s GPL3. It’s early days, but we’re looking at two things as we make that decision.

First, we’re looking at how to reach developers and customers who prefer the GPL – as a large GPL contributor, we want to do what we can to drive more efficiency and cross-pollination between Linux and OpenSolaris. (Why recreate the wheel with technologies like dTrace and ZFS – or GRUB and Xen.)

Second, bear in mind we’ve yet to pick the open source license under which the core intellectual property behind our multi-threaded Niagara systems will ship (although we’re biasing to GPL). Is there opportunity for the two communities (OS and system) to interact? Surely…

In thinking through these issues, we’ve had help from a number of folks around the free software community – for which I want to express my appreciation. And there’s obviously discussion that will continue. By everyone who values freedom of choice (and unfettered Fair Use, but that’s another blog).

It’s going to be a very interesting 2006 – no doubt filled with interesting choices.

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