Sun gives NFS component to open source world – sort of

The cunning Solenoids have devised yet another licence, and it's not open source either

Sun has announced that it is giving a "key component of Network File System to the open source community." But as it transpires from the small print, only sort of, again. Sun is already well-known for its eagerness to embrace the open source community without quite going open source, and already has its own licensing system, the Sun Community Source Licence (SCSL), which is sort of like open source except Sun's in charge. The great NFS giveaway is however backed by another new Sun licensing plan, the Sun Industry Standards Source Licence (SISSL). This looks a bit like open source too, except, er, Sun's still in charge. SISSL makes source code available to developers, and they are allowed to "modify and distribute source code and derived binaries freely." But they are also allowed to choose whether to keep their mods confidential or to make them public. The licence also "has requirements designed to prevent divergence from the standard(s) referenced in the licence." If the developers deviate from this, then they have to provide a public description and reference implementation of those deviations. From Sun's perspective this approach has the advantage of keeping a single standard under Sun's control, which is of course what Sun usually wants, and what usually causes brickbats to be thrown at it. The other plus point is the secrecy aspect - under SISSL commercial vendors can keep their development to themselves, if they so choose, whereas under GPL they'd have to release it. The component of NFS that Sun is releasing under SISSL is the Transport Independent Remote Procedure Call protocol, or TI-RPC. Sun describes this as one of the foundations of NFS, and a key component of the security advancements in version 4. Sun is also doubling its funding to the University of Michigan to create a Linux implementation of NFS 4, and is releasing its rights to the NFS trademark. The company also says SISSL "is designed to meet the requirements of the Open Source Definition as articulated by the Open Source Initiative," and that it has submitted the license to the Open Source Initiative for consideration. Is all this more likely to win open source applause, or to generate more abuse for Sun? Whatever, it looks like Sun has blown it anyway. In another release today Sun "announced broad support by the Linux community for Sun's highly regarded productivity suite, StarOffice." The Linux community is unlikely to be impressed by Sun's temerity in announcing its support for Sun software. ® See also: Sun to give away Solaris source code

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