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From the Editors: Consulting the Oracle



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September 15, 2010 —  (Page 1 of 2)
Oracle is suing Google over the use of Java in the Android mobile operating system. Oracle is shutting down OpenSolaris, the open-source project that Sun started a few years ago to build community involvement with its Solaris dialect of Unix.

Our feelings are mixed about these items.

While we’re unable to judge the legal merits of Oracle’s patent-infringement claims about Java, we are dismayed that Oracle would apparently attempt to stifle the emergence of a vibrant mobile platform. Perhaps Oracle is merely unhappy that Android’s Java is based on Java SE, which means that Oracle can’t make any money on it directly. After all, Sun intended Java ME to be the basis of Java runtimes embedded in small devices, and the use of Java ME requires a paid commercial license. In any case, we hope that however this lawsuit is settled, it does not limit the functionality or viability of Android.

By contrast, we’re not overly dismayed about the demise of OpenSolaris. While we’re generally in favor of open-source projects, since the creation of OpenSolaris back in 2005, it has always been messy. Solaris itself is based on the decidedly proprietary Unix SVR4. We never understood why Sun, which, after all, was a Unix SVR4 licensee, felt the need to create an open-source operating system was an essentially a clean-room clone of Solaris. If you want Unix, use Unix. If you want something that’s open source but Unix-like, there are many mature, stable variations of Linux and BSD to choose from.

While Solaris has been lauded for its stability, scalability and performance, there simply never seemed to be a market need for an open-source clone of it. There was no problem that OpenSolaris was solving and no opportunity that OpenSolaris was creating. We don’t blame Oracle for quietly shutting it down. While we wish the Illumos “fork” of OpenSolaris good luck, frankly, we don’t think the software development industry will be affected one way or another.

The big question, though, is what’s next from Oracle regarding Sun’s software technology, particularly its open-source projects? The sole Java innovation so far has been a high-profile lawsuit. The single Solaris advancement has been to shut down OpenSolaris. No word yet on what will happen with MySQL, Glassfish and many other popular projects. Perhaps we’ll find out at Oracle OpenWorld, which encompasses not only Oracle’s traditional Develop conference, but also JavaOne.



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Comments


09/16/2010 12:06:41 PM EST

This article shows that you have clearly not understood what OpenSolaris was about. It was not a clean-room clone at all. it was the Solaris source code. Identical. Production-quality engineered Unix source code. Ideal for everyone working on any aspect of Solaris -- not just programmers or developers. OpenSolaris wasn't Unix-like. It was Unix. And it was a showcase and testbed for new technologies coming in Solaris, essentially providing the best of both worlds -- freedom in the FOSS sence, and solid dependency of a commercially-engineered OS.

GermanyVolker A. Brandt


09/16/2010 01:46:04 PM EST

It seems like you're confused about a key factual issue, and that confusion is causing an odd editorial stance. OpenSolaris is not in any way a "clean-room clone of Solaris" The important code is the *same*; Sun did not rewrite or clone (clean-room or otherwise) the Solaris code. From the OpenSolaris FAQ, the goal was "to make as much of the Solaris OS source available as is legally possible" under a free license. In order to do that release, they did have to get permission from the UNIX licensors (actually from SCO Group).

United StatesMatthew Flaschen


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