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Friday, 19 February 2010 12:01

Oracle in no hurry to clarify OpenSolaris' future

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When Oracle Corporation announced its plans for the various products it had inherited as part of its purchase of Sun Microsystems, one open source project was prominently absent - OpenSolaris.

For the uninitiated, OpenSolaris, a project launched by Sun in 2005, is an attempt to bring in developers to work on code from its well-known Solaris operating system. Sun released some of the code from Solaris but under a licence which was somewhat restrictive when compared to the GNU General Public Licence.

On January 27, Oracle announced clear plans for MySQL, Java and OpenOffice.org. But then this is no surprise - anyone who notices the finer detail will remark that all those projects give Oracle something to counter when it comes to Microsoft products.

MySQL goes against Microsoft SQL Server, Java counters .NET and OpenOffice.org takes on Microsoft Office. Oracle chief Larry Ellison has always wanted to take on Microsoft and he has now got his opportunity to do so.

Why would Oracle bother about OpenSolaris when it has already made a big commitment to Linux? It sells a debranded Red Hat Linux as Unbreakable Linux and contributes a great deal of code to the kernel. It certifies its Oracle database on Linux.

Oracle is not known for handling community projects very well. It is known for turning a profit and handling its accounts with corporations well enough to keep those entities as customers.


Three weeks after the day-long announcements by Oracle, it looks like some of the OpenSolaris developers themselves are starting to get the tremors. Peter Tribble, a developer based in the UK, writes that when he suggested that a communications channel be opened up between Oracle and the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB), the latter did not treat this suggestion kindly.

Having failed in his personal attempts to make contact, Tribble adds: "Again, this approach has been completely ignored. I have not even been accorded the common courtesy of an acknowledgment." Tribble also notes that the OGB elections are nigh.

Earlier this month, in an open letter to Oracle, another developer Ben Rockwood asked for, among other things, "guarantees with regard to the well-being and sustained viability of OpenSolaris as an Open Source community (independent of "OpenSolaris" as a distribution)."

Shortly after Tribble made his comments, Mary Lou Dopart, an Oracle official, made a post on the osug-leaders mailing list, saying: "Our users group team at Oracle is working hard to learn about the different users communities that are part of Sun. Every day we learn more about the OpenSolaris Groups, Java communities, Large Tape Storage Communities and MySQL communities and we try to understand your focus and priorities. We are receiving requests from around the world for many kinds of support - for media, books, promotional items and funding.

"We will reply to individual requests as they are received. We are reviewing the entire program to understand its funding and support model. As soon as we have more details, we will schedule a leaders call to provide updates. So please bear with the team as we work to integrate the Sun communities with the Oracle users groups - it will be an interesting and exciting time. Stay tuned for an update regarding the call and thank you for your understanding!"

Oracle has a promise to keep with regard to making its Sun inheritance profitable again - and Ellison pledged that Sun would show black ink in its very first quarter under Oracle. Given this, OpenSolaris, a project that does not bring in cash, is unlikely to be very high on Oracle's priority list.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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