Influence vs Control

My article for InfoWorld this week considers three different projects – OmniOS (derived from Illumos, the new name given to OpenSolaris), GitHub and OpenStack – and finds different attitudes towards corporate control giving different results.

MinkCast: Explaining OmniOS

Despite Oracle pulling out, OpenSolaris lives on as Illumos, which is a loose-knit open source community with multiple downstream projects. One of those is the new OmniOS operating system built by consulting company OmniTI.

OmniOS is described as a “JEOS” (Just Enough Operating System), the smallest possible subset of Illumos that’s able to self-host (that is, act as a build platform for itself with no external dependencies). As such it’s the perfect starting point for the sort of devops programmers building a high-integrity platform who would in the past have started from Solaris and removed code until they had their perfect platform.

OmniTI CEO Theo Schlossnagle joined me for a discussion about OmniOS, its uses and its relationship to IllumOS.


★ OpenSolaris Governing Board Resigns

I’m very sad to report that, as expected, it proved necessary for the OpenSolaris Governing Board to collectively resign today. The motion was as follows:


Motion concerning dissolution of the OGB

Whereas Oracle has continued to ignore requests to appoint a liaison to work with the OGB concerning the future of OpenSolaris development and our community, and
Whereas Oracle distributed an email to its employees on Aug 13 2010 that set forth Oracle’s decision to unilaterally terminate the development partnership between Oracle and the OpenSolaris Community, and
Whereas, without the continued support and participation of Oracle in the open development of OpenSolaris, the OGB and the community Sun/Oracle created to support the open Solaris development partnership have no meaning, and
Whereas the desire and enthusiasm for continuing open development of the OpenSolaris code base has clearly passed out of Oracle’s (and thus this community’s) hands into other communities,

Be it Resolved that the OpenSolaris Governing Board hereby collectively resigns, noting that under the terms of the OpenSolaris Charter section 1.1 (and Constitution 1.3.5) the responsibility to appoint an OGB passes to Oracle.

The motion passed unopposed.

As I said in the meeting, huge thanks are due key members of the OpenSolaris team at Sun who have stuck with the project despite an enormous change of context. I would like to specially recognise Alan Coopersmith and Jim Grisanzio for their wisdom and patience.

✭ Will Illumos Bring OpenSolaris Back To Life?

Illumos tape graphic

Today sees the launch of the Illumos Project, heralded last week in a message on the OpenSolaris mailing lists. The announcement caused much excitement, with many assuming it was a fork of OpenSolaris or another OpenSolaris distribution.

Illumos is neither. It is in fact a project to create a fully open-source-licensed version of the Solaris operating system and networking consolidation – the closest Solaris comes to a “kernel project”. It’s a downstream open source project, happy to contribute upstream but resolutely independent. As such it is a thoroughly good thing and a breath of fresh air.

It’s a good thing because it unblocks the potential of the OpenSolaris community to have a fully open source free software commons at its heart and creates the possibility of a new operating system that carries forward the legacy of UNIX yet is fully independent. The founders have already worked hard to create a bootable version of ON, including rewrites of closed portions of libc and the most critical utilities and drivers. Now the project is launched, they are looking for participants who will work on the lock manager, crypto, labeld and on remaining drivers. As I’ve written before, open, multi-party communities are the key to the future of open source.

It’s a breath of fresh air because after half a year of stonewalling and silence from Oracle from everyone in a position to carry OpenSolaris forward, the conversation in the community had spiraled lower and lower from concern to conjecture to complaint and finally beyond into ad hominem. Indeed, project founder Garrett D’Amore told me he played it quietly up until now as there was too much complaining and not enough getting-things-done. He wanted there to be actual code available on opening day and not just promises.

It’s clearly beyond just promises. As well as all the new code, the new project is supported by key OpenSolaris community vendors and members. Storage appliance vendors Nexenta – who employ Garrett – have their own OpenSolaris distribution along with a growing staff of former Sun engineers to support it, and have committed to using Illumos. Cloud hosting company Joyent – whose recent hire of DTrace co-inventor Bryan Cantrill (who has also written about Illumos) signals a positive engagement with the technology – use OpenSolaris in production. That support, along with the other positive support from respected Solaris and OpenSolaris leaders, means Illumos could well be the restart OpenSolaris needed, as long as its founders can deliver on the promise.

I’ve seen a project like this succeed before. When the OpenJDK project was announced to deliver an open source Java platform, members of the existing open source Classpath community were delighted but remained concerned Sun would not make a priority of getting the remaining closed portions replaced. The community started the IcedTea project, a fully Free downstream of OpenJDK, and offered to contribute everything upstream. It was that action that meant OpenJDK soon became a fully open source project with all Free software in it.

Illumos has similarly invited Oracle to participate or even just to accept upstream the rework done by the Illumos project. Time will tell whether Oracle responds positively or whether Illumos becomes the new, independent heart of the former OpenSolaris community. Either way, count me among its fans!

[First published on ComputerWorldUK]

☞ Evolutionary Pressures

  • Announcement – Illumos Project
    “A number of the community leaders from the OpenSolaris community have been working quietly together on a new effort called Illumos, and we’re just about ready to fully disclose our work to, and invite the general participation of, the general public.” (from the announcement on opensolaris-discuss)
  • Brazilian Government Signs OpenJDK Manifesto
    Concerned about Oracle’s approach to communities, the Brazilian Government has signed up to testing and using open source Java platforms (notably OpenJDK) instead of the proprietary one. (Linked page is in Portuguese – translation)

✍ OpenSolaris Governance

You may have seen some of the news reporting of the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) meeting that was held last Monday (I am an elected member of the Board). At a meeting with an unusually large number of community observers, we discussed how to respond to the 100% radio silence the OGB has experienced from the new owners of the OpenSolaris copyright and infrastructure. I believe we reached a balanced and well-considered conclusion and remain hopeful of a good outcome.

Read about it on my ComputerWorld blog

✍ OpenSolaris Governing Board

OpenSolaris Logo§ I am standing in the election for the OpenSolaris Governing Board one last time (this would be my third consecutive term if elected, so it has to be the last time). Each term has been quite different to the others, and I have no doubt this next year will be very different again for the OpenSolaris community.

Since I no longer work at Sun, I’d like to make clear what my “platform” is in this election in addition to my candidate statement. Continue reading

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