In this week's Monkcast -- a joint production between ZDNet and the research outfit Redmonk -- Redmonk co-founder James Governor is on vacation and filling in for him is the other co-founder (and open source guru) Steve O'Grady. Show-regular Michael Cote (also of Redmonk fame) joins as well. Given the treat of O'Grady's presence, a lot of this week's discussion touched on the open source angle to a variety of news items.
The first of these had to do with news that IBM's server group has expanded it's licensing deal to include Sun's Solaris 10 as an OS-option for all of Big Blue's x86-based servers. Prior to this design win for Sun, the Solaris option was only available on IBM's blade servers and before that, the hardware group toed the company party-line by supporting Windows Server and Linux only. During the interview, O'Grady talked about how IBM's software group still stands by it's Linux/Windows stance and how, even though the various divisions have enough autonomy to make such decisions (Cote referred to IBM as a massive holdings company), the hardware group's expanded interest in Solaris was no doubt accompanied by some angst that was reconciled in Blue's executive levels.
Perhaps more interesting than the political ramifications are Blue's market motivations. For years the company eschewed Solaris and it's unlikely that the server group would seek such an expanded role for Sun's version of Unix unless the market was demanding it. I ask O'Grady to decode the Solaris mystique and why it continues to fare so well against Linux, especially where other version of Unix have succumbed to the battle. Solaris does have it's strongholds in certain industries. But O'Grady talked about Solaris utilities like DTRACE and ZFS that give the OS an edge with certain clientele. Yes, they're open sourced, but not all open source licenses are created equal. In English, that means that DTRACE and ZFS are not candidates for usage in Linux given that they're licensed under one open source license (the CDDL) and Linux is under another (the GPL) that's incompatible. Such is the open source world.
Such open source license incompatibilities were also the subtext to our discussion of Sun's move to make its Java compatibility test kit available under the GPL. The long-awaited move was welcomed by pretty much everyone except the Apache Foundation. O'Grady gives a mini lecture on the Apache Foundation's and GPL-backing Free Software Foundation's very different ideas of freedom are when it comes to software.
We touched a bit on Google's move to distribute Sun's StarOffice (essentially, the commercial version of OpenOffice.org) . O'Grady said not to read to far into the tea leaves and that some breathtaking integration of StarOffice and Google Apps (particularly the spreadsheet, word processing and presentations parts) is probably not in the cards. I think we'll just have to wait an see. Google and Sun's partnership is still something of an enigma to me. But they're clearly aligned and talking.
We end up talking about the big week that 800 lb. virtualization gorilla's VMware and XenSource had. VMware had a fantastic IPO starting at $29 and shooting up to $51, only to get another market-sympathetic shot in the arm when Citrix announced it was acquiring XenSource. My take on that (as I twittered earlier this week) is that Citrix has a long history in turning Windows boxes into multiuser machines -- a great technology that has lived it's life out now that any ordinary consumer can build the same thing by remotely accessing a virtual machine using readily available off the shelf software. Keep your friends close. Your enemies closer. That's probably what drove this acquisition more than anything.
Call it bad timing. Not to spoil VMware's party or anything (and you know they had cake this week), a small fly in VMware's ointment turned up when the VentureCake blog pointed out that VMware could be a house of cards if it turns out that the kernel behind its technology is a derivative of the open source Linux. Uh oh. Trouble in paradise, already? Stay tuned.