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No News is Open-Source Solaris News


Dear Sun,

Since your president and COO is so fond of open letters, I thought I might deliver one of my own.

On Monday, at a press conference in Burlington, Mass., you announced that you were open-sourcing Solaris 10. You also said that Solaris 10 would have a new file system, and that Solaris 10 users will be able to run Linux programs.

I dont understand. Is it just me, or have we heard all this before?

You said you still didnt know what you were going to do about an open source license. In fact, I found out that you havent approached OSI (Open Source Initiative) about any license for open-source Solaris yet. Danese Cooper, head of Suns Open Source Programs Office, does tell me, “It will be under an OSI -approved license. We have not yet submitted a license.”

Maybe its just me but isnt having an open-source license kind of fundamental to having an open-source project?

Now, I do know that youve been talking with some developers under non-disclosure agreements lately about open-source Solaris. I also know theyre not happy with what they see as a lack of any real progress.

Jason Perlow, owner of Argonaut Systems, an integrator, and someone in the know when it comes to open-source Solaris, says that Suns Monday announcement, “showed no actual plans or forward movement with the open source community.”

Could it be that thats because, as Perlow puts it, “I dont see how they can open source Solaris until SCO is no longer a viable company and to say anything else is just smoke and mirrors.”

Ah yes, thats right. SCO owns Unix. Or, well, at least they and their high-powered attorneys claim they do anyway.

As Dan Kusnetzky, IDCs program VP for system software, told me, “Its hard for me to understand this (Sun open sourcing Solaris). While Sun pre-paid their royalties for Unix a long time ago, they would still agree that it is a derivative work-it is Unix. The SCO Group is the current owner of Unix and is not at all likely to allow its intellectual property to be freely given away under any open source license. I dont understand how Sun could give away what they dont own.”

Thats a good question. So I asked SCO for an answer.

This is what the boys from Lindon, Utah had to say through Blake Stowell, SCOs PR director: “All I can say is that Sun has the broadest rights of any Unix licensee while at the same time, were confident that Sun knows and understands the terms of that Unix license.”

That doesnt sound like a ringing endorsement for Sun to go ahead and open source System V Unix, Solaris Unix foundation, to me.

Now, I have an idea. Call me crazy, but how about the next time your competitors—like Novell, with its Linux announcements, or IBM with its Power5 Linux release—have real news, why dont you keep quiet until you have something real to say yourself?

It seems to me that youve developed a bad habit of manufacturing news when you really dont have any. Remember how your president said Sun was thinking of buying Novell during LinuxWorld a few weeks back and no one took you seriously?

If you want me, and much more importantly your customers and partners to take you seriously, I think you should stick to announcing news only when you have real news.



A version of this story first appeared in eWEEK.

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