Sun opens open source office

Chief evangelist gets sourced

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Sun Microsystems is coordinating all of its open source activity, consisting of more than 20 projects, through a centralized office to help drive best practices.

Sun has created an Open Source Office (OSO) under chief open source officer Simon Phipps to bring greater consistency to the company's growing open source workload. The OSO will be part of the software chief technology office (CTO) under Hal Stern.

The OSO follows commitments by Sun's president Jonathan Schwartz and software executive vice president John Loiacono to open source all of Sun's software.

Loiacono last month announced OpenSSO, the open sourcing of Sun's web single sign-on technology in the Java Enterprise System (JES) while the company has released 1,600 APIs and millions of lines of code from its Solaris operating system to create Open Solaris.

Sun believes open sourcing its software can build communities of developers around its technologies, helping drive innovation and improving its own products. Sun claims there are now 7,000+ registered participants in Open Solaris who have contributed nine patches to the Solaris code base with a further 17 in the wings.

Phipps, previously Sun's chief technology evangelist, called OSO a milestone that breaks with Sun's past of "just doing" community-based development through projects like NFS and JXTA.

"In the past... it's just been the natural and obvious way to develop software and a lot of Sun engineers haven't thought a lot about it," Phipps told The Register. "It's become clearer and clearer we need co-ordination."

One key best practice the OSO will drive is in ensuring projects use existing Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved licenses rather than creating new licenses.

Phipps plans to use "peer pressure" through Sun's Open Source Council and will convene a meeting of Sun's Open Source Review Board, composed of Sun's executive vice presidents, as a last resort, to tackle this goal.

"I'm a firm believer in using OSI approved licenses, and using as minimal a subset as possible to reduce license proliferation and not creating new licensing for new projects. I'd expect that as the level of best practices all projects would adhere to," Phipps said.

The new open source chief dismissed criticism Sun received this year for adding to license proliferation with its creation of the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), which updates the Mozilla Public License (MPL). CDDL brings the total of OSI-approved open source licenses to 58. "CDDL is bringing about the end of license proliferation in Mozilla licenses," Phipps said.

Meanwhile, in an effort to provide a single-point of contact between Sun and the community, Phipps has created the role of an open source ombudsman. The ombudsman will liaise with Sun and the open source community on potential problems, bringing issues to Sun's Open Source Council and Open Source Review Board. ®

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