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Sun Now Wants to Be One of the S's in OSS --
Sun Now Wants to Be One of the S's in OSS --

(August 16, 2002) - First it wanted to be "the dot in dot.com," now it would seem that Sun Microsystems also has designs on becoming one of the S's in Open Source Software.

In terms of momentous events it might not rank quite up there with Richard Nixon's goodwill trip to the People's Republic of China in February 1972, but when Sun CEO Scott McNealy stood up this week to deliver his keynote speech in front of the thousands of open source developers who'd come to San Francisco to attend LinuxWorld, there was nonetheless something of the same sense of occasion as when the US thirty years ago reopened the long-closed door to mainland China.

"We are a part of the Linux community," said McNealy - an odd piece of revisionism that's the equivalent of Richard Milhaus Nixon having said in Beijing (which he didn't), "We are all communists now."

In spite of the fact that just earlier this year Sun was at loggerheads, to put it mildly, with the Apache Software Foundation over the issue of open-source groups' participation in the Java Community Process, McNealy was adamant that Sun will now be committing itself to helping OS developers build open-source implementations of Java standards "and will stay committed through sponsorships, donations, and product deliveries."

"We're leveraging the Linux opportunity," McNealy declared, reverting to marketese, "and helping customers at the same time by bringing enterprise-level support to the open source community."

McNealy's principal reason for appearing in San Francisco was Sun's Sun LX50, its new general purpose Linux server. But the keynote served a more general purpose too. It gave Sun's CEO the chance to point out that Sun "has contributed millions of lines of code to the open source community and is making key technological advancements in support of Linux developers and users" and indeed Sun would continue its Linux support, he said, in the form of more Linux code, LSB compliance for Sun's Linux distribution, continued investment, more engineering resources, and ongoing support for the open source community overall, through efforts like OpenOffice.org for example.

Developers listening to McNealy were told that one of Sun's strategies will be to make their products "integratable," as opposed to "integrated" - a nice distinction if ever there were one. Sun's idea is that as a developer you have the ability to swap out any part Sun's software and use a different product, whether free or proprietary, in its place. An approach that contrasts strongly, McNealy suggested, with that of Microsoft, whom (as more or less usual for him when keynoting) he mocked throughout.

Microsoft Corp is after all the company, he said, whose tech leads "swore under oath that if you remove this one little program (the Web browser) the whole thing will break and they'll have to take it off the market." The OS audience appreciated the (often-repeated) irony. McNealy always was a fine speaker who knows his audience. But the day wasn't really about Sun, or Microsoft. It was about Linux. "I think this means we won," said Rick Crelia, a senior systems administrator and Free Software advocate, adding: "The Gandhi quote comes to mind: 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' I think the cycle is complete after yesterday."

Both Sun and Microsoft have realized they can't (as Crelia puts it) "eat/destroy Linux/Free and Open Source Software, so what do they do: switch from predator mode to capitalist mode. If you can't beat them, might as well try to sell our stuff to them."

Eating crow can't have come easily to Scott McNealy, Crelia reckons. "I'm sure the folks at IBM and HP snickered during McNealy's speech...the CEO of Sun is giving the keynote about how great Linux is and how committed Sun is to it? I think that August 13th, 2002 is an important date for all of us who have been 'fighting the good fight,' trying to raise awareness and make in-roads into conventional high-tech markets. In a sense, I think we just won."

About Jeremy Geelan
Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

broadly speaking (especially for the context of my reply) there are 2 types of articles in any journals (including serious professional ones):
(1) articles which are written as opinions (i.e. the writer includes his own thoughts & opinions)
(2) articles which are purely news (with no comments or prejudice whatsoever from the writer).
This article simply happens to belong to the first category... so what's wrong? There are always 2 sides to any event/incident/idea.... it's interesting to listen to 'the other side' for the reasoning. anyway, 'snide articles' are usually entertaining... yet educational.

what surprises me is that now all of a sudden Sun is the great supporter of OSS and Linux, while IBM has been carrying the flag for some time now with most of it's products available for linux and a devlopment platform which is open source bases. It seems to me that Sun is just looking at IBM to see what works and what doesn't and apparently OSS and Linux work.
I have to agree with Andrea in saying, "if it's for free, watch out!"

The only difference between McNealy and Gates is that McNealy can't seem to make as much money as Gates. Shame. Jealousy is such an evil thing.

As a preamble let me empahsize my firm belief that complex problems are best solved by collaborative open shared efforts. As a role model the success of mathematics in providing the infrastructure for the modern world.

Having said that I think Sun is making a mistake.

It's a shame that Sun is now shamelessly following the IBM/Linux hype route where image takes precedent over the content. Linux, while maturing, is still a mess, yet the BSD juggernaut rolls on. FreeBSD has been advertised as Linux for adults. For businesses it has many advantages over it's less mature rival, Linux. It has a better licensing model, a better versioning and committing system and a far superior performance track record. The differences in security are legendary.

The power of FreeBSD comes at a price, responsibility. It is more difficult to install and does not, currently, get new software ports as rapid as Linux. It is also, as true Unix, more difficult to admin. All of which would be overcome if it received the development attention of Linux.

Linux binaries run on FreeBSD as well, although you may have to strain to get the latest rpm's running as the porting lags a little.

Sun has a missed a real chance to show true engineering excellence, and leadership, by not taking the Linux route.

I thought the article about McNealy was hogwash. Yes, Sun has changed their minds on Linux. Congrats, Linux is taking off and Sun is noticing.

But the little snide comments that the writer made throughout the article were out-of-place, unseemly, and degrades the professionalism this mag should be striving for. I don't want to hear the author's personal opinion -- that is what commentaries are for -- but I do want a balanced article explaining the issues.

Sun has done a great job in promoting open source and near-open source. It fought the Microsoft battle while Linux was still taking its first steps. Its great to see Linux taking off and sharing some of the load to bring a new, alternative OS to the masses.

"Great, a talking chameleon" !! A few weeks ago Scott McNealy slashed about JBoss (www.jboss.org) destroying its business model and now he wants to be the shiny armor of Open Source.
Sun has no problem to take advantage from open-source movement, where JBoss plays a leading role in JMX, JSR-77 other programs, but does not want to give something in return. How long did it take to provide a JDK for Linux ?
Scott if you are so "pro open-source" then stand up and let JBoss becomes a certified J2EE application server. A free application server from Sun is worthless if it sucks and it sucks otherwise you wouldn't give it away free, which is Sun strategy for quite a while to start a project, try to cash in and if it is not accepted by the industry to give it away for free (see JBlend).

So I would like to see Sun's words be followed by actions otherwise it reminds me after Bill's speeches.

Andy


Your Feedback
Mokkie wrote: broadly speaking (especially for the context of my reply) there are 2 types of articles in any journals (including serious professional ones): (1) articles which are written as opinions (i.e. the writer includes his own thoughts & opinions) (2) articles which are purely news (with no comments or prejudice whatsoever from the writer). This article simply happens to belong to the first category... so what's wrong? There are always 2 sides to any event/incident/idea.... it's interesting to listen to 'the other side' for the reasoning. anyway, 'snide articles' are usually entertaining... yet educational.
Nico de Smidt wrote: what surprises me is that now all of a sudden Sun is the great supporter of OSS and Linux, while IBM has been carrying the flag for some time now with most of it's products available for linux and a devlopment platform which is open source bases. It seems to me that Sun is just looking at IBM to see what works and what doesn't and apparently OSS and Linux work. I have to agree with Andrea in saying, "if it's for free, watch out!"
Andreas Schaefer wrote: "Great, a talking chameleon" !! A few weeks ago Scott McNealy slashed about JBoss (www.jboss.org) destroying its business model and now he wants to be the shiny armor of Open Source. Sun has no problem to take advantage from open-source movement, where JBoss plays a leading role in JMX, JSR-77 other programs, but does not want to give something in return. How long did it take to provide a JDK for Linux ? Scott if you are so "pro open-source" then stand up and let JBoss becomes a certified J2EE application server. A free application server from Sun is worthless if it sucks and it sucks otherwise you wouldn't give it away free, which is Sun strategy for quite a while to start a project, try to cash in and if it is not accepted by the industry to give it away for free (see JBlend). So I would like to see Sun's words be followed by actions otherwise it reminds me after Bill's speeches....
Doofy wrote: The only difference between McNealy and Gates is that McNealy can't seem to make as much money as Gates. Shame. Jealousy is such an evil thing.
George Giles wrote: As a preamble let me empahsize my firm belief that complex problems are best solved by collaborative open shared efforts. As a role model the success of mathematics in providing the infrastructure for the modern world. Having said that I think Sun is making a mistake. It's a shame that Sun is now shamelessly following the IBM/Linux hype route where image takes precedent over the content. Linux, while maturing, is still a mess, yet the BSD juggernaut rolls on. FreeBSD has been advertised as Linux for adults. For businesses it has many advantages over it's less mature rival, Linux. It has a better licensing model, a better versioning and committing system and a far superior performance track record. The differences in security are legendary. The power of FreeBSD comes at a price, responsibility. It is more difficult to install and does not, currently, get new software ports as r...
MikeB wrote: I thought the article about McNealy was hogwash. Yes, Sun has changed their minds on Linux. Congrats, Linux is taking off and Sun is noticing. But the little snide comments that the writer made throughout the article were out-of-place, unseemly, and degrades the professionalism this mag should be striving for. I don't want to hear the author's personal opinion -- that is what commentaries are for -- but I do want a balanced article explaining the issues. Sun has done a great job in promoting open source and near-open source. It fought the Microsoft battle while Linux was still taking its first steps. Its great to see Linux taking off and sharing some of the load to bring a new, alternative OS to the masses.
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