Oracle Acquisition

OpenSolaris will Die of ‘Benign Neglect.’

Jessica Thornsby

The community debates the future of OpenSolaris under Oracle, following the OpenSolaris Governing Board’s vote to suspend board meetings.

Steven Vaughan-Nichols has posted his thoughts on the future of Sun’s open source line under Oracle stewardship. He predicts that OpenOffice, MySQL, and VirtualBox will continue to be developed, but the other products will be allowed to slowly die by “benign neglect.”

This is in contrast to what Oracle imply with their dedicated ‘Oracle’s Support for Open Source and Open Standards‘ page, where the company lists its open source projects, including all those it inherited from Sun. “Don’t think for a minute that all those programs are actually going to be supported. They’re not,” Vaughan-Nichols warns.

In his opinion, the product most obviously getting sidelined, is OpenSolaris. “Oracle has decided to let OpenSolaris die by benign neglect,” he writes, and there seems to be significant evidence to support this theory. Recently, the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) called a meeting to discuss the future of OpenSolaris under Oracle, and invited an Oracle representative – who didn’t participate. The OGB voted to suspend board meetings, pending contact with Oracle. However, if Oracle do not arrange a meeting before 23rd August, 2010, the board will disband and hand control of the OpenSolaris community back to Oracle.

At the meeting, there was some debate on whether handing control back to Oracle, would have any effect on the present, stagnant situation, with Ben R stating it wouldn’t, “as Oracle is not communicating at all.”

Prior to this meeting, OGB board member Dennis Clarke had made his thoughts on Oracle’s stewardship of OpenSolaris very clear, claiming that “the OpenSolaris project is on life support. Or dead already.” He proposed that the community should fork OpenSolaris, but how viable an option is this? At the same post, Clarke revealed that 90% of the OpenSolaris contributions came from within Sun, which means the community would have to step involvement up from 10%, to 100% if they’re to continue developing OpenSolaris at the same rate. Vaughan-Nichols is skeptical about the prospect of the community successfully forking OpenSolaris: the OpenSolaris kernel is a few million lines of code, the top OpenSolaris kernel engineers work for Oracle, and there are closed parts that would need replacing in a forked OpenSolaris.

“There’s a reason why so many leading open-source lights from Sun, such as Java’s creator James Gosling, XML co-inventor Tim Bray, and Simon Phipps, Sun’s chief open source officer left Sun after the Oracle acquisition,” he concludes. “They knew they had no home at Oracle. Neither do most of Sun’s open-source projects now.”

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