August 16, 2006 11:03 AM PDT

IBM takes potshots at OpenSolaris

SAN FRANCISCO--OpenSolaris isn't a true open-source project, but rather a "facade," because Sun Microsystems doesn't share control of it with outsiders, executives from rival IBM say.

"Sun holds it all behind the firewall. The community sees nothing," Dan Frye, the IBM vice president who runs the company's Linux Technology Center, said Tuesday in an interview at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo. "It's a facade. There's lots of marketing, but no community to speak of."

Sun could do "simple things" to build a real OpenSolaris community if it were serious about doing so, Frye said. "They would push their design discussions out into the forums, so people can see what's going on," he suggested.

Sun, unsurprisingly, begs to differ. "I'm not sure why IBM is attacking the OpenSolaris community," said Jim Grisanzio, pointing to the 16 times Sun has released open-source software and to the 116 contributions outsiders have made since the project began more than a year ago.

IBM's business agenda, though, doesn't include lavishing praise on a rival operating system. It prefers Linux and its own proprietary version of Unix, called AIX. Solaris now runs on x86 computers such as IBM's System x servers as well as on Sun's own Sparc-based computers. OpenSolaris is designed to appeal to developers, who have the power to sneak software into companies the same way Linux snuck in during the 1990s.

IBM was concerned that OpenSolaris could become a "competitive threat," and Frye assigned a programmer to monitor OpenSolaris goings-on. The company concluded there is no threat.

"They have done nothing to build a community," with only 16 non-Sun people contributing code to the project in its first 11 months, Frye said. Linux, in comparison, had 10 times that number in the same period after it was launched by Linus Torvalds in 1991--and that was with no Internet and no advertisements, Frye said.

Sun has its own measurements. "We have 130 mail lists, where thousands of community members are openly talking. We started about 40 communities and 40 projects; we released code 16 times since our launch; our road map is open; we are building a governance (process) openly; our development process is published; we have integrated 119 code contributions; and we have been evaluating a source code management system openly and are now entering the implementation phase," Grisanzio said. "Not a bad start, I'd say."

IBM helped put Linux on the map, funding programmers to improve the operating system and offering early pledges of support that indicated it was safe for customers to use. The company has more than 600 programmers at its Linux Technology Center, but it's actively involved in many open-source projects besides Linux. Among them are the Eclipse programming tools and the Aperi systems management project.

"We're going to be as bold about open source as we are about Linux," said Scott Handy, senior vice president of Linux and open source at IBM.

But in the years since IBM got open-source religion through Linux, Sun arguably got the same faith even more fervently.

OpenSolaris is one example. The other "crown jewel" in Sun's software portfolio, Java, will start becoming open-source by the end of 2006, in a process that will be done by June 2007, the company said this week. And the designs for Sun's new UltraSparc T1 "Niagara" processor have been released under the General Public License.

One open-source operating system is plenty, though, so there would be no point to making AIX open-source, IBM's Handy said. "There's room for a proprietary one and an open one. Once one is open, you don't need any more," he said.

And making IBM's Power processors an open-source project poses risks, Handy said. Specifically, the freedoms of an open-source approach could mean others take the processors in a different direction, so software wouldn't necessarily run on all models.

"You don't want the architecture to not be compatible with itself moving forward," Handy said.

See more CNET content tagged:
OpenSolaris, Sun Microsystems Inc., IBM Corp., open source, IBM AIX

19 comments

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Worth a look if IBM is bagging it...
...if it wasn't a threat - they wouldn't even mention it
Posted by u1mpg (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
a-yep
you hit it right on the nose
Posted by (402 comments )
Link Flag
I heard the same when Linux started, and look where we are today.
I would say OpenSolaris is a good alternative vs Linux on the server side.

OpenSolaris has a few things going for it:

1. A bussiness friendly license. (no GPL restrictions). Coexists well with proprietary code.
2. ZFS,ZFS,ZFS (it got the attention of Apple and Google)
3. DTRACE
4. No Linus Torvalds (worth using solaris only for this reason :-)
5. No SCO lawsuit

IBM instead of bashing OpenSolaris should embrace it, they might make more money with it than Sun.
Posted by zolyfarkas (20 comments )
Link Flag
Once Again the Open Source Movement is Bifurcating
By the end of it all there will be a million forks and support issues in the billions. I just have to laugh at it all.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Laugh at yourself
Let me guess by fork you are referring to the different distros, which for the most part all use the same kernal.

There are very few forking issues in Linux and most distros support their products very well, unlike a certain unnamed company from Redmond, Wa.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Linux comparison flawed
OpenSolaris was a much more mature project when it was started due to Sun contributing a lot of Solaris code. I don't doubt there were 10x more committers to Linux in it's first year; it needed them to plug the gaping holes in it's functionality.
Posted by nottlv (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IBM wants Linux to remain inferior to AIX indefinitely
A couple of weeks ago CNET interviewed the new head of IBM's P-series unix servers, Ross Mauri. Here's what he had to say about operating systems in general:

"AIX is our [IBM's] flagship on System p. We've invested a lot in it. Nothing scales as well as AIX. Nothing is robust as AIX. It leverages all of our virtualization technologies..."

So AIX scales better than linux and AIX is more robust than linux...

Here's what he had to say about linux specifically:

"We're also seeing Linux very healthy and happy running on Power in some standalone applications where the customers decided that Linux was good enough--"

So in other words linux is dumbed down just good enough software. And that's the way IBM likes it.

IBM is taking pot shots at OpenSolaris because they don't like the fact there's an OS that's superior to both linux AND AIX. It's open source enough for anyone that cares more about their use of the software than who ultimately benefits from its openness.

Typical IBM FUD. They use Linux as a bait and switch ploy to sell more AIX. At least Sun is honest.
Posted by scdecade (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I've heard this before
I would say OpenSolaris is a good alternative vs Linux on the server side.

OpenSolaris has a few things going for it:

1. A bussiness friendly license. (no GPL restrictions). Coexists well with proprietary code.
2. ZFS,ZFS,ZFS (it got the attention of Apple and Google)
3. DTRACE
4. No Linus Torvalds (worth using solaris only for this reason :)
5. No SCO lawsuit

IBM instead of bashing OpenSolaris should embrace it, they might make more money with it than Sun.
They could get rid of the overhead on supporting 2
OS's (Linux and AIX). HP should do the same.
Posted by zolyfarkas (20 comments )
Reply Link Flag
There was Internet in 1991, and before
". . . in 1991--and that was with no Internet and no advertisements, Frye said."

There was Internet in 1991, even if you weren't aware of it. Heck, I was using Internet in 1983. There was no web to speak of in 1991, but there was Internet, including email, file transfer, and news groups. Heck, you could even dial up to a ISP in 1991 (although it was text only).
Posted by danxy (37 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Teh big difference is...
Working on Linux means you can contribute to a project that you and everyone else owns and has a right to use.

Working on Open Solaris is the equivalent of working for Sun, but with no pay.

It's either open and free or it isn't.

If you try to mix and match, you end up with people working for a proprietry company for nothing. What a rip off.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The big difference is...
Working on Linux means you can contribute to a project that you and everyone else owns and has a right to use.

Working on Open Solaris is the equivalent of working for Sun, but with no pay.

It's either open and free or it isn't.

If you try to mix and match, you end up with people working for a proprietry company for nothing. What a rip off.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
yep
touche...
Posted by Eric Draven (34 comments )
Link Flag
What about all the folk...
who have worked free for IBM by contibuting to Linux :-)? My prediction is that like the Hippy movement in the 70's (for those that remember it) Linux will gradually fade to an historical sideline. I agree with the bifurcation argument and it does not just apply to distros. But more importantly is the complexity argument. Part time volunteers can't sustain the prodigious effort of backwards compatibility with increased integration that Microsoft has sustained and managed successfully (not perfectly I agree, but I would argue that is enough). I wonder how many Windows servers IBM sells? I bet the revenue from this is increasing much faster than AIX or Linux!!!
Posted by jasred (21 comments )
Link Flag
Absurd and Pathetic
IBM's comments are absurd, pathetic, and simply sad. Define a "real community", IBM. The OpenSolaris community is as much a community as Eclipse and JFS.

I am reminded of Mohandas Gandhi's quote:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

IBM is not officially in stage two.
Posted by meh130 (145 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IBM is not a monolith
you need to get your head around the fact that IBM is not one thing. Many times you will find that different business groups have different points of emphasis. This does not mean it's a big conspiracy or a bait-and-switch. Linux in IBM is real, believe me.
Posted by IBMSoftwareGuy (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pot shots?
You are right. IBM is not a monolith. It is an "Evil Blue Empire". Apologies to Ronald Wilson Reagan...
Posted by espressomobile (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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