Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/06/sun_open_source/

Sun juggles love of code with need for cash

Don't attack us... attack them!

By Gavin Clarke

Posted in Applications, 6th May 2008 16:41 GMT

CommunityOne The relationship between business, vendors and coders has been tested at a Sun Microsystems conference in San Francisco intended to express oneness with open source.

Ian Murdock, Sun vice president of developer and community marketing, and Marten Mickos, head of Sun's database group, used CommunityOne to outline Sun's ideals on recent acquisition MySQL, OpenSolaris and NetBeans. At the same time they explained Sun's attempts to monetize them.

Mickos, former CEO of MySQL, also pledged to keep the database open source. Murdock, the founder of the Debian GNU Linux distro, urged projects outside Sun to refrain from attacking Sun's Solaris or NetBeans, insisting they should instead focus on the common enemy - closed-source software.

CommunityOne, Sun's pre-JavaOne demonstration of love for open source, is intended to show how far the company come and how much it's learned in its growing relationship with open source. The run in with JBoss over Java compatibility in its application server and Apache over open-source implementations of Java Specification Requests are now distant memories.

But tensions remain. And Sun has taken its fair share of questions about its motives for starting its own open source projects, such as OpenSolaris, and for buying MySQL. What's the agenda?

Mickos was quick off the mark during a ConferenceOne panel on "cash versus code" to say MySQL would stay open source.

Sun execs were flamed last month with the leaking of the company's search for ways to monetize MySQL might include making certain "enterprisy" features available only to paying customers.

"MySQL will be free and open source for ever in case that was ever in doubt," Mickos told the captive audience during the debate hosted by Reg regular Matt Asay.

"We think that in the worlds where there are fewer contributors and more users, it's absolutely the right thing to offer them commercial services and add ons that we sell for money," he said.

The dividing line appears to be those who make contributions and those who don't - such as businesses. It's not clear, though, how that line will be policed or how Sun can realistically keep some features back without alienating loyal users and developers.

Mickos hinted at the battering received in response to Sun's potential plan. "Every time we make a gyration or change to the business model we get a storm of feedback from our passionate users," he said. "The challenge is to absorb that."

Murdock, meanwhile, tried to square Sun's desire to make money with its support for open source.

In his CommunityOne keynote, Murdock said Sun's goal is to create a Debian-like ecosystem around projects such as OpenSolaris that unifies disparate packages and proves a "win-win" for developers.

The money comes from services and support: "We understand the most important thing we can be doing is getting our technologies into the hands of as many developers as possible - removing all barriers to adoption and all barrier to entry... you don't have to pay Sun anything. When you are scaling, when you need help when you need to establish a relationship with the vendor to grow and scale, that's when we make our money."

He also challenged developers to think in terms of open-source versus closed-source software rather than Linux versus Solaris, or NetBeans versus Eclipse: "Yes we are all passionate but lets make sure we channel our passion in the right direction," Murdock said.

Another source of tension remains the JCP, which is still underserving individual members of the community. It's a year since Apache last voiced its displeasure with Sun and the JCP over an "unacceptable" license of the Java SE 5 technology compatibly kit.

Challenged by one developer during a CommunityOne session Monday on OpenJDK Ray Gans, Sun OpenJDK program manager, said it recognized the JCP cannot continue in its present form - just don't expect change soon.

"Does Sun have any thoughts on integration of the community more into the community process," came the question from the floor. "Right now people like myself just want to jump into the code and don't have much say on the specs. Where does Sun want to take the JCP ultimately?".

The answer: Sun wants to make the JCP more open but there are no solid plans., said: "The executive committee is interested in this. The discussion on IP rights still needs to be worked out. Everyone understands this need to change."

Gans encouraged open source developers to work with Sun's engineers on OpenJDK 7 in the meantime.

Dalibor Topic, Sun's recently appointed Java free open software ambassador, urged developers to use the tools they already have at their disposal to change Java specs: join up and vote. "We are not kicking the JCP around, it's got to be a grass-roots thing," he said.®