Solaris 10 Marks Dawn of Sun’s Open-Source Strategy

The speculation is over. Sun is set to release a new version of its Solaris operating system today, and Solaris 10, the newest version of its Unix-based operating system, will soon be available for the first time ever as a free open-source product.

Sun spent billions of dollars developing the code but will now trade licensing fees for support package fees. Analysts said it is a move to compete with Linux in an open-source era that has challenged the software maker.

The formal unveiling of open-source Solaris 10 will come at Sun’s quarterly SunNetwork Conference later today at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California. But analysts are already talking about the new challenges Sun faces in the open-source operating system environment.

Worth the Hype?

IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky told LinuxInsider that one of Sun’s various obstacles in its open-source strategy is building a community.

“Just putting something over the wall as open source does not mean a developer community will accept it or build upon it or do anything with it whatsoever,” Kusnetzky said.

Kusnetzky said without excitement from the developer’s community, all the hype about Solaris 10 going open source could turn out to be a dud for Sun.

Open Source Contributors

Web sites that track kernel level Linux additions, adoptions and edits demonstrate that companies like IBM, HP, Oracle, Red Hat, Novell and a few other large companies are making the majority of the entries. That, said Kusnetzky, presents another challenge for Sun’s Solaris strategy.

“While a number of smaller groups of people or individuals contribute to the Linux kernel, they don’t contribute to anywhere near the level that these other companies do,” Kusnetzky said.

“Will IBM, Oracle or HP leap onto Solaris from their current investment in Linux?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”

Indeed, Kusnetzky said the more likely scenario is that an open-source Solaris on a non-restrictive license would allow developers to examine the intellectual property with the code, learn from it, and apply that same pattern of thinking to make improvements to Linux.

Community First

Once again, Kusnetzky said, without community open-source Solaris is not positioned to become a big winner against Linux. Kusnetzky said Sun has approached open source backward.

“You have to build the community first and then people will be interested in it. You have to set up incentives,” he said. “Just declaring it open source and putting out the source code may or may not benefit Sun.”

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