To non-technical readers of this blog, or those uninterested in the ebbs and tides of the free software world… this might be a good entry to skip.
I was just forwarded a pointer to this note regarding Sun and OpenSolaris, written by the eponymous Linus Torvalds. And I wanted to respond directly.
First, I’m glad you give credit to Sun for the contributions we’ve made to the open source world, and Linux specifically – we take the commitment seriously. It’s why we freed OpenOffice, elements of Gnome, Mozilla, delivered Java, and a long list of other contributions that show up in almost every distro. Individuals will always define communities, but Sun as a company has done its part to grow the market – for others as much as ourselves.
But I disagree with a few of your points. Did the Linux community hurt Sun? No, not a bit. It was the companies that leveraged their work. I draw a very sharp distinction – even if our competition is conveniently reckless. They like to paint the battle as Sun vs. the community, and it’s not. Companies compete, communities simply fracture.
And OpenSolaris has come a very long way since you last looked. It and its community are growing, as a result of more than ZFS (although we seem to be generating a lot of interest there, not all intentional) – OpenSolaris scales on any hardware, has built in virtualization,
great web service infrastucture, fault management, diagnosability, and tons more. Feel free to try for yourself (and yes, we’re fixing installability, no fair knocking us for that.)
Now despite what you suggest, we love where the FSF’s GPL3 is headed. For a variety of mechanical reasons, GPL2 is harder for us with OpenSolaris – but not impossible, or even out of the question. This has nothing to do with being afraid of the community (if it was, we wouldn’t be so interested in seeing ZFS everywhere, including Linux, with full patent indemnity). Why does open sourcing take so long? Because we’re starting from products that exist, in which a diversity of contributors and licensors/licensees have rights we have to negotiate. Indulge me when I say It’s different than starting from scratch. I would love to go faster, and we are all doing everything under our control to accelerate progress. (Remember, we can’t even pick GPL3 yet – it doesn’t officially exist.) It’s also a delicate dance to manage this transition while growing a corporation.
But most of all, from where I sit, we should put the swords down – you’re not the enemy for us, we’re not the enemy for you. Most of the world doesn’t have access to the internet – that’s the enemy to slay, the divide that separates us. By joining our communities, we can bring transparency and opportunity to the whole planet. Are we after your drivers? No more than you’re after ZFS or Crossbow or dtrace – it’s not predation, it’s prudence. Let’s stop wasting time recreating wheels we both need to roll forward.
I wanted you to hear this from me directly. We want to work together, we want to join hands and communities – we have no intention of holding anything back, or pulling patent nonsense. And to prove the sincerity of the offer, I invite you to my house for dinner. I’ll cook, you bring the wine. A mashup in the truest sense.
President, Chief Executive Officer,
Sun Microsystems, Inc.