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April 5, 2005

Sun plays community card with OpenSolaris

Sun Microsystems' president and COO Jonathan Schwartz has defended his company's position in open source while apparently criticizing IBM's track record of releasing code to the community.

By CBR Staff Writer

Opening the annual Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), Schwartz said Sun is fostering a community for all players by through steps such as releasing APIs for products like Solaris under a hybrid Mozilla open source license.

Schwartz said Sun’s OpenSolaris program was not designed to take-over or dominate the community but instead raise the tide for all boats.

Schwartz was attempting to portray Sun as a card-carrying member of the open source community. The company has been criticized for some of its open source plans, notably the wording and legal obligations of the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) that governs OpenSolaris.

Concerns centered on the decision itself by Sun to create CDDL rather than use an existing open source license, and whether CDDL allows Sun to bring patent infringement claims against developers who modify software licensed under CDDL.

Schwartz yesterday took great pains to explain to the 700 OSBC delegates gathered in San Francisco, California, the reasons Sun modified the Mozilla Public License (MPL) to create CDDL instead of adopt an existing license.

According to Schwartz, CDDL does not restrict licensees to a single court of law while MPL licenses can only be heard in Santa Clara, California a fact he said deters take-up by developers around the globe. CDDL also provides blanket patent protection even for derivatives, up to the point where the licensee is prosecuted.

It’s [CDDL is ] a genuine attempt to lower barriers to entry,’ Schwartz said.

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Continuing the theme Sun is a community member, Schwartz added Sun is not using OpenSolaris to go after Linux and crush the competition. Instead, he believes open source consists of multiple communities, of which OpenSolaris will be just one.

There is no one open source community. There is no one allegiance… it’s not about preying on one set of people who have one thing to think about. [OpenSolaris] is about validating the open source community, Schwartz said.

Closing his presentation, Schwartz apparently turned his attention to IBM. Last year IBM helped lead a campaign to pressure Sun into open sourcing Java. That prompted at least one outburst from Sun chief executive Scott McNealy who challenged IBM to get the bulldozer out and open source its own software products before calling on Sun to open source Java.

While Schwartz did not name IBM, he clearly referred back to last year’s spat: [Some companies] stand on the sidelines applauding while others open source their products. They maintain all their IP and refuse to open source any of it. If you stand behind it [open source] you should stand behind it not just with rhetoric but with products.

IBM also happens to register the largest number of technology patents in the industry each year.

Separately, IBM’s vice president for technology and strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger billed to follow immediately after Schwartz was re-scheduled to appear on Wednesday. Wladawsky-Berger, one of the individuals credited with turning IBM onto Linux, saw his mid-morning slot filled yesterday by MedSphere Systems CEO Larry Augustin, who had been scheduled to speak Wednesday. No reason was given for the change.

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