Torvalds: Waiting To See Sun's Open Solaris


Linus Torvalds claims he is taking Sun Microsystems seriously--Sun plans to offer an open-source version of its Solaris 10 operating system--but the Linux creator and chief developer says he'll reserve judgment until code becomes available.

At a panel Tuesday during Enterprise Linux Summit, Torvalds said Sun's efforts to open-source Solaris 10 according to the OSI-approved Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL) could give Linux a viable open-source rival in the operating-system market. But while Sun's CDDL is a bona fide open-source license, Torvalds said he will have to wait until Open Solaris is released later this year to gauge its ability to compete against Linux.

During the past five years, Linux has usurped significant server OS market share from Sun.

"It all looks good. I was disappointed in their Java work. It was a complete disaster, and Sun took control of it," Torvalds told CRN, alluding to the Java Community Process. "But CDDL is different. Everything is in place for it to work well."

Torvalds said he doesn't know if there will be enough interest in Solaris to grow a viable open-source community, or if the Unix OS has become too "marginalized," but he isn't complacent about Sun's efforts.

"A lot of people still like Solaris, but I'm in active competition with them, and so I hope they die," he said.

Torvalds did not comment on rumblings that Sun's provisions opening 1,600 patents to the community will restrict their use by the Linux community. During the panel discussion at the summit in Burlingame, Calif., however, Torvalds dismissed the value of software patents in general. He also said efforts by IBM and other commercial software companies to release many patents for public consumption is very telling.

"Are software patents useful? That's pretty clearly not the case," Torvalds said. "Patents are clearly a problem and one that the open-source community has been aware of during the last five years. And proprietary vendors are starting to see it's a problem, too. It's a problem all over the map, and I'm hopeful that may cause the solution to come, although it probably takes a long time."

After the panel, Danese Cooper, Sun's chief open-source evangelist, said that while the CDDL has different provisions of the GPL affecting developers' use and distribution of Open Solaris, Sun won't bring patent litigation to the courts. "We're not going to sue anyone," she said.