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Open Source Is Business, Not Charity, Sun Exec Says

Sunil Joshi says companies using open source are still in business to make money. The statement comes after Sun decided to release its prize Java technology into open source.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Open source is a business model, not a charitable contribution to mankind, according to Sunil Joshi, senior vice president of design tools, performance and OpenAccess at Sun Microsystems' scaleable systems group.

"It's about making money," Joshi said. "I think that is often misunderstood."

Speaking to a group of mostly chip designers at Synopsys Inc.'s 17th Interoperability Forum here Wednesday (May 18), Joshi said that embracing the open source business model requires relinquishing complete control of the open source technology and depending on that technology's infrastructure to generate revenue.

"If you are building a business, recognizing the importance of open source is very important," Joshi said. "Openness is not about free everything. It's about reducing the barriers, but still figuring out a business model to make money in it."

A key to this strategy, he said, is to enable the community that comes together around an open source technology to take that technology where the community wants it to go.

As a case in point, Joshi referenced Sun's December 2005 release to open source of its UltraSPARC T1 processor. Everything needed to build an UltraSPARC, including RTL code and models, is available to users who complete a simple licensing agreement through Sun's Web site.

"The number one question I get asked is, 'What's the catch?' There is no catch," Joshi said. We don't make any money directly from this. We make money from the ecosystem around it."

Sun said Tuesday said it would make its Java software available on an open-source basis and embrace Linux broadly on its Sparc-based computers.

Developers are quick to embrace open source technology, Joshi noted, something that can work to the technology's advantage. Once developers embrace and push open source technology, it has a better chance to catch on and become pervasive, he said.

"When you get the developers' hearts and minds, you actually have seeded your technology at the grass roots level," Joshi said.

Joshi expects open sourcing of both hardware and software will become more popular, including even some open source EDA tools such as simulators.

"I don't know how open EDA tools will become, but I think they will become more interoperable," Joshi said. "It's a bit tricky to build an open business model in the EDA space," he said, noting that most EDA vendors do not have alternative methods to generate revenue around open source tools.

Joshi said that the Internet has fundamentally changed in the past five years and that the "new Web" is built on technology.

"There are a lot of open source tools running on open source platforms," he said.

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