Seeding the planet with OpenSparc

Summary:Speaking at the Open Source Business Conference, Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz reprised his FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) and ‘free leads to volume’ themes and announced that the Sparc processor will be open sourced under the GPL license. “The most popular products in world will be free—whether they are open source is more of sideshow,” Schwartz said.

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Speaking at the Open Source Business Conference, Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz reprised his FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) and ‘free leads to volume’ themes and announced that the Sparc processor will be open sourced under the GPL license.

“The most popular products in world will be free—whether they are open source is more of sideshow,” Schwartz said. He cited services like Google as example of free, and contended that individuals, not just CIOs or technologists, are making the decision about what products and services to use. “Our open, collective future is at the bottom of the pyramid--individuals, communities and startups--not with a small number of technologists and CIOs,” he said.

In other words, if CIOs aren’t bellying up to Sun’s bar in sufficient numbers now, they will soon want to because, according to Schwartz, Sun can provide infrastructure that does the most cost efficient job of managing the trillions of bits moving across the network generated by the growing mass of online users.  Now Schwartz just has to convince more of those gatekeepers with the big checkbooks. Does open sourcing everything in Sun's IP quiver help that cause? Only if Sun can become the preferred provider of Internet infrastructure for the expanding world of free software originating in Sun's labs, which at this point is still a big "if." But it's the right move...

In presenting the news about open sourcing the Sparc specification, Schwartz challenged Intel to open source its Xeon processor and called OpenSparc the "first truly open source hardware in the marketplace." Take that IBM and Intel. He also claimed that the Niagra UltraSparc TI is 7 to 8 times faster than Xeon on search benchmarks and consumes half the power. "We would love to have a hundreds of thousand of fabs all over the world making Sparc. Our  business is creating the intellectual property to enable innovation," Schwartz said.  Even Free Software Foundation, GPL guru Richard Stallman endorsed the move, with Schwartz quipping that he had never been to hell but he thinks it just froze over. "We have a love hate relationship with the GPL. NetBeans and LookingGlass are GPL, but the community has a hard time with the CDDL license used in OpenSolaris. But we didn't own all the IP in Solaris, so we couldn't use the GPL," Schwartz said.

Stephen Shankland reports on the OpenSparc announcement:

The company is trying to attract the other operating systems in an attempt to broaden the appeal of its servers--in particular its new UltraSparc T1 "Niagara"-based servers--and open a new competitive attack against IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which already support Linux on their higher-end servers.

"Having Linux or BSD ports for the UltraSparc T1 processor will greatly expand the Sparc market," Schwartz said in a statement.

However, several analysts say that building an ecosystem of software for Sparc-Linux machines will be very difficult.

Linux already runs on many Sparc systems, though it's a commercial rarity. David Miller, who runs the independent Sparc Linux project, is working to bring the open-source OS to UltraSparc T1, Sun said.

Meanwhile, Red Hat, Miller's employer and the top Linux seller, said earlier in February it has no plans to extend support to Sparc systems.

Topics: Open Source

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