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Sun Microsystems Software The Almighty Buck

Sun Offers Reward Program to Boost Open Source Effort 115

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the taking-care-of-the-grunts dept.
e5rebel writes to tell us that Sun Microsystems has announced they they will be creating a reward program in order to compensate open source programmers for their work in a hope to boost open source efforts. The program will involve communities like OpenSolaris, GlassFish, OpenJDK, OpenSPARC, NetBeans, and OpenOffice.org according to Simon Phipps, Sun's open source officer. "Phipps' post comes some months after Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software, voiced skepticism over the open-source status quo, where developers who contribute to various efforts go uncompensated while corporations are enriched. 'It really is a worrisome social artifact,' Green said at the time. 'I think in the long term that this is a worrisome scenario [and] not sustainable. We are looking very closely at compensating people for the work that they do.'"
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Sun Offers Reward Program to Boost Open Source Effort

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  • How does this increase Sun's revenues? Insanity.
    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:5, Informative)

      by EvilRyry (1025309) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:01PM (#21588345) Journal
      It's an investment in their future. It will hopefully attract new developers, improve their software and get some new ideas in the mix.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      How does this increase Sun's revenues?


      It improves the quality and attractiveness of software for which they sell professional support, services, etc.
      • Genius (Score:3, Insightful)

        Sun is doing it right in my book. I've been very impressed with their work lately; OpenSolaris, ZFS, Project Blackbox, Java (for awhile). I'm not a fanboy yet, but I have been recommending to all the PHBs in IT that we consider investing more in Sun's products. We're about done buying SPARCs but their other products can really benefit us.
        • by cbreaker (561297)
          I think that as far as corporations go, Sun is all right. They are in it to make money, and along they way they've given a lot of stuff to the computer industry.

          They've pretty much had a good track record with the quality of their hardware, and Solaris quite possibly "saved" UNIX in a time when the competition was making serious pushes into the Data Center.

          It really does irk me how bad they get bashed on certain forums (like Slashdot) because they're not one of the bad guys.
    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:23PM (#21588659) Homepage Journal
      By selling technology based on these open-source products. OpenSolaris is particularly important in this respect, because Sun is still primarily a hardware vendor, and the more features Solaris has, the more sellable are Solaris-based systems. Also, like all high-end hardware vendors, Sun is becoming more and more a service provider and system integrator. The better the software is, the easier it is to sell these services. The fact that anybody can use the software without paying for it is actually a plus, because it makes the software a de facto standard.

      Believe it or not, the entire Open Source industry is based on this logic. Companies spend big bucks creating or extending OS software. Usually they just hire programmers to do it, but offering prizes to eager volunteers is better publicity, and much cheaper.
      • by xaxa (988988)
        That's pretty much what Scott McNealy (Chairman of Sun) said at a recent talk I attended Imperial College (London, UK). He emphasised (a lot!) Sun's provision of computing power (the Sun Grid), "the network is the computer" and the benefits of open source software.

        Most of all he emphasised the price (£0!) of all the software we (the students) could download for free from Sun, like OpenSolaris etc, etc. I thought this was strange -- every PC here already runs Linux (about half are dual boot with Wind
    • Amusingly enough Microsoft has answered this question. In the leaked "Halloween documents" there was a number of suggested ways Sun and IBM could make money from open source. I quote:

      There are 4 primary business models we have identified for Open Source Software.

      1. Secondary Services - The vendor / developer of OSS makes their money on service contracts, customer integration, etc.

      2. Loss Leader for Market Entry -- The vendor / developer of OSS uses OSS's process advantages (in particular credibility) as a l

    • Glibly... if OSS dies, Microsoft wins it all.

      (Let's pretend Apple doesn't exist so I can save some keystrokes here.)

      Sun wants to encourage continued improvements in the quality and versatility of what people can get without paying MS. This way, people can continue to buy non-Windows computers, Java continues being relevant, and MS works harder to produce (or at least to tollerate) useful innovations because they have credible competition to keep them honest.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by domatic (1128127)
      Sun now needs active outside communities around the products they are open sourcing. The thing is, they demand the copyrights to anything that goes into their trees. Many who would normally contribute to a project won't with that stipulation especially since Sun is a for-profit entity. In effect, they are offering compensation for the copyrights they insist on having.
  • Hopefully this will spark a new interest for contributing to OSS projects. I hope to see other open source projects adopt this idea as well. There's good reasons to contribute now of course; however cash is much more of an incentive for most people than just the respect of some fellow OSS devs.
    • by aicrules (819392)
      Additionally, hopefully the incentives/compensation will encourage the RIGHT kind of contribution to an OSS project.
  • by bn0p (656911) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:00PM (#21588323)
    On reading the article the main thing that jumped out at me was the assumption that Sun, or at least Simon Phipps, believes that most open source programming will be done in India.

    Why would we outsource open source software? Is there really that little interest in FOSS in the US, EU, etc.?


    Never let reality temper imagination
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why would we outsource open source software? Is there really that little interest in FOSS in the US, EU, etc.?
      Because the same $100 bounty goes further in India than it would in the western world.

      And who really cares where in the world the work's done? It's *open*.
    • by Otter (3800)
      I think his point is that there's a huge developer community there that right now contributes almost nothing to open-source. It seems plausible enough that if you created a direct route for developers to get paid (instead of "You can make money providing support!") an enormous amount of free software could be generated there.
      • This is unlikely, near term.

        The developer community in India is not that large; computer ownership is 14 per 1000 people, which is barely over 1%, compared to them having ~5.2% of the population with cable television [Source: http://blogs.officialexportguide.com/country/ [officialexportguide.com]].

        Add to this the fact that most of the ownership of these machines is centralized, either in large corporations as business equipment, software shops where the employee only has access to work on what the software shop wants worked on, or c
        • ASIDE: cyber cafes do not grow up in areas where private computer ownership is prevalent; California, for example, has a total of 11 [Source: http://www.globalcomputing.com/Cafes.html [globalcomputing.com] [globalcomputing.com]].

          Or, maybe, the source you are looking at isn't very good. The search engine at cybercaptive.com [cybercaptive.com] shows something like 80 in CA. And Google Maps [google.com] finds 294.

        • by JAlexoi (1085785)
          Computer ownership is one thing but the main reason is the human side of it.
          Most Indian developers are in IT not because they like IT but because that is the ONLY sure way of making a living in India. And even though there is still business and profit in OSS, it still requires persons personal interest in technology.
          I have seen a lot of Indian developers who HATE developing and do it out of necessity only. They do their job(sometimes even good) then return home and don't care about IT. That means that they
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:17PM (#21588581) Homepage Journal

      On reading the article the main thing that jumped out at me was the assumption that Sun, or at least Simon Phipps, believes that most open source programming will be done in India.
      Shit! First they outsource our paying jobs to India, now they want to outsource our hobbies there, too?!

      Does anyone know where can I contribute money to help revitalize Pakistan's nuclear weapons program?
    • Value of money (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Per Abrahamsen (1397)
      I'd guess the economic rewards would be much more attractive to an Indian, than to someone from Western Europe or North America. Most of us are either working for a good salary on free software as part of our full time job, or have another full time job, and are working on free software our spare time for the love of it.

      In either case, an economic reward for working on free software won't change much, as we are already fully "compensated", or otherwise economically secure and using free software as a hobby
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by canuck57 (662392)

      Why would we outsource open source software? Is there really that little interest in FOSS in the US, EU, etc.?

      My guess is this has nothing to do with generosity towards open sources at all. It probably has more to do with issues like OpenDS where owners of the project more or less got strong armed/fired. Sounds like developers are not happy at Sun and perhaps this is a subtle message to those developers at Sun.

      A large still falling tech company I used to work for in 1995 brought in "cheap" Indian pr

    • by davidsyes (765062)
      Maybe to be "out opened"?
    • by xtracto (837672)
      Well... first and foremost I do not think that it is possible to "outsorce" Open source software. By its very nature open source allows people from every place (in the planet!) to contribute to the code.

      Now, what I would expect is that, because of the current economy, developers in India would demand lower fares to do the same amount of work as developers in the US or UK. Because of this, I think that companies wanting to do such kinds of offers (to give money to open source products) could do it via coding [rentacoder.com]
    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @05:07PM (#21589907)

      On reading the article the main thing that jumped out at me was the assumption that Sun, or at least Simon Phipps, believes that most open source programming will be done in India.


      No, he states that he believs that most of the expansion in open source programming will be in India. Considering raw population numbers and development trends, that's probably not an entirely unreasonable assumption.

      The US and Western Europe, for instance, probably have as a high a percentage of their population programming as they are going to have, and the split between open source and proprietary is probably pretty stable (not that it won't change over time, but there is a lot of inertia built in).

      India has quite a lot of people, is seeing lots of growth in the tech field, and is a lot more fluid in how the structure of its tech industry will shake out. So, yeah, lots of growth in open source development is likely there, and spending any given amount of money to encourage that growth is likely to have a lot more effect there, not only because of the greater practical value of the same amount of money in India, but because a lot less of India's programmers or potential new programmers are entrenched in an existing system and unlikely to change their behavior without a major incentive.
    • In a nutshell, yes. Through my stint as a professional OSS developer, I can safely say that most OSS interest is outside the US. Where we would have to beg and push US and Canadian companies to consider adopting open source software, overseas companies were busting down our door to get support - they were adopting it [apache.org] in droves. As we researched the viability of making money on OSS this feeling was confirmed - over half of US companies still don't have any policy whatsoever concerning open source, where some
    • "Why would we outsource open source software? Is there really that little interest in FOSS in the US, EU, etc.? "

      I think it's a matter of best bang for your open source buck. It's pretty obvious. People have a finite amount of time and some proponents of open source forget that whenever you spend time, that is time you're not spending doing something else like working for $, etc. So I think it's a very astute observation on the part of Sun's management and also a very intelligent move in understanding th
    • by gnuman99 (746007)
      Only if they get paid for it. Most programmers in India are not the same type of coders we have in US or Canada or Europe. Most OSS developers code because they like to. Most developers in India write code because they view it as something that earns them more money. It is a different mentality hence the low number of OSS developers in projects like Debian from India vs. US or even Canada.

  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:04PM (#21588375) Homepage
    The majority of contribution to the listed software projects already comes from people who get their salary from Sun.

    I guess Sun is trying to find a way where they can pay people to work on their projects without directly being employed by Sun. The advantage for Sun would be that they wouldn't have to fire people or pay health or other benefits, and it might be easier to recruit people. The advantage for the programmers would be flexibility in how many hour they want to put into a particular project. And, if Sun doesn't prevent it, that they might be paid twice for doing the same job. Once by their main employer, who pay them to implement a specific feature they need in a project, and once by Sun for doing the same thing.
  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:05PM (#21588405) Homepage Journal
    Perverse though it might sound, it's plausible that overall satisfaction & productivity might be lower if some are getting paid compared to when none are.
    • by mu22le (766735)
      It's not perverse, it's exactly what happened when someone proposed to pay the 2 Debian Release Managers to get Etch out in time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JohnFluxx (413620)
      That happened in Debian when they tried to pay some people in an effort to try to get Debian into a state good enough for release. It made other jealous and they slowed down.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      Perverse though it might sound, it's plausible that overall satisfaction & productivity might be lower if some are getting paid compared to when none are.


      Are you under the impression no one is getting paid to work on OSS software now?
      • Not at all. Are you under the impression that the people referred to in the article are salaried employees of IBM, Redhat and suchlike?
  • ....they earn money from conferences and such and then turn that into grants [rubycentral.org] and community hardware [blogs.com]. Good times.

    And yup, the grant PDF file is missing, I've emailed them about it.
    • Ruby Central is rewarding people to use Ruby. That's like paying people to drink Heineken instead of Keystone Light.

      This is just Sun's latest plot to get people to code in Java. I don't care what kinda airmiles bonus scheme Sun starts wavin' at me, that ain't happenin'.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    for the work that they do at a rate way, way below a Western engineer's salary.

    On the one hand, it's the right thing to do. On the other, I will be shocked if it is a living wage for a developer living in the EU/US.
  • good pr (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mytrip (940886) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:13PM (#21588527) Homepage Journal
    I think this is a good idea. Google has done well in becoming a favorite with web developers because it helped them make money off their websites. IBM increased revenues by supporting open source because they can sell their stuff as being oss friendly. People are going to be more likely to make their software sun/solaris/java friendly.

    This is a sharp turnaround from when all unix variants competed with each other.
  • Great news! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bearhouse (1034238) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:15PM (#21588555)
    Can they start on the divers, please?

    Mind you, can't see Sun paying for people to write drivers for other people hardware...shame.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Can they start on the divers, please?
      There are open source divers?! Is Linux water resistant to 300 meters?
      • Of course it is! Everybody knows Penguins can go down to 1800Ft!

        "Dives of the large Emperor Penguin have been recorded which reach a depth of 565 m (1870 ft) and last up to 22 minutes."
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penguins [wikipedia.org]

        Oh, before somebody writes in that "we'd have good drivers if OEMs would only release their binaries", it (mainly) was a joke, guys...
      • by heybo (667563)

        Is Linux water resistant to 300 meters?

        Crush depth for Linux is 500 Meters.

  • by davecb (6526) * <davec-b@rogers.com> on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @03:21PM (#21588639) Homepage Journal

    There are a lot of tasks that I'll do for a paying employer, that I dislike enough to avoid when I'm doing development Pro Bono.

    An honorarium might make it palatable to do really really boring stuff (;-))

    --dave

    • Then don't hold your breath; the Sun blog post [sun.com] linked in TFA says that this is a "multi-year award program" with "a substantial prize purse".

      Presumably, this means that you're only eligible once you've already done it, and even though you've done it, there's no guarantee you'll receive any compensation for it.

      (Not to denigrate Sun's efforts here--this is still much better than the status quo, where an independent developer is pretty much guaranteed to receive nothing for any work on this software.)

      - RG>
  • From TFA: "I'm announcing it in India because that's where I expect the greatest open-source community growth to come from in the near future. ... If we can play a part in catalyzing the emergence of India as a key international open source power-house, the effect on the software industry will be huge."

    Great, now open source software will go downhill due to bad programming and bad UIs :cry:
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From TFA: "I'm announcing it in India because that's where I expect the greatest open-source community growth to come from in the near future. ... If we can play a part in catalyzing the emergence of India as a key international open source power-house, the effect on the software industry will be huge."

      Great, now open source software will go downhill due to bad programming and bad UIs :cry:

      Don't worry, we'll still have fast & reliable tech-support... oh wait.

  • Depending on their pay scale, they will probably initially draw more people into open source development. However, these people are motivated only by the money, which in the end is a very weak form of motivation. Hopefully, some will learn to do it for the more meaningful reasons, but if they don't, you can bet they will drop this like Windows Vista as soon as the money slows down, or they find a job that pays better for their time. Also, they do run some risk of experts who are already working on it becom
    • Depending on their pay scale, they will probably initially draw more people into open source development. However, these people are motivated only by the money, which in the end is a very weak form of motivation.

      It is a mistake to assume that the people drawn in would be motivated only by money even initially; this overlooks that the lure of money will lower one barrier that leads people to not go into F/OSS development that are otherwise motivated to do so. Further, people who initially come for the money

    • by davecb (6526) *
      parrywp wrote: However, these people are motivated only by the money, which in the end is a very weak form of motivation.

      I recently did as large project, with some boring bits (proofreading, otherwise known as "gallery slavery") for an honorarium. It was worth far more, but a small amount of money made it possible for me to do it, whereas no money would have left it undone.

      --dave

  • Profit (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by ACMENEWSLLC (940904)
    Step #1) Copy (yG or control c)
    Step #2) Paste (p or control v)
    Step #3) Submit
    Step #4) Profit!
  • I don't think I should have to run a 'quick-launcher' on any system (I use Linux too) to speed up the process of launching an Ooo app. It takes about 30 seconds for an Ooo to load, which is okay but the speed of the programs once they are running is really partially not okay. We all know they are eating up RAM.

    I would hope this would help in getting things faster in general. I hate the idea of let's use more resources because their available (Vista). Seems to me that Ooo is just being feature-filled and no
  • I'm in. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheDarkener (198348) on Wednesday December 05, 2007 @04:50PM (#21589695)
    Even though I am a technical support/consulting micro-business (READ: one man), I am incredibly motivated by the nature of open source. I'm motivated enough to make it my #1 priority for my business, to bring it to more and more people.

    I'm currently undergoing a major project (for me, anyway) involving LTSP in education, and I would *gladly* give some of my profit back, especially for bug fixing specific issues that I run into, as well as general profit-sharing with the people who work on LTSP. I am making money off of open source, and I feel it only honest and right to share it with those who have worked so hard to make it what it is today.

    Sun FTW!
  • You can see how the current model is unsustainable by the lack of full fledged Free OS distributions available out there.
  • ...you work out of mommy and daddy's basement and eat their food and drive their car(s)?

It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. - Voltaire

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