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1/25/2005
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Sun Pledges Bulk Of Open Solaris Release In Q2

Sun unveils its first Solaris 10 module and Open Solaris developer portal, and confirms it will have most of its planned Solaris 10 open source release ready by mid-year.

As expected, Sun Microsystems announced availability of the first component of its planned Open Solaris--its DTrace utility--and promised the rest of Solaris 10 will be open sourced during the second quarter of 2005.

Sun CEO Scott McNealy Tuesday officially launched the OpenSolaris.org Web site and unveiled plans to make available its first "buildable" version of Open Solaris next quarter with key features from Solaris 10 including containers, self-healing features, military-grade security, new TCP/IP networking stack, and "eventually," the Zetabyte File System.

He said the decision to release most of its forthcoming Unix operating system upgrade under Sun's recently approved OSI open source license--named the Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL)--is not a desperate attempt to save Solaris from Linux's market advancement or "dispose" of antiquated code but rather an aggressive step forward to grow Solaris use in new markets. He said that governments throughout the world and some industries are establishing open source as a criteria for purchasing software.

"Nobody else in the open source community is doing what we have done," McNealy said during a teleconference, noting that the Mozilla-like license will allow users to commingle and distribute proprietary software with Open Solaris with full patent indemnification. "We've taken Solaris 10 and committed that to open source, this is not [an empty gesture] but a supercharging rocket launching way of driving the best IP in the operating space today forward."

Sun announced, for example, that it would give open source developers using the CDDL free access to more than 1,600 existing and pending patents. This will extend patent indemnification to any customer or partner who develops products and service based on Open Solaris.

McNealy said Sun's Scosource licensing deal should protect it from any legal action by SCO. "We're comfortable we've covered that base," he said.

The decision to open up Solaris wasn't easy, but the move signals Sun's serious intention to preserve and grow the Solaris community, according to McNealy.

"It's unique. We had to work it through the board [of directors]. It's a stunning gesture," he said, adding that Sun took risks by standing behind Unix when all of its competitors pledged to embrace Linux as their future platform. "We took a lot of bullets over the past four or five years to develop our Unix intellectual property and what's in our Solaris IP. This is not a trivial asset to be donating to the CDDL."

McNealy, however, carefully avoided questions about why Sun would wait until the second quarter to release Solaris 10 under the CDDL, expaining that an additional "scrub through" of the code was needed before release into the public domain.

The DTrace performance monitoring and optimization utility was designed for Solaris 10 but has been available separately through Solaris Express.

Solaris 10 is set to be available for download on Jan. 31 and in packaged form to the channel in March. Like Solaris 10, Open Solaris was originally expected to be released by the end of 2004.

McNealy declined to name any large commercial backers who have committed to contributing to Open Solaris, after being questioned by one observer who pointed out that Cisco, HP, and Oracle have participated and contributed to other open source projects, referring to Linux.

Other executives confirmed earlier reports in CRN that there was much infighting within Sun and much persuasion needed to convince the Sun board that it was in the best interests of the company to hand over 10 million lines of code into the public domain.

Sun also announced that it would appoint in March an advisory committee composed of two Sun insiders, two outsiders and one top open source leader to oversee the OpenSolaris effort.

Most observers say they will wait to cast judgment on Open Solaris until it is actually released under the CDDL in the second quarter, but one open source advocate said it's evidence that the open source model of development is wining.

"Let's be realistic. I think fitting Solaris into a dominance-model of operating systems is foolish because it oversimplifies the world. I think Solaris is part of the healthier diversity that's coming," said Sam Hiser, a developer on OpenOffice.org. "It's part of the evolution of Unix. To view it as a Linux-killer, or an attempted one, is silly, though many even open-source players still think Sun is front-running Solaris. I don't even see Linux as a dominant OS. There will be several strong ones. That's good."

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