Open is as open does, Sun

Sun's president and COO wants IBM to be more open. An excellent idea, but why stop there?

Jonathan Schwartz is sad again, and in the modern way he's blogging his misery for the world to see. He's sad that IBM hasn't said it will port its big gun applications to his new Solaris 10 operating system -- but he's not sad for himself, you understand. It's his customers who are hurting. They want it. Sun wants it. Only IBM doesn't want it, and Jonathan is standing by 'ready to help you tear down that wall'.

He has a point. IBM is big on open systems, provided they're open systems that IBM has blessed. Sun would love to be able to sell its hardware with IBM software on top: that's what open means. Open doesn't seem to mean IBM selling its PowerPC hardware with Solaris on top; presumably the customers don't want that.

It is neither constructive nor heartening to try and work out which of Sun and IBM is more 'open'. Sun has the historical high ground, such as incubating TCP/IP while IBM was sternly behind Token Ring, but IBM's late conversion to the cause has been of seismic importance. As for the dark side of history, both companies have plenty of that. It's good that Sun has rediscovered the joys of the x86 architecture, now that AMD is producing superior Opteron bang per buck, but it doesn't take much of a memory to recall how previous x86 Solaris efforts were supported half-heartedly at best

Schwartz' warning that IBM is trying to lock everyone into its Power5 architecture sits oddly with IBM's Linux support for every major chip family. Well not every major chip family -- SPARC seems to be missing. And let's not forget Sun's new best friend: if one wants to raise a disapproving finger at lock-ins, walls and 'vendors that fear choice', then Redmond is closer than Armonk to Santa Clara. Where's the call for Microsoft Office for Solaris, Mr Schwartz?

You may conclude, perhaps without too much cognitive dissonance, that Schwartz' bloggish misery might have a small element of posturing. If IBM and Sun are really both as keen on co-operation and the joys of openness as they claim, then they can start by sorting out a common, cohesive and enduring commitment to pure, free Java. Then we'll take them seriously next time one takes a pop at the other.

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