Reactions to IBM & OpenSolaris

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Have received a number of on and off the record reactions to the last piece concerning IBM, Linux, OpenSolaris, & Sun.

  • One anonymous reader – not affiliated with either IBM or Sun – claimed that IBM’s decision to not open source AIX was born not out of concern over the effort required in building a community, but rather the relatively small size of the AIX community relative to both Linux and Solaris.

    I think IBM would actually acknowledge this to a degree, in that Linux is the clear path ahead for them and they’re up front about seeing very little demand for an open source version of AIX. And personally I would agree with the contention, but with a bit more context. It is indeed about demand – or rather lack of it, but there is a cost component. Namely that the costs of open sourcing AIX are not currently justified given the lack of demand for it, and the larger Linux strategic context. But point well made.

  • Another anonymous reader dropped me an email claiming that I had taken OpenSolaris insufficiently to task for some of their procedural failings.

    My response to that is the same as it would be for a variety of project: they’re not perfect, but they are improving. If the status quo was likely to be the future state, I’d be more inclined to knock OpenSolaris’ ‘openness,’ but for the moment I think they’re moving in the right direction.

  • Sun’s David Comay – whom I had the pleasure of meeting at OSCON a couple of weeks back – made that point as well, in a comment on the blog. He said a couple of interesting things:

    “I think one issue is that many of the OpenSolaris discussions (be they design reviews of a proposed enhancement or the code review of a bugfix or a discussion on which source code management system should be used) naturally occur on the site’s mailing lists and forums. But unless one takes a bit of time to explore and either lurk or join those forums, I think it’s possible to not appreciate how involved the external community has already become.”

    I agree, and just for the record I do sit on the main osol-discuss list, so I see the community in action on a daily basis.

    “But the important thing to realize is that neither Sun nor the OpenSolaris community wishes to keep the status quo around longer than it needs do be. There’s been a steady stream of progress made in this area (from cleaning up the source base so that it can be compiled by gcc to choosing a SCM system (a process which was done entirely in the open with vocal participation from the community) to creating the infrastructure to move the primary repository on the other side of the firewall.”

    I think that’s fair, although I can understand why people who are not close to Sun have mixed impressions about this. Fairly or unfairly, Sun is known for not having open sourced Java (yet). Now I personally have been supportive of that decision, but more and more of the people I speak with don’t agree with me. For those people, the fact that process is moving forward now is undermined by the fact that it took years and that there was substantial internal opposition. Fair or unfair, that bleeds into their impressions of OpenSolaris. In that context then, it’s not surprising that people might question how quickly Sun might be moving to open things up. Again, that might not be fair, but it’s important to understand where these concerns originate.

  • Lastly, I ran across Jim Grisanzio’s – the Engineering Community Manager, OpenSolaris, whom I met at OSBC last spring – del.icio.us comment which read “Unfortunate that IBM gets as much credit here as it does.” He also tagged it with “propaganda“.

    Given that I’m biased on the subject, having written the original piece in question, I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine whether or not you believe the entry was balanced or was instead propaganda for one side or another. I will say only that I found that designation surprising.

Appreciate, as always, the feedback. Keep it coming.


  1. I think your post seemed like a fair analysis of the situation and I certainly don’t have any issues of it. What I will say is that general mailing lists like opensolaris-discuss don’t give the best impression of the community, the collaboration and relationships being formed on a daily basis. I do expect things to change over the next couple of months, and I know for a fact that there are a lot of really smart people [both internally and externally] working really hard to push the project in new directions. I am excited by OpenSolaris – the technology *and* the people, and I have no fears that it will be a roaring success. Does that mean that I think we can ignore feedback, no matter what form it is in? No, I believe it would be unwise to do so.

  2. Hi … don’t read anything sinister into the “propaganda” tag. I use it generally to mean anything related to PR, marketing, communications, etc. It certainly can be negative, sure, but the principles of propaganda are used for both good and bad. I often use rhetoric to mean the same thing. That’s one of the problems with tagging that drives me nuts — several things can mean the same thing so which one do you use? It’s pain in the butt. But it’s no reflection on your post, really, though I don’t agree with you post in this case, nor with Glynn’s. It’s just a way for me to keep track of this specific issue from multiple angles. Although, I think I have so many tags now on delicious that the entire tagging thing has only caused me more confusion.

  3. Just to second Glynn’s point regarding opensolaris-discuss. It certainly reflects one aspect of the community in the same way many free-wheeling, general project mailing lists do. Visting some of the community specific mailing provides a very different view.

    And though in many cases there is an abundance of Sun employees participating on these lists, there has been a definite uptick from external community members as they become more familiar with the technology, the code and start asking questions or proposing changes.

  4. I agree with Jim’s one-liner: it’s unfortunate that you gave IBM as much credit as you gave them. “Very good guy” or not, Dan Frye’s derision of OpenSolaris as a “facade” is just bullshit; it’s a crass attempt by IBM to redefine the debate in terms of what OpenSolaris isn’t, and you pretty much fell for it. Yes, you raise thoughtful points (as always), and I certainly appreciate you pointing out that OpenSolaris is improving, nobody’s perfect, it’s still early days, etc. — but the fact is that by responding with this analysis, you have allowed IBM to achieve their goal of casting uncertainty and doubt over the issue.

    Not that any of this matters in the end, of course: the forces propelling OpenSolaris are much too powerful and much too fundamental to be FUD’d to death by a vendor. Ultimately, IBM will have about as much success FUD’ing OpenSolaris as Sun had FUD’ing Linux (which is to say, none) — it’s just a shame that you’re treating their brazen attempts at such so earnestly in the meantime.

  5. I would love for you to contact your friends at HP to gain insight on their plans related to open sourcing the MPE operating system since they discontinued support for it while many customers haven’t yet ported to other platforms…

  6. Glynn: I agree, and certainly didn’t mean to give the impression that monitoring osol-discuss is the equivalent to monitoring the actions of the community. you also have to speak with and read other folks in the community, and go to user group meetings and so forth, all of which i try to do as often as i can. agree on it changing.

    Jim: ok, will do. thanks for the clarification. tagging is imprecise, certainly, as you point out.

    David: agree, and for the record i see plenty of action in the channels i monitor from non-Sun folks.

    Bryan: great to hear from you again; sorry you feel that way, but great to hear from you.

    anyway, i wanted to break down what i consider your important points quickly.

    1. I gave IBM too much credit:
    I’m not sure I get that from either you or Jim. Basically what I tried to do here – as I would always try do – is look beyond the rhetoric and see if there’s any truth to the remarks.

    Now you might contend that by acknowledging what you consider FUD I give it credence, but the fact is that people are asking me about it so it’s important to me that I respond. Also, I would think that the simplest way to dispell FUD is to examine it closely.

    And frankly my impression of the piece is that candidly, I disagreed with the vast majority of what IBM said. I allowed that there was a kernel of truth to the remarks – there usually is in such cases – but I’m not sure how I gave IBM’s arguments too much credit here.

    If the contention is that I gave IBM the company, as in its representatives – Frye specifically, too much credit here, then all I can say is that this sort of rhetoric doesn’t leave me with the same impression I guess it might with you. If it did, there are a lot of Sun executives I would have similarly written off because of things they’ve said over the years as part of larger PR (and IMO, misguided) efforts.

    I expect that, as much as I personally don’t care for it, and try to see through it. If that’s the problem here, I plead guilty.

    2. I’ve allowed IBM to reframe the debate on what OpenSolaris is not

    Having agreed with IBM as little as I did in that post I don’t think I’d concede the point that I allowed IBM to reframe anything.

    It is true that I did look at some of the things about the Solaris and OpenSolaris that are subobtimal, but a.) that’s my job, and b.) I think I did an acceptable job of presenting the current weaknesses things in the proper context, rather than writing them off as a static state.

    At any rate, I’m more inclined to agree with your penultimate sentence which states that IBM will not have a tremendous amount of success at FUDing OpenSolaris. That’s one of the beauties of open source: it makes it very difficult to do, as Microsoft discovered years ago with Linux.

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