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Sun Microsystems

Sun Spokesman Says "We Screwed Up On Open Source" 248

Posted by kdawson
from the we-know-we-know dept.
An anonymous reader sends along a video from Builder AU, in which Sun's chief open source officer Simon Phipps describes 2001-2002 as 'a period where Sun 'screwed up' in their dealings with the open source community. Phipps says that Sun is trying to remedy the situation with the open sourcing of Java, Solaris, and the rest of Sun's software."
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Sun Spokesman Says "We Screwed Up On Open Source"

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  • Never too late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thammoud (193905) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:16AM (#23932603)

    Thank you Sun for all the great products that you have open sourced. Unlike your competitors, you have outsourced your crown jewels.

    • Re:Never too late (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dintech (998802) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:17AM (#23932617)
      And I really, truly hope it works out for them. I hate for it to go the wrong way...
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by teknopurge (199509)

        Sun is the modern-day Bell Labs.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by PalmKiller (174161)
          Bell labs is still kicking under Alcatel-Lucent, so its more like sun just resembles Bell Labs.
    • Re:Never too late (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pegdhcp (1158827) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:29AM (#23932749)
      Probably because they are an UNIX company at the end, their track record is better than that of Novell. SUN is closer to the core of FOSS community. Also this is not the first time they admit a mistake, which takes some balls to do in IT industry. It was really appreciated (by me at least) when they switched from SunOS to Solaris and it was not just the name that was changed. I hope Novell would take the clue one day...
      • Re:Never too late (Score:5, Informative)

        by houghi (78078) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @09:06AM (#23934113)

        Probably because they are an UNIX company at the end, their track record is better than that of Novell.
        Perhaps you have heard of things like openSUSE, the build service, KDE, GNOME, the Linux kernel and several other things.
        http://en.opensuse.org/Novell_Supported_Projects [opensuse.org] for a list
    • Our Fiendish Plan (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @11:12AM (#23936227) Homepage Journal

      Speaking as a Sun employee: you're welcome.

      But do remember that there's an element of self-interest in this open-sourcing strategy. It's all part of our fiendish plot to sell people hardware and services.

      Take Solaris, for example. By opening it up, we do lose the income we would have had from selling it to people. But that's been dwindling anyway, as Solaris loses ground against Linux and Windows. By opening up the OS, we make it a better product through user contributions, and encourage its spread. More Solaris users means more people who will seriously consider out products and services.

      Of course, even Linux and Windows people should be looking at us anyway, since we are now serious about products that run those OSs. (I work on documenting several [sun.com] of [sun.com] them [sun.com].) But if you're already a Solaris user, then your options go beyond our x64 systems to the systems that are still the core of our business: the SPARC machines.

      There are many reasons SPARC systems have been losing ground. But a big one is that they don't run "standard" operating systems. Promoting Solaris through open-sourcing (and through other means, such as supporting it on other vendor's hardware) drastically changes that particular equation.

  • GPL zfs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:16AM (#23932605) Journal

    Phipps says that Sun is trying to remedy the situation with the open sourcing of Java, Solaris, and the rest of Sun's software."

    GPLing ZFS would go a long way with me!

    • Re:GPL zfs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FauxPasIII (75900) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:19AM (#23932629)

      > GPLing ZFS would go a long way with me!

      Prepare to be surprised.

      • Re:GPL zfs (Score:5, Informative)

        by An dochasac (591582) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:41AM (#23932887)

        I think anyone who has attempted to legally link proprietary drivers, video codecs with the Linux kernel would understand some of GPL's limitations. The fact that GPL can take from so many licenses (without necessarily exporting) doesn't automagically make it the best license.

        CDDL is based on MPL which has an explicit patent protection clause (bring a patent suit against another CDDL licensee and you lose all CDDL rights)

        The fact that (besides Java), Sun hasn't released much GPL code should not cause us to ignore significant contributions by Sun to the opensource community. According to a E.U. study on The economic impacts of free and opensource software [europa.eu], Sun contributed 312 million Euro's worth of FOSS which amounts to over 51000 person months. This was 44% of all corporate contributions to FOSS. The next highest contributor was IBM with 13% then Red Hat with 8%. The rest SuSE, Netscape, AT&T... don't even add up to Sun's contribution. And this study came out before Java was GPL'd.

        • Re:GPL zfs (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lolocaust (871165) <sage> on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:48AM (#23932985) Homepage Journal
          What's wrong with the GPL "taking" from other licenses? If you don't want your code taken and modified without being given the changes you should pick another license that doesn't allow that (I can name one that comes to mind). I don't see anyone bitching about modified BSD code in Windows or OSX, although I'm sure some changes were given back by Apple. This isn't really directed at you as much as it is to the driver developers who got their panties in a bunch a few months ago, so please don't think I'm taking one word you wrote out of context for the purpose of this rant.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by C_Kode (102755)

          You can have $3 billion dollars, you just have to cut your arms and legs off before you can spend a single penny.

          The point is; Linux is the most used open source operating system and Sun licensing it under the CDDL is like dangling a carrot out, but saying only one in ever ten people can have a bite.

          If the GPL is good enough for Java why isn't it good enough for ZFS? I'll tell you why. Sun's Java was on a road it couldnt' correct so it gave to the GPL community to keep it afloat. ZFS doesn't actually hav

          • Re:GPL zfs (Score:5, Insightful)

            by samkass (174571) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @08:27AM (#23933529) Homepage Journal

            licensing it under the CDDL is like dangling a carrot out, but saying only one in ever ten people can have a bite.

            Actually, it's like saying that only 9.5 out of every 10 people can have a bite... among all the OSes out there, I think only Linux has problems, and that's a tiny fraction of the desktop OSes out there.

            • Re:GPL zfs (Score:5, Insightful)

              by street struttin' (1249972) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @09:09AM (#23934151)

              among all the OSes out there, I think only Linux has problems, and that's a tiny fraction of the desktop OSes out there.
              This is quite telling. OSX hasn't had too many problems adding it, and neither has freebsd. It's the GPL that has issues, not CDDL.

              The fact that GPL needs to have everything that touches it be opened makes it very difficult to use it in proprietary environments. By using CDDL and allowing ZFS to be in freebsd, I could now use freebsd to create a proprietary network storage device using freebsd as the OS, zfs as the file system, and not have to release any source if I don't want to. That's pretty powerful.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

                OSX hasn't had too many problems adding it,

                Try getting the source for the OSX-specific changes.

                The fact that GPL needs to have everything that touches it be opened makes it very difficult to use it in proprietary environments.

                No shit sherlock. The GPL is all about ensuring that the end user has full access to the source code for the software he uses. That concept is completely alien to 'proprietary environments.'

                By using CDDL and allowing ZFS to be in freebsd, I could now use freebsd to create a proprietary network storage device using freebsd as the OS, zfs as the file system, and not have to release any source if I don't want to. That's pretty powerful.

                Powerful for you.
                Suck-ass for your customers.

          • by tm2b (42473)

            You can have $3 billion dollars,
            Would you get it from an ATM machine?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by bill_kress (99356)

            Strange... I thought that users could add in anything they wanted under the GPL... Is there something in CDDL that prevents a user from adding a ZFS package?

            Personally I like the GPL, but I also support anyone who creates a product releasing it under whatever license they damn well please (or not at all, if that's what they want).

            Also, aren't there quite a few distros that include proprietary software anyway? I believe it's only a few distros that get all anal about not including anything that's not GPL, b

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The numbers in that study seem to be *way off* reality. Really, RH and only 400kloc? I suggest you look at the OSDL study or any of the recent "Who wrote linux 2.6.x" statistics on LWN for more realistic numbers.

        • Re:GPL zfs (Score:4, Funny)

          by y86 (111726) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @08:30AM (#23933585)

          Sun contributed 312 million Euro's worth of FOSS which amounts to over 51000 person months. This was 44% of all corporate contributions to FOSS.
          That's why I bought 50 shares of "JAVA". It's 10$ and it's a good company overall.
          • by jedidiah (1196)

            Ultimately it doesn't matter how many lines of code Sun has contributed.

            Their big mistake has been ignoring commodity hardware, not their policies
            towards an particular operating system or 3rd party codebase. Open standards
            go a long way to deliver what you would otherwise need Free Software to do.

            Sun simply chose to ignore us. That lack of vision cost them their position
            in the marketplace. This is typically what happens to dinosaurs. This is
            especially true in a free market where artificial exit barriers aren

            • Re:GPL zfs (Score:5, Informative)

              by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gma i l . c om> on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @10:00AM (#23935031) Homepage Journal

              Their big mistake has been ignoring commodity hardware

              Not really sure what you mean here. I was rather surprised when I decided to do some Solaris development that the primary focus has moved from Solaris/SPARC to Solaris/x86. Half the cool stuff in OpenSolaris is designed around the x86 platform.

              Similarly, the primary focus of the Java codebase is the x86 platform first, remaining platforms later.

              Sun is also a massive seller of AMD64 [sun.com] and Intel Xeon [sun.com] based servers and workstations [sun.com]. Amazingly, Sun's prices have even come out of the stratosphere and are extremely competitive with other manufacturers like Dell.

              Sun is even working to virtualize these "commodity platforms" with their surprisingly good OpenxVM project [openxvm.org]. I actually passed on a free copy of Parallels because Sun's VirtualBox [virtualbox.org] was working so well for me.

              I know Sun has the stigma of selling only overpriced iron, but the truth is that they're fairly well in tune with their customers and are working hard to provide them with the products and services they need. Along the way, the Open Source community is benefiting greatly.

    • by IAR80 (598046)
      ZFS is already implemented on FreeBSD.
  • 2001-2002? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:17AM (#23932611)

    How about the other years? or is 2001-2002 the period they screwed up the worst ?

    • Re:2001-2002? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cpuh0g (839926) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:32AM (#23932779)

      Oh, I'd say 2008 is shaping up quite nicely to be one of the worst years in their history. The huge revenue miss in Q3, combined with the total lack of organic revenue growth, the continued exodus of top execs, and the pending layoff of up to 3000 employees doesn't exactly bode well for the future of Sun.

      Ponytail-guy and his pals have basically given away the crown jewels and have not been able to "monetize" any sort of decent return for their efforts. The company can't sell servers, gives away software, and keeps purging the budget of the services and marketing teams that are the only pathway left for revenue growth. Geniuses.

      I love Sun, I love their software, and they even have some really impressive hardware, but the management team there is absolutely clueless about how or where to take the company. The bets they made on open source and other areas are clearly not paying off. The stock is as low as it has ever been over the past 8 years and is showing no signs of life.

      It is utterly depressing to see such a great company go down like this.

      • Re:2001-2002? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by IAR80 (598046) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:36AM (#23932815) Homepage

        the continued exodus of top execs

        This might prove to be a very good thing!
      • by IAR80 (598046)

        and they even have some really impressive hardware,

        Have you ever worked with the Sun Blades?
      • Re:2001-2002? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by raddan (519638) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @08:12AM (#23933315)
        Even if Sun as a corporate entity disappears, though, I'm sure that their influence will continue to be felt. Look at Netscape. Really, they only had two significant products (which came in one package): Navigator and JavaScript. Now, Netscape is no more, but Navigator lives on as Mozilla/Gecko and JavaScript as ECMAScript, and both of those technologies have been essential to the "2.0"ing of the web.

        Sun created Java, which (love it or hate it) is still being taught as part of the core curriculum in many computer science programs. And SunOS/Solaris and its many associated technologies are being integrated into many places (PAM, DTrace, ZFS, and so on). If you have experience with any of Sun's technologies, you know they're not perfect, but they're damn well thought out, and they make many parts of your daily work easier.

        I hope Sun weathers these changes-- they're one example of a company that saw a coming shift in the business of selling computers and software, and instead of lobbying the government to prop up their failing business model, instead changed their business model. There's plenty left for Sun to fix in their company-- e.g., have they opened up their hardware documentation yet? (we would probably buy Sun hardware if we could run other OSes, fully-supported on it). But it would be a shame to see such an innovator go the way of Xerox PARC, Bell Labs, etc, etc, etc...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Oh, I'd say 2008 is shaping up quite nicely to be one of the worst years in their history. The huge revenue miss in Q3, combined with the total lack of organic revenue growth, the continued exodus of top execs, and the pending layoff of up to 3000 employees doesn't exactly bode well for the future of Sun.

        I'm curious, how do you have the Q3 revenue numbers when Q2 isn't even over yet?
        • by cpuh0g (839926)
          Uh, the fiscal year runs from July - July. Fiscal 2008 Q3 ended at the end of March. The numbers were reported at the end of April. They were horrible. Heads should roll from the top down, not the bottom as they appear to be scheduled. Head of sales left of his own accord, and got a nice payout from Sun and fat new paycheck from his new employer as a reward for the horrendous job he did growing sales over the past several years for Sun. Nice work when you can get it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pinback (80041)

        Milestones for Sun:

        1) They stopped shipping a C compiler with the SunOS. Frustrated people gradually moved to GCC.
        2) They moved from BSD to SYS-V. Hey, all the other kids are doing it.
        3) Linus wrote his kernel while reading the SunOS kernel API.
        4) They spent years championing everything but PCI.
        5) They spent millions trying to make IDE and NIC chipsets that sucked. Ooh, remember the Ultra5, and HME?
        6) The spent years playng a peekaboo game of "Look NFS is standard, except only we have a lock daemon".
        7) They

        • Don't agree. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Stu Charlton (1311)

          For a while, I would agree with the above, but I'm seeing a lot of signs of life out of Sun lately. They really get open source software, and are making money off of it. Simon Phipps this week at Jazoon '08 noted they're making more money off OpenSolaris these past couple years than the past 8 years combined.

          It's very easy to pick at a company's decisions -- but it's really hard to turn around a huge company with an entrenched culture; other UNIX players weren't pure plays and are so diversified that it

    • Re:2001-2002? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:44AM (#23932915)

      Sun has tens of thousands of employees, many exclusively engaged in software development. They've had many rounds of layoffs before and since 2001. They looked at Linux vendors such as Red Hat and saw they were much smaller. Have you ever had to meet a payroll? It's easy to sit back and say, this company should do this, should've done that, they should get a new business model.

      The wrong decision can sink a company. Look at Sybase - they were one of the hottest RDBMS vendors in the late '80s. Then they ran into a cash shortfall and had to make a source code licensing deal with Microsoft. Now Microsoft has the majority of the SQL Server business that Sybase once had, even though Sybase still has joint ownership of the source code. Yes, there are plenty of nice people out there willing to roll up their sleeves and help, but there are also plenty of un-nice people who will take what you've got and use it to push you aside.

  • still skeptical (Score:2, Insightful)

    by IAR80 (598046)
    I am still skeptical of Sun. They are coerced into behaving nicely by the huge open source community which is not that much interested in what they have to offer anymore and have a lot of influence in the market. And let's face it, they opened up Java after IcedTea is out for quite a while now.
    • by /ASCII (86998) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:41AM (#23932875) Homepage

      IcedTea is based on OpenJDK, released by Sun.

    • by Kentaree (1078787) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:46AM (#23932931) Homepage
      They open sourced their compiler, virtual machine and most of their libraries before IcedTea was started according to wikipedia. [wikipedia.org] And how would you say they can be coerced? It's not like their entire revenue is based off open-source, so I don't see any distinct advantage open-sourcing would give Sun
    • by julesh (229690) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:57AM (#23933081)

      They are coerced into behaving nicely by the huge open source community which is not that much interested in what they have to offer anymore and have a lot of influence in the market

      Not really. Java still dominates the enterprise application market (the only place it ever made any money for Sun), and its open source status is likely to have little effect on this. Even without ZFS being open-sourced, Solaris would still have a world leading file system. And I don't see where any pressure at all came from for them to open source the design of their UltraSparc T1 and T2 processors [opensparc.net]. Sun have been progressively opening more and more of their key business IP, and as far as I can see the only reason they have done so is that they really believe in the benefits of open source.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196)

        Sun doesn't "dominate".

        It shares the market with IBM, HP and Linux.

        Depending on your "enterprise" app of choice, Sun may appear to be nothing but a has-been.

  • Just finish open sourcing Java, and then bring JRuby and Jython up to par with the latest versions of the C-based versions. Oh and throw in there a spec to allow easy integration of those languages into JSP and some other areas to make them peers to Java itself in the enterprise world.

    • by BestNicksRTaken (582194) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:34AM (#23932797)

      you might be asking the wrong company there - as far as i recall, the main jython developer also wrote ironpython, and now works for microsoft who seem to not really take python seriously as its a bit of a bolt-on hack and not nicely integrated into visual studio like c++ etc; they're not exactly the kings of opensource either....

      plus, even though the jython library version is out-of-date, it still makes c-python look like a snail - and i never thought i'd say that java is faster than c!

      hopefully python3000 will bring us speed if not compatibility.

      • by julesh (229690)

        plus, even though the jython library version is out-of-date, it still makes c-python look like a snail - and i never thought i'd say that java is faster than c!

        C-Python is a bytecode interpreter written in C (Apples). Jython is a bytecode->bytecode translater that operates on top of the Java runtime (Oranges).

      • by drewness (85694)

        plus, even though the jython library version is out-of-date, it still makes c-python look like a snail - and i never thought i'd say that java is faster than c!

        Bwuh? Here's a mini benchmark I did a few months ago out of curiosity. Take with as large a grain of salt as needed:

        Timing test of creating a sequence of 10,000 items by for-loop, list comprehension, mapping a function, and generator comprehension. Test machine is 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo iMac with 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM running MacOS 10.4.11.

        awatts@lab1:~$

        • possible correction (Score:3, Informative)

          by drewness (85694)

          I got Jython working on my new machine, and it's considerably better. Like, almost on par with CPython - modulo the fact that it's still quite behind feature-wise. It might be the JVM (1.5 before vs 1.6 now) helping. Also, IronPython has gotten worse at generators between Alpha6 and Beta2 somehow.

          Test machine is 2GHz Core 2 Duo iMac with 4GB SDRAM running MacOS 10.5.3.

          awatts@platypus:~$ python2.5 timerseqs.py
          2.5.1 (r251:54863, Jan 17 2008, 19:35:17)
          [GCC 4.0.1 (Apple Inc. build 5465)]
          forStatement =

    • by Tim C (15259)

      Oh and throw in there a spec to allow easy integration of those languages into JSP and some other areas to make them peers to Java itself in the enterprise world.

      Now I don't doubt that you'll see a fair amount of Java code in JSPs, but that doesn't mean that it's right or desirable. The correct thing to do is to write a tag, which presumably can be written in any language that can be compiled to JVM bytecode.

      To be honest I think that the ability to use scriptlets in JSPs is a bad thing that I'd rather see r

  • Kudos to Sun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cryptodan (1098165) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:24AM (#23932685) Homepage
    They restored some respect that they lost from me. Lets see how it goes from here.
  • To be fair (Score:4, Funny)

    by Frogbert (589961) <frogbert@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:24AM (#23932693)

    To be fair they wanted to open source the code in Q4 1999, however their Java ftp client just finished loading a few months ago so they couldn't upload the code until just now.

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:40AM (#23932851)

    I appreciate how much effort it must have taken for Sun to move this far on open source. Nevertheless, I think Sun is still screwing up.

    Solaris, for example, is being positioned as an alternative to Linux: it's "pick us or pick Linux". From an open source point of view, it would be better if Sun picked a license that allowed the best parts of Solaris and Linux to be combined, and for end users to decide what those best parts are.

    For Java, Sun still has most of the control, they have torpedoed attempts to certify Apache-licensed implementations as Java compliant, and their dual licensing scheme for Sun Java means that the project just isn't run the way an open source project ought to be run.

    In the short term, Sun's behavior is disruptive for open source, but sadly not in the positive newspeak sense, but in the sense of merely annoying a lot of people for no good reason.

    In the long term, Sun is going to lose with Solaris and Java if they persist in their take-it-or-leave-it approach to open source. If they want the technologies to survive in some form, they need to allow a mix-and-match approach; that's what open source is really all about.

    • by IAR80 (598046)
      Mysql 6 will be the perfect example of Sun screwing up even more than before.
    • by pirhana (577758) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @08:08AM (#23933241)
      > Solaris, for example, is being positioned as an alternative to Linux: it's "pick us or pick Linux". From an open source point of view, it would be better if Sun picked a license that allowed the best parts of Solaris and Linux to be combined, and for end users to decide what those best parts are.

      This is a very important point. Regardless of any so called technical merit Solaris kernel has over Linux, its NOT going to catch up with Linux in adoption or momentum. At least not anytime in the near future. I am telling this as I have managed to get Solaris(intel version) installed on a machine after about half a dozen failed attempts. Mostly due to hardware incompatibility. The tried hardwares include even the very common ones like DL-385. Just to manage it from my laptop(Kubuntu) I installed OpenSSH on the solaris box. It took almost 30 minutes to get it installed where as in linux it would take less than 30 sec. Solaris is no where near to Linux in hardware compatibility , ease of installation, availability of applications ..... But it DOES have some cool technologies like Dtrace and ZFS. So what best SUN can do is to integrate these technologies with Linux and try to get maximum hardware sale and service contract on Linux platform. The problem with SUN has been that they are late in everything. They do things after much resistance. That is what has happened with Java and now going to happen with Solaris. I really wonder why its so hard for the SUN execs to understand such simple things.
  • meh (Score:3, Funny)

    by n3tcat (664243) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @07:53AM (#23933051) Homepage
    So Sun decides that they can't make money by pushing the open source community around, so now they come on their knees and beg forgiveness before they have anymore problems.

    Hmm...
    /me wraps his arm around Sun's shoulder

    It's alright man. Good to have you with us.
  • by segedunum (883035) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @08:08AM (#23933231)
    Sun has, and has had, some great products in the past, and some of their hardware is still pretty excellent, but the problem with the company is that they still have a deep rooted protectionist attitude towards SPARC and Solaris. Why do you think it took so long to get Solaris on x86, why it took so long for Sun to accept that x86 servers was where the growth was, why most of Sun's customers still get Linux pre-installed on Sun's systems and why Sun paid a couple of billion for an excellent business opportunity in Cobalt, and then promptly destroyed it?

    If they could make Solaris and SPARC stand out and pay off then fine, but they can't hence the half-hearted and pretty sad move to 'open source' Solaris just so all their consultants and execs can run around trying to tell us that it's 'just like Linux'. However, in the cold hard light of day, Linux ate Solaris's lunch, and SPARC just competes too closely with x86 based servers without the comparable performance. SPARC is so inferior to x86 in terms of raw performance it's so laughable. Solaris also suffers from the fact that Sun just don't have the resources to push development to where Linux and other operating systems are, and these days it is increasingly expensive to try and maintain an entire OS yourself.

    In terms of open source, Sun's problem is that the vast majority of open source software is written for Linux and the BSDs first. No one thinks of Solaris as their first platform of consideration, and it's difficult to see why they should do so now. It's still like that now, and it was still like that a few years ago when a former employer scratched its head trying to work out why Zope and Python performance was so terrible on Solaris and an UltraSPARC. A Sun guy even recompiled Python in Forte. The bottom line answer we got from the Python devs was "We use open source systems, and possibly Windows, first and foremost on x86 systems, x86 and Linux performs better anyway, and while we'd like to help, we just don't care about your corner case problem on an OS and hardware we don't have access to and can't reproduce. Just use Linux and x86". That's not literal, but it's the general gist, and I couldn't say I blamed them.

    The solution? They moved to a far cheaper x86 system with Linux, they had no installation problems with Python as it came within the package management system itself, things were far easier to manage, performance increased exponentially which pleased everyone and Python and Zope ran with no issues whatsoever. That still holds true today.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      Sun OBVIOUSLY gets it which is why they are concentrating on Linux on x86 today. On the other hand, it's hard to beat Solaris on SPARC for the big tasks that need a single machine. On the gripping hand, there's only so many RDBMSes with Oracle or Java Application Servers out there (even if the numbers are considerable) and if you don't have more reasons to exist than that, you're not going to exist long.

      You really have to hand it to Linus for his work and his choice of license. Today AIX, Solaris, and HP-U

      • by segedunum (883035)

        Sun OBVIOUSLY gets it which is why they are concentrating on Linux on x86 today.

        I'm not entirely sure what you think is obvious, and the capital letters aren't going to make it true. The only thing obvious to me is that they've basically been forced into that by market forces, but they still continue to waste R & D time, money and resources on Solaris and SPARC that are not growing and are producing ever decreasing returns. They either need to do something spectacular with them or get rid. They'd be be

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          they still continue to waste R & D time, money and resources on Solaris and SPARC that are not growing and are producing ever decreasing returns. They either need to do something spectacular with them or get rid.

          While I agree, without SPARC and Solaris, Sun is just another Linux system integrator, plus Java.

          Sun have tried to back SPARC into a niche with Coolthreads, but that is a very, very specific niche that few will see any benefit from.

          Yeah well, I agree all around. Maybe they're waiting for a major rev of AMD or intel hardware so they can claim "this is what finally makes SPARC irrelevant". I previously thought Hammer might have done it, but it didn't, so I'm probably wrong again.

      • by gclef (96311)

        I'd love to say that you're right, but you know what? Compared to x86, SPARC performance still sucks for some tasks...especially serial (non-threaded) ones.

        Example: we had a perl script processing high-volume syslog data & inserting it into a database. On sparc hardware, we had trouble getting the script to read any faster than about 600 messages per second. Switching to a similarly-priced x86 box, we max out somewhere around 4,000 messages per second.

        Sun's heavy emphasis on threading makes *some* ta

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          Sun's heavy emphasis on threading makes *some* tasks work better. But, if your task is very serial (like reading & parsing syslog), SPARC just doesn't compete.

          That's why we have SPARC and x86.

          Why we don't have both in the same box yet, I have no damned idea. Maybe it's just Sun's insistence on having their own extra special bus.

  • by Gimble (21199) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @08:08AM (#23933235)

    Look at this post here [groklaw.net] from Groklaw, reviewing the testimony from the SCO v Novell trial.

    PJ notes that SCO enacted a license, illegally according to Novell, with Sun in 2003 that allowed Sun to open source Unix Sys V. Knowing they had that, Sun still allowed SCO to embark on their SCOSource campaign against IBM and Linux users for allegedly putting Sys V code into Linux.

  • Only 2001-2002? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mathness (145187)

    Reading this story [groklaw.net] seem to indicate that 2003 and forward should have been part of the "screw up" period.

    It is good to see Sun throw their weight in to support open source.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @08:24AM (#23933497)

    Yeah, they screwed up big time. Groklaw has a nice article up on their involvement with SCO:
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20080625020853732

    And they are still screwing up. Just have a look at the legal agreement you need to agree to when downloading even the *specification* from any of the Java Community Process groups where the project lead works for Sun. Evil and completely unacceptable terms for open-source developers...

    And in those projects where they have released the source under a free license, they still keep an iron hand on the development process. So unless you work for sun, you need to beg to get your changes in (and sign all sorts of agreements). Closed bug-reporting systems. Version-control repositories that you need to apply to get read-only access to. Closed mailing lists. Design meetings held in person (Sun employees only of course).

    This is a company that has a *long* way to go before they understand what Open Source is about.

    Or, less charitably, this is a company that does indeed understand what open-source is about and is manipulating the system. Yes, once the source is released a fork is then possible, but for a large project inertia and an existing pool of developers all from one company make that something that takes real anger to do. So the changes Sun has made so far don't achieve a whole lot; they still completely control the direction their open-source projects take.

    Real OSS companies are different; they contribute upstream, allow derivatives downstream, and are open in their process. A whole world of difference. See RedHat for a good example.

    • by JerkBoB (7130) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @09:19AM (#23934313)

      Or, less charitably, this is a company that does indeed understand what open-source is about and is manipulating the system.

      Never attribute to malice what can be explained by simple incompetence. Or ignorance, in this case.

      Sun is a company comprised of over 30k employees. That's a small city's worth of people. Many of those people have been with Sun for a long time, from times before OSS really came on the scene.

      People at the top may get it. People at the bottom (i.e. new, younger hires) may get it. The problem is that there are many people in-between who have been doing things the Sun way (indeed, the standard corporate way) for so long that OSS is just alien and bizarre.

      There is indeed a lot of internal hostility toward Linux. A lot of it is just sour grapes, but there is also quite a bit of feeling that Solaris is the superior solution, and people are downright baffled that anyone would knowingly choose inferior technology. "If we just showed them the light, they'd use Solaris instead of that Linux crap!"

      As with most huge multinationals, the company is made up of several distinct business units. Hardware, Software, Sales, Services, IT, etc. Sales people make money on software sales and support contracts. They also make money on high-margin government and finance sales. What they don't make much money on is bare hardware sales, especially if the customer wants Linux. Unfortunately, what this all means is that the people who use revenue streams to try and shape corporate focus are in a battle with the senior executives who are trying to shift the company away from relying on those high-margins-but-shrinking-buyer-pool revenue sources.

      There is also the problem that for many people, a job is a job. They're not particularly interested in keeping up with things outside of their sphere of influence. Change means having to learn new things, and sadly, there is a lot of resistance to change (not just at Sun, of course!)

      It will certainly be interesting to see what Sun looks like in 5-10 years, if it still exists as a distinct corporate entity.

  • by MarkWatson (189759) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @08:43AM (#23933761) Homepage

    Sure, Simon Phipps's quote makes a good headline, but between OpenOffice.org, Netbeans, Glassfish, slowly but surely Java, etc. I would personally give Sun a good grade.

    Open Source can be good for business, huge, large, and small. A bit off topic, but: while I earn most of my living consulting on (unfortunately) closed source projects, I almost always try to initially talk my customers into at least considering Open Sourcing all or parts of development projects. I believe that software development should be done in the least expensive and highest quality way possible: better for almost everyone to drive down the cost of software development; I argue that the less expensive that useful projects are, then more projects get funded. Also, about an hour ago, I received a small grant from someone in Europe to convert one of my LGPL projects from Java to Pascal/Delphi :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jedidiah (1196)

      I give Star Division all the credit for Star Office.

      Sure, Sun decided to come along after it was pretty much finished
      and but it out and then give it away. However, it was the Germans
      that actually built it from the ground up and gave us something
      useful. They had the vision and the interest in creating the thing
      in the first place. They chose to support us.

      It wasn't 'ideal' in terms of free software zealotry but they were
      there at the table with us at least showing us enough respect to
      acknowledge us.

      Giving Sun

  • and speak about the deal with MS to fund SCO. When you pay 10 million for software that is worth at most 200K, and you obtain a big chunck of stock, well, that is not about a set of drivers. And let not just the OSS world know about that, but some of the regulatory groups.
  • What went wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guacamole (24270) on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @03:51PM (#23940749)

    In 2000-2001

    1. They screwed up by announcing the end of line for Solaris on X86
    2. They screwed up by refusing to offer X86 hardware.
    3. They screwed up by not offering Linux on any of their hardware
    4. They screwer up by not open sourcing Java, Solaris, and other goodies.

    In the end, they are trying to correct all those errors, but I wonder whether doing that 7-8 years later means that they missed a golden opportunity to become a leader in the Linux and Unix software and hardware market (including on X86).

  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Wednesday June 25, 2008 @04:40PM (#23941377) Homepage

    In order to remedy the alienation, Phipps said Sun is "leading by changing behaviour rather than by just saying good words".
    Fine. Start by ending the stonewalling of sun4m code. Then start looking at opening hardware such as SunPCI cards (that is, hardware that has no non-Sun code equivalent).

    Open that code up and consider that a significant part of a complete, sincere apology.

FORTRAN rots the brain. -- John McQuillin

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