I read an interesting interview of Scott McNealy at The Register by Gavin Clarke (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/07/mcnealy_sun_and_open_source/). The article reveals Scott McNeally’s, founder of Sun, thoughts on open source and how it caused the collapse of Sun Microsystems. Besides Scott’s comments that Oracle needs to ensure that the business comes first and not the community; I believe Oracle is already following that model; the main focus is on how Solaris could have been the Linux solution everyone was looking for.
A quick review on Solaris might be helpful for readers to better understand McNeally’s positioning of it against Linux. Solaris was Sun’s UNIX operating system developed in 1992 for their proprietary SPARC-based workstations that allowed Sun to break the billion-dollar revenue mark in only 6 years. These workstations were very expensive and eventually were overtaken by the growth of the standard x86 PCs that were considerably more affordable.
In 2005, Sun did release the source code to Solaris via an open source project, OpenSolaris. At that point, Linux was already in significant growth leveraging the low-cost, easy to obtain x86 machines versus the expensive SPARC workstations. McNeally believes that had Sun open sourced Solaris earlier there would have been no need for the Linux community to form, thus saving Sun from eventual acquisition form Oracle.
While I see what McNeally is saying on a technical comparison basis – Solaris vs Linux, I cannot get past the idea that an entire world of developers were just waiting for Sun to create an open, un-restricted UNIX operating system for x86 as Linux did. In fact, I would argue that it was the openness and non-corporate aspect of Linux that allowed the community to grow and prosper independently. I have a hard time believing that an open-sourced Solaris would have made Linux unnecessary; what do you think?
Stephen Spector is the community manager of the open source OpenStack cloud platform community which develops solutions and technology for public and private cloud infrastructures. He is responsible for all things OpenStack, except for the software itself.
Stephen is an old school C developer for Real-Time embedded systems and a long time alliance and developer program manager longing for the good old days when technology upheavals only occurred every six months. You can follow him on Twitter and the OpenStack blog.