IBM on OpenSolaris: Two's company, three's a crowd

BOSTON -- Some of the biggest criticisms of Sun Microsystems' OpenSolaris project have come from IBM's vice president of worldwide Linux strategy, Scott Handy, who during an interview regarding the new IBM Chiphopper program said he did not expect OpenSolaris to generate the following that Linux had accumulated.

Citing the "passionate community" that had supported Linux throughout the years, Handy said the current ecosystem for operating systems was one of Windows and Linux – with no room for a third.

"I generally don't think that there is a following there," Handy said of OpenSolaris. "And if it cannot get beyond its core following then it won't work."

Sun fired back in an email response from a spokesperson that the project already has a "strong community of developers, customers and partners," all of whom can be seen on its community Web site www.OpenSolaris.org.

From the floor of the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, Robert Frances Group senior business analyst and open source practice leader Stacey Quandt addressed some of the criticisms of Sun Microsystems Inc. and the Open Solaris project that will see the Solaris 10 operating system opened up to the developer community.

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Building a successful developer community around a platform takes an enormous amount of time, money and effort. How has Sun prepared to build up this idea of a community around Solaris?
Since Sun rediscovered the value of Solaris on x86 and x86- 64-bit platforms it has invested in hardware certification, engineering efforts with key partners such as AMD and released Solaris under an open source license. The open Solaris community is comprised of users in research, government and other vertical market segments and shares similarities with the early adopters of Linux. The maturity of Solaris and the availability to deploy it on AMD Opteron systems will appeal to users seeking performance characteristics unavailable with Linux and the economics of a commodity platform. What will it take to sustain the growth of this community?
The growth of the community will depend on the participation of independent software vendors porting to the open Solaris platform on commodity x86 systems. Also, developers need to have access to hardware resources to test their applications and build code. Sun is likely to build centers of competency in financial services, healthcare, oil and gas and telecommunication to support the growth of open Solaris. Another analyst has said,'If Red Hat is having trouble building a community around Linux, then what chance does Sun have?"' Do you agree with this? Why or why not?
Red Hat is the leading Linux distribution in North America and many other distributions such as Asianux are based on Red Hat Linux. Red Hat Enterprise Linux like SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is supported across more hardware architectures including the mainframe, x86, EM64T, Itanium, and AMD Opteron, IBM pSeries, and iSeries than any other operating system. Red Hat wants to expand the community around the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system in conjunction with the Red Hat open source application stack. Sun Microsystems' Solaris operating system remains the de facto standard for many users in financial services and telecommunications. Red Hat was able to leverage the Linux development model toward the creation of an operating system that has narrowed the gap with Solaris and other Unix systems. Sun's challenge is to create incentives for ISVs to support Solaris on commodity hardware. For Sun to achieve this it must first listen to its customers and then demonstrate performance advantages of Solaris versus Linux on commodity hardware. Sun is offering and touting its legal protection for users of Solaris -- how important are these IP battles going to be in the near future?
Customers are increasingly concerned that software vendors, especially Microsoft will use patent infringement claims to combat the competitive threat of Linux and other software offered under alternatives to traditional commercial licenses. Open source software and associated licenses risk patent infringement no more than closed source or proprietary software and licenses. IT executives need to assess their enterprises' tolerance for risk and then develop policies for evaluating and resolving any risk to the business. Anyone who believes that open source software entails risk should weigh the costs and benefits of indemnification and insurance and examine new technologies available to track prior art.
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