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OpenSolaris makes Sun top donor of open source code

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Sun Microsystems today officially made the open source Solaris moves that had been widely predicted earlier this week. It released a tool in Solaris 10 called DTrace under its new Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). It confirmed that all of Solaris 10 will be open sourced under the same license in the second quarter. And it officially named the new version of the operating system OpenSolaris.

This will all sound familiar to regular readers who caught wind of the moves on Sunday.

What won't be familiar to many of you is Sun stating that it's the single greatest contributor of open source code on the planet. Up to this point, Sun had trailed only the University of California at Berkeley in open source donations. Sun additionally freed up an astonishing 1,600 patents.

"We used to be just the largest commercial donator of code," said CEO Scott McNealy during a conference call with reporters. "Without doubt, we are now probably the number one donator of lines of code of any organization on the planet."

In reality, Sun won't really be able to claim the position of top open source dog until it actually releases all of Solaris 10 under CDDL. That's scheduled to happen sometime between April and June.

Sun also thinks it has set itself apart from typical open source contributors by wrapping Solaris with complete intellectual property protection. No battles with SCO. No small ISV crawling out of the woodwork to sue. Use Solaris at will. Sun drove home the point that open source software and IP should go hand-in-hand.

CDDL gives developers the right to take pieces of Solaris and modify the code, if they agree to submit any changes to the public. Software that simply plugs into OpenSolaris can have any license.

Sun should receive credit for being as bold as possible with this move. Few companies that spend billions on research and development would be willing to release one of their most prized possessions to the public.

It has, however, taken Sun a long time to get to this point, and there's no telling what the end result of the OpenSolaris experiment will be. Will it drum up interest in Solaris x86? Will it make a serious mark in the open source world? Will it help Sun gain new customers?

The always brash McNealy certainly thinks so.

"This is a super-charging, rocket-launching way of driving what we think is the best IP (intellectual property) in the space today forward," he said. ®

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