Sun to "Community Source" Almost Everything

  • Written By: R. Krause
  • Published: November 24 1999

Event Summary

IDG News Service\San Francisco Bureau November 18, 1999

Sun Microsystems Inc. is working towards eventually "community sourcing" as much of its software as possible, according to company Co-founder and Chief Scientist Bill Joy. Community sourcing means that Sun makes the source code for a product publicly available, so that developers can download the code free of charge and make changes to it as long as they report to Sun any bugs encountered. Under the community-sourcing model, Sun charges commercial users a license fee. The community source concept articulated by Sun falls short of open sourcing, which has been popularized by the Linux community. Open source allows any individual to both access the software and amend it, whether for development or commercial use.

"We already offer it with our microprocessors, Solaris, Java, Jini and our HPC (high-performance computing) software," Joy said here at the Asia-Pacific IT Summit in an interview with IDG News Service. "Our intention is to try to do it with everything." The only limit to community sourcing Sun's software portfolio will occur where the software in question includes technology licensed from third-party vendors, Joy added.

Sun is unlikely to go all the way towards open sourcing all its software, although the company will opt for the open-source route sometimes, Joy said.

On Tuesday at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas, Jeff Bernard, Sun's director of marketing for Solaris Software, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, said that Sun is eventually likely to make its Unix operating system an open-source product.

Market Impact

Many of the comments from our previous analysis of Sun's decision to "community source licensing" (CSL) Solaris still apply. (See TEC News Analysis: "Sun to Make Solaris Source Code Available", October 6th, 1999) Although Sun is stopping short of true "open source" licensing, this announcement is yet another shot at the Linux community and the other UNIX providers. However, there are indications that Sun may move beyond CSL into the realm of open source, but we do not expect this within the next 12 months.

As before, we expect this will lead to future market growth for Sun, as mind share builds market share and applications get developed. We believe the growth potential from this announcement will exceed that expected from the Solaris announcement, by virtue of sheer number of software applications being "released" for licensing. Because of development time required, we do not expect to see results of this until the second half of 2000.

User Recommendations

Although this announcement is more geared toward developers and customers with an insatiable need for source code, end-users can expect to see direct benefits from this announcement - eventually. The indirect benefit to end-users will come from the anticipation of more Solaris applications becoming available in the next 24 months. Direct benefits to end-users will not come until the hoped-for Solaris-based applications arrive.

PC-focused clients will find little, if any, benefit from this announcement.

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