Countdown to OpenSolaris – An Enterprise IT FAQ

Sun will release the full Solaris 10 codeset to Open Source during JavaOne. To provide insight on how enterprise IT - execs, admins and devs - will be affected, Integration Developer News spoke with Sun's Operating Platforms Group vice president Tom Goguen to create a quick-reference "Enterprise FAQ" for OpenSolaris. Get ready for the launch: OpenSolaris may impact your business and dev projects more than you think.

Tags: Open Source, Community, Enterprise, Developers, Source Code, Distribution, Commercial Customers,

As Sun counts down to the June 30 deadline for releasing the full Solaris 10 codeset to Open Source, Integration Developer News spoke with the Sun exec most responsible for the hand-over -- Sun's Operating Platforms Group vice president Tom Goguen.

We asked Goguen key questions submitted by readers wanting to know how OpenSolaris might change their internal IT, how they deploy and upgrade software, and even how they will work with Sun (and Sun's partners) in the future. During the interview, Goguen told IDN that Sun is prepared to offer users and channel partners/ISVs some extra assurance - in an effort to ease any potential concerns or confusion "We want this to work, for Sun and everybody," Goguen told IDN.

Read IDN's Enterprise FAQ for OpenSolaris.

Integration Developer News interview
With Tom Goguen, Vice President - Operating Platforms Group
Sun Microsystems Inc.

IDN: How do you see Sun's release of OpenSolaris into Open Source affecting enterprise IT, especially current Solaris and/or Linux users?

Goguen: A couple things I want to clarify about "branded" Solaris and OpenSolaris.

First, all Solaris users and [sysadmins] should understand Sun's goal: Over the long term the OpenSolaris program will benefit Sun's commercial customers. The biggest thing we have to do is blow out the eco-system and create huge volume around Solaris. We've chosen to do three things.
  • First: Execute to build a great product;
  • Second: Make it free. (As one of my engineers says, 'Great product, Great price.'); and
  • Third: To appeal to a broader community of developers and partners and OEMs to Open Source the technology.
  • OpenSolaris is about incubating a much broader ecosystem for Solaris, and that will benefit Sun's commercial customers, and offer them far greater choice in products, technology and so forth.

    IDN: And how do those goals for OpenSolaris dovetail with Sun's company commitment to Solaris as a product?

    Goguen:Sun is going to continue to retain our rights to the Solaris trademark. We're also going to continue to do all the testing, evaluation, etc, and etc. that we do with any Solaris release. So, sometimes I wonder if enterprise IT organizations are saying 'Open Source is scary and bad, I really don't want it.'

    My first message is to those in enterprise IT that are worried about that kind of thing. Even after OpenSolaris, we are going to continue to do all the testing and qualification we do today with any Solaris release. We are not simply going to take code out of OpenSolaris and just pass it into branded Solaris. We are going to test it, and qualify it before we brand it as Solaris.

    Secondly, Sun has a stated intention to deliver more stuff into the Open Source community. We are right now going through our entire software portfolio to see what is appropriate for it, and what we have full rights to be able to do as Open Source. There are some interesting announcements we hope to make in this space. We have nothing to fear by making a lot of our technology Open Source.

    IDN: What about enterprise IT's need for support? Will the OpenSolaris community be aggressive in setting up "support" mechanisms to help me meet my other contract requirements?

    Goguen: We're looking at this. We don't see OpenSolaris as a product of Sun. So, from a commercial support perspective, Sun will be offering commercial support for Solaris (we do that today, and that goes all the way down to the source code). In the future, we believe the community will be the primary place for support for the OpenSolaris code, but we remain open to offering commercial products for supporting that code as well. We just have no plans for doing that at this point.

    IDN: But, how do you expect OpenSolaris to address the "must have" aspect of a service/support agreement, in place in many IT shops?

    Goguen: Today, Sun can offer you a support agreement [for OpenSolaris], if you need one. No problem at all. And, it's because OpenSolaris code is the Solaris code, it's the same thing. Today you cannot get a support agreement for Fedora from Red Hat, only for Red Hat's commercial Linux distribution. It's basically that same model.

    IDN: But in 6 months to 1 year "branded" Solaris and OpenSolaris will not be the same? What about then? Will Sun step in and offer a support agreement for OpenSolaris then?

    Goguen: Well, we'll get you a support agreement, if you need one. If there is a demand for it, we'll do it. Here I am announcing products for the Sun support organization (of which I am not a part). laughs.

    IDN: Some vendors and end users have another concern - that Solaris will "fork" into too many releases or distributions, and that will make it hard for IT staff and OEMs to support Solaris. What can you say about the "forking" issue, and the potential for confusion or the need for vendors and/or users to support multiple versions (or distributions) of Solaris?

    Goguen: By making Sun's commercial distribution of Solaris free, we think we're going to mitigate the forking in terms of our primary market. But, if a company, such as CA, wants the exact distribution of Solaris that we ship as an Open Source distribution, we can make that available.

    The first thing that will happen is that Sun will build and release a 'branded Solaris' version that comes from the OpenSolaris code. Also, right on the OpenSolaris site, Sun will post a list of the exact files we used to build it for all the OpenSolaris community to see. I'm sure it will all be there. We'll have nothing to hide between the OpenSolaris and Sun's "branded Solaris." It will all come from the same code.

    A subset of Open Solaris, and will be Open Source to the extend we can make it so, there are drivers for example that are owned by other people. We have made arrangements so we can make the binderies available as well, so you can build what is Solaris from Open Solaris all the way down to the drivers.

    IDN: So, is OpenSolaris a distraction from Sun's continued development work on upgrades for regular Solaris? How will I know that I have a roadmap for my commercial Solaris code, if it's coming out of the Open Source community?

    Goguen: Sun will have roughly 1,000 engineers working on OpenSolaris. And, these engineers will do all the things they have been working on while working on [commercial] Solaris. They will still work on all the features that Sun wants them to do, except now they will be doing it into the community.

    As for "branded Solaris," when Sun wants to do a release of the commercial Solaris product, think of it the same way you think of a release of a commercial Linux distribution. Sun will take that body of code we're most interested in, and do all the testing, integration, etc. And, yes, we think there will be other [OpenSolaris] distributions, but they will be targeted to vertical markets and other sectors that Sun does not traditionally go after.

    IDN: What parts of my organization (technical, CxO, legal) should pay most attention to OpenSolaris? I've read in places that OpenSolaris may not affect my IT organization, if we continue to just license Solaris from Sun

    Goguen:From a CxO perspective, they should be interested because if you have moved your policy to Open Source, or are interested in it, here is your chance to get arguably the most famous, scalable, mission-critical operating system on the planet -- and have it also fit under the Open Source banner. So, CxOs should also now know they have a choice in Open Source operating systems for enterprise applications.

    And there's a third part for CxOs, and that's where the legal issues of Open Source kicks in. If nothing else, OpenSolaris should signal to CxOs or their legal representatives that they should be reading the different Open Source licenses, and really understand what are your benefits are, and what your requirements are that come with the type of license your Open Source project operates under. When you go through the legal analysis, you may find certain policies that are egregious to the way your company does things.

    But Larry Rosen, an IP lawyer and author of Open Source licensing, has a book out that basically says end users - so long as they are not planning to sell or resell products -- don't have much to worry about from Open Source licenses. Are you saying there are still landmines in Open Source licensing for end users?

    Goguen: I think companies need to read the licenses and understand what their responsibilities are, even if it's only for internal use in their enterprise. In some cases the nature of the license may require you to potentially return some code back to the community. I'm not saying that GPL is bad or good vis-a vis CDDL. I'm just saying that companies should understand their obligations.

    IDN: OK, that takes care of the CxOs and the lawyers. What about the architects and developers in an IT shop, what should they look for in OpenSolaris?

    Goguen: Developers will be the ones who take the first look at open Solaris in any organization. There is a lot to learn there, and a lot of interesting technology there, so there is a big opportunity for those developers that have Solaris in their shop today and really optimize your apps even further for the Solaris operating system. Even though we've offered source code with Solaris for almost two decades, there are lots of new things coming out with Solaris 10 that many long-time Solaris developers and sysadmins will have never seen before.

    IDN: When can our IT department get their hands on the full OpenSolaris codeset?

    Goguen: We go live with Open Solaris this quarter. We just haven't said when. I'm confident the only things standing in our way is marketing that we still have to complete. Our legal due diligence is all done, and we had to work out some details on tools and some other stuff, but we're basically all ready to go.

    We released Dtrace code in January, when we made our announcements around the timing of all these things so that is out there today. For an IT department that may or may not be useful, but that it is out there. Buildable source code will be up there before June 30.

    IDN: When Sun releases the full set of Open Solaris code, will Sun also release some get-started documentation on making the changeover from Solaris or Linux?

    Goguen: There is already a fair amount of documentation, and there will be more of it when the source code gores up on the [] website. There are a number of Solaris engineers who already have blogs, and they provide an interesting tour of the source code, so to speak. And, I'm sure there will be more joining them as well, to describe what they did to build their source code.

    IDN: What about getting OpenSolaris out there? So, just as with Linux, you expect commercial distributions of OpenSolaris?

    Goguen:Yes, we see it as an Open Source "program." People will build distributions of OpenSolaris code just like they build distributions of Linux today. There are already a couple of companies that have stated plans to do just that, including Gentoo. And, more power to those companies. That's why we did this. And Sun, of course, will keep offering our "branded" Solaris commercial product, which will in effect be based on OpenSolaris.

    IDN: Will OpenSolaris documentation talk about how to migrate from Linux to OpenSolaris?

    Goguen: The [technical documentations] on the OpenSolaris site are not so much aimed at how you get from Linux to OpenSolaris. Rather, they are an explanation of the OpenSolaris source code, and that sort of thing. Sun the company can certainly provide services from moving from Red Hat to Solaris, for example, because for the most part Red Hat is the distribution that most applications vendors have decided to support.

    The one thing I'll say about OpenSolaris vis-à-vis Linux is this: The Solaris kernel tends to be very well-structured, so finding your way around it -- and finding out more about how it works -- is simplified by the structure that is there. The engineers have shown a lot of discipline in building the Solaris kernel, so it helps to get up to speed quickly on the code.

    IDN: What types of developer tools or support do you expect will be available when OpenSolaris is released this quarter?

    Goguen: From a developer standpoint, Sun has tools for writing applications on Solaris, as well as for porting applications to Solaris from other environments. Those tools exist today. However, if the community so chooses, they may decide to publish some documents to help Linux developers get more familiar with OpenSolaris. So, for instance, I could see documents that would address questions like: 'If you're familiar with Linux and working on this type of project, here are some equivalent areas in OpenSolaris,'

    IDN: So, you don't see as a push to convert Linux developers/sysadmins to Solaris?

    Goguen: No. I wouldn't expect there to be documents up there that would, say, look at Linux as competitive. When Solaris is competing out there, I expect it will Sun doing that (like we do with the 'HP Away' program), and not the OpenSolaris community. It's not like the OpenSolaris community will be out there actively recruiting Linux developers, trying to sway them to our side, so to speak. It's more than we look at putting Solaris into the Open Source community as a net-gain for all the Open Source community.

    IDN: A recent < ahref=>Gartner report recommended I consider OpenSolaris as a way to "help mitigate" my risk vis-à-vis Linux. How will Sun, or the OpenSolaris community, help "mitigate" my risk as an enterprise IT user?

    Goguen: This has a number of aspects, multiple different angles to it.

    In enterprise IT, there have been a number of reasons why people might choose Red Hat versus Solaris. With our commercial branded Solaris product, Sun has offered to indemnify our customers. So, if someone should sue us or sue our customers because of an IP concern, we will take on that lawsuit.

    We did that a little while ago in the case of Kodak. Kodak basically pulled an older software patent (one that they had acquired, we think, for the obvious purposes of trying to sue somebody). They sued Sun over a Java issue, and we settled that lawsuit for $92-93 million. We didn't do that just for Sun. We did that for Sun customers, Sun partners and everybody in the Java community. So, the pint here is that we fully indemnify our IP, we stand behind it 100%. That will be the same with OpenSolaris.

    The challenge for companies using Linux is that today there is no body of patents to protect someone using Red Hat, for instance. There is not even a company that will stand up and offer you indemnification, should someone begin to sue over the [IP] stuff that's in Linux or in the Red Hat distribution. So, as companies become more concerned about the Open Source software they are using, and wonder what the provenance of that software is, we believe you should look to companies like Sun who will stand behind the software they are distributing and indemnify you for it.

    That is not to say that Open Source is bad or even good. It's much more that: if you're selling a product can you stand behind that product and say you have all rights to sell and distribute that product, and in the case of Solaris we believe we do.

    IDN: How much of Sun's decision to 'Open Source' Solaris was driven by Sun's fears of losing market share, or mindshare, to Linux?

    Goguen: One of the things that has been a knock against Solaris for a while, and one of the attractions of a Linux distribution, is that the software was Open Source. But in reality, we believe that an enterprise has to go with a 'commercial distribution' if you go with Linux. After all, all of the commercial software vendors will only certify against certain commercial Linux distributions. Oracle is not going to certify their software against Tom's Linux distribution, for example.

    And, government agencies are moving by policy to acquire more software that is Open Source. So, what Sun has done is to say to users like the government, 'You like your Solaris investment -- in IP, quality, reliability, etc. But, now you need Open Source in the RFP [Request for Proposal]. Well, now with OpenSolaris, you can check that 'Open Source' box and still get the well-known, mission-critical software that Sun is known for.

    IDN: How does Sun's new CDDL license effect my enterprise's ability to use and innovate with OpenSolaris?

    Goguen: If you were going to use the OpenSolaris source code and build your own product, there are a few things to consider. First, Sun is standing behind the OpenSolaris source code we are providing to the Open Source community. And, further, we have gone an extra step and created a "Patent Commons," which says to our [CDDL] licensees: 'We know you'd like to use our [OpenSolaris] source code. You know we have literally thousands of patents on the source code. So, what we are going to do is offer a 'blanket patent grant,' so that a user of OpenSolaris source code will get a grant to any patent associated it. No royalty payments.

    What basically we are saying here is simple: A key way to mitigate your risk is to know you have protection to use the Open Source code you have downloaded in any way you see fit. That may not be true with the Linux you're working with, simply because there is no way to know the provenance of the code. Something may come up, maybe not this year. But sometime. In handing over Solaris into [the OpenSolaris] Open Source [project], Sun is making sure those risks won't be there.

    But beyond the risk of being sued that CDDL addresses. CDDL does not require that a user return any of [their] your source code back to the community. All that CDDL requires is that if a licensee modifies the underlying OpenSolaris source code, that modification has to be returned back to the community. But, should a user revise their own source code files, they do not have to return those. So, this is to mitigate the risk for vendors from any risks to their IP that they might face from using the GPL. And, this could apply to a whole range of vendors, including OEMs, or switch vendors, or even someone building mainframes and using Solaris as the core operating system.

    IDN: How can executives take part in the OpenSolaris governance, or sit on the board? Will OpenSolaris be open to comment from IT execs and not only Open Source gurus?

    Goguen: Absolutely. I'm happy to hear from them in terms of an enterprise IT perspective. I would love feedback from enterprise IT folks, and it's my goal to drive some information and collect information from enterprise IT on Open Source and what they would like us to do and what they don't want us to do.

    We're updating our branded Solaris website, and so one of the areas will be a section for current [commercial] Solaris users on what OpenSolaris is all about. It will give them the kind of information them need from the perspective of a professional IT organization.