By: Robin Bloor, Chief Research Officer, Bloor Research
Published: 27th January 2005
Copyright Bloor Research © 2005
Sun has been mumbling about it for months now, but this week it finally offered Solaris to the Open Source community – Open Solaris to be precise. Technically, Open Solaris and Solaris will be marginally different, as Sun does not own some of the binaries inside the commercial version of Solaris and thus is unable to offer them as Open Source. However, all the core features of Solaris (the kernel and the libraries - including new features) will be made available.
As an incentive to take-up, and in my view an intelligent one, Sun is also donating 1,672 operating system patents to the Open Solaris community. (Anything Big Blue can do, Scott can do better?) This move lays to rest any idea that Sun is not handing over full control of Solaris and may go a long way to calming the minds of potential Solaris developers who live in fear of patent lawyers.
The question then is "will Open Solaris get traction." This is hard to say. Undoubtedly it will get some traction. Solaris is a heavy duty operating system that has many capabilities that Linux currently aspires to but does not yet deliver. It also has a very healthy stack of software applications that run on it. That is enough to guarantee it a level of success.
However, it is probably too late in the day for Solaris to take the wind out of Linux' sails. Linux is the flagship of the Open Source community and it now has a fierce momentum. That momentum has seen it ported to over 80 platforms (from the very large to the very small). It has generated an energetic ISV ecosystems and it even has supporters in governments across the world. Also there's the skills issue (Linux skills now abound), and the fashion issue (like it or not, the penguin is cool).
Nevertheless, nobody ever said there wasn't room for more than one Open Source OS. Indeed, in case you were unaware, there already was another BSD Unix. This has a healthy open source life, so no reason why Open Solaris can't have one too. A good deal depends on Sun Microsystems. Scott McNealy is probably not doing this out of the kindness of his heart, but – almost certainly - because he has plans to reinvigorate Solaris.
This probably means that Sun will be offering other goodies to the Open Source community – like, for example, many of its Java Enterprise software components. It's a logical move and a very attractive one (for those that know this product stack). If so, then this move by Sun is aimed squarely at the Enterprise. It may work in that market – indeed it could work very well.
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