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Top Solaris developer flees Oracle

OpenSolaris board threatens ritual suicide

Greg Lavender, the lead developer in charge of the Solaris operating system at Oracle, has left the company. And the OpenSolaris Governing Board, which is supposed to steer the open source version of Solaris, is thinking about disbanding because Oracle has not had any contact with the board for the past six months.

As one El Reg reader so succinctly and brilliantly put it in a comment in a recent story about the wall of silence Oracle has built up around Solaris and OpenSolaris: "No more Solaris. Now it's SoLarry's."

We caught wind of Lavender's departure from Oracle in the comment section of that story, where one commenter said Lavender had left Oracle the prior week, making it around the middle of June. (The story discussed Solaris 11, the commercial-grade operating system based on OpenSolaris that was expected sometime around the middle of 2010 but is nowhere to be seen, as well as the OpenSolaris 2010.03 release that had not made it out the door yet.) That would put Lavender's departure in the middle of June.

Predictably, when asked about Lavender leaving Oracle, a company spokesperson said in an email: "I checked on your question and unfortunately have to advise that Oracle does not comment on employee status. Sorry I couldn't be of help."

I called the Oracle switchboard, and the operator said there was no Greg Lavender in the company directory. But I did find an old Sun Microsystems number for Lavender that still worked and left a voicemail, which he did not respond to. After returning from a week of vacation in London - lovely city, my family thanks you for the hospitality - this week I managed to get an ex-Sunner on the horn to confirm (anonymously of course) that Lavender had indeed left the company to take a job at an outside firm.

Lavender's departure from Oracle may or may not be a big deal for Solaris or OpenSolaris. It is hard for an outsider to say, and probably not much easier for those inside Oracle who are former Sunners either.

What can be said for sure is that Oracle's behavior regarding Sun products and personnel - products are not announced properly, and no executives are made available to answer questions, if you can even identify which executive is still at the company to answer a question - most definitely does not endear Oracle to Sun's hardware and software customers. By not answering two simple questions – did Lavender leave, and if so, who has replaced him – Oracle makes it a bigger deal than it needs to be.

Lavender was the vice president of engineering at Innosoft International, which specialized in email messaging and LDAP servers when it was acquired by Sun in March 2000. At that time, Lavender became the chief technology officer for Sun's middleware products (including the servers it bought from Netscape), managing a staff of 450 software engineers, according to his LinkedIn bio.

Since 1994, Lavender had been an adjunct associate professor of computer sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, a position he held until March 2004, and a few months later he became associate chairman of the compsci department at UT. Two years later, while still in that position, Lavender returned to Sun, managing research projects at Sun in conjunction with academia concerning operating systems, networking, and virtualization, and in March 2008, a few months after leaving UT, Lavender came back to Sun as senior director of engineering for Solaris and OpenSolaris. After Sun was acquired in late January by Oracle, Lavender was given the title vice president of engineering for Solaris core operating system.

Meanwhile, over at the OpenSolaris community, the people who are in charge are getting the same wall of silence that analysts, hacks, and customers have been getting and they have just about had enough.

The OpenSolaris Governing Board had a meeting on July 12, and Jeb Dasteel, a senior vice president and chief customer officer at Oracle, was supposed to show up to the meeting and did not. According to the bylaws of the OpenSolaris community, Oracle is supposed to appoint an executive to act as a liaison between the company and the OpenSolaris community and has not and more significantly, there is not communication between OpenSolaris and Oracle.

If you want to read all the gory details of the lack of involvement by Oracle in OpenSolaris, you can read the agendas and minutes for the OpenSolaris board that was appointed in April, running through June. You can see the as-yet unfinalized minutes from the July 12 meeting here.

In a nutshell, the OpenSolaris governing board was seriously considering disbanding on the spot. The motion was defeated with an even vote (three for, three against, one abstention). The board took another vote and unanimously agreed that Oracle needs to appoint a liaison with the OpenSolaris community by August 16 or on the August 23 meeting the board will trigger a clause in the OpenSolaris charter "to return control of the community to Oracle."

No kidding. SoLarry's indeed. Looks like it is time for someone to start Moon Macrosystems after all.

Bootnote: Greg Lavender's LinkedIn profile has been updated, and now says he is vice president of foundation engineering for the Network Software & Systems Technology Group at server wannabe Cisco Systems. ®

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