Wednesday, July 14, 2004

RE: Open source may be free, but open sourcing is not

I read Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols column and I just can't leave it unanswered. Steven is entitled to his opinion, but alas, so am I. I think the tone of Steven's argument is rather school yard-like myself. I'd like to see you try to take me to the principles office :) I apologize for the size of this entry, but Steven hit a nerve.

Ok, time to get serious. First a correction, Sun does not position itself as the #1 contributor to open source. We give that honor to UC Berkeley. We position ourselves as #2, but do position ourselves as the #1 corporate contributor. Of course, it depends on how the contribution is being measured. One measure is by the amount of actual source code contributed. Basically, "cat | wc -l" to get some of our contribution in that regard. Sun has to be vocal of its contributions because we get knocked for not simply buying into Linux lock-stock-and-barrel. Linux is an open platform, but not the only open platform (Solaris is standards-based). We are not dumping Solaris just like IBM is not dumping its resale of Microsoft products. I'll bet that IBM sells more hardware with Windows pre-installed than with Linux pre-installed. Oh yeah, and we indemnify our Java Desktop System on Linux (as we do with all of our products). Our products run on Linux and we resell Linux. Sun and its customers realize that Solaris has some differentiating value. Plus, Sun just does not have the marketing budget IBM has to say how great Linux is. Sun realizes that sometimes open source is good enough. When I sell into customer accounts, I don't push technology until I understand the busines problem. At that point I'll make a linux/Solaris decision. And my customers trust me enough to consider my input.

Sun doesn't doubt IBM's involvement in open source and especially Linux. But as you know, open source != Linux. I think Steven simply slaps the face of many contributors by saying that Sun should open source something "serious". On the desktop, OpenOffice is serious. In the developer world, NetBeans is serious. In the grid world, Grid Engine is serious. Gnome and Mozilla are "serious" and we contribute to those as well. Not recognizing these communities is unfair to many contributors at both Sun and elsewhere and Steven has to put "serious" in context.

Speaking of open, I will *completely* disagree with Stevens assertion that open == open source. Perhaps in Steven's world, not in mine. Free speech doesn't mean giving books away. Does Steven write for eWeek for free? Only Steven can answer that one. Open Standards are a framework for many types of implementations. Proprietary implementation of an open standard is one business model. Open source is another. The models are not mutually exclusive.

Next, while open source code tends to be free, open sourcing technology is not free. We have legal agreements with licensees. We have IP. We have lawyers (and so does everyone else). We have stated intent and direction, but we will do it on a timeframe that meets our legal obligations and not on Steven's time frame. Regarding open-sourcing Java, see the discussion at day 4 of JavaOne (click here). Open sourcing a technology, as this discussion covers, is not as simple as Steven wants it to be. It's not a light switch.

Microsoft is not our new best friend. They are a partner, one of many. Don't paint them as anything more than that. Get over our past issues (we have). However, we are still competitors on many levels. Sun has the opportunity to leverage our partnership with Microsoft to help bring open source technology in the enterprise to the next level, including the desktop. And I will also argue that Sun has done more than any other company in general to bring Linux to the enterprise desktop. No, Sun was not the first, just as IBM was not the first on the server side. But Sun sure is a validation stamp to our growing number of Java Desktop System customers.

Regarding Steven's cobalt comments, I don't have much opinion there since I haven't been following it. However, using Steven's arguments, eWeek would be *much* more popular if Ziff-Davis simply turned eWeek into a wiki and blogging site, and provided free advertising. Yeah, open source eWeek too so we can get even higher quality content. Let the market decide.

Of course, I am being facetious. It is up to a corporation as to how they want to contribute to - and leverage - open source. It should not only be of interest to the community, but also to a company's shareholders. That is a balancing act every corporation has to do.

Finally, I find it ironic that as a Linux and open source advocate he is writing for a publication that uses Windows. OK, its a cheap shot, but Steven wasn't exactly pulling punches either.

[Via John Clingan's Weblog]

Just testing how posting through RSSBandit and w::Bloggar works.

Regarding this post, I've been wondering recently about a comment I read somewhere. A comment that said something similar to that Sun makes all the innovations, and others profit from it. For example, Java and IBM (Websphere?). And its funny that solaris 10 is going to be open source, even though it has some really cool (the blogs I've been reading say it, I really dont know much about dtrace yet!) technology. Other technologies of note by Sun... NFS, NIS, Java, and probably many more...

I had a low opinion of Sun, but after realizing the above, I have a new image of sun... the creative genious who needs someone with better marketting skills...
Why in the hell should Sun open-source all the stuff that they come up with... they have to earn a living somehow... I mean demanding a company to open source its intellectual property that it developed after hard work is asking too much. How in the world are they going to pay their employees?
(BTW, I'm just a student, I dont work for Sun)

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