Sun demurs from adopting GPL v3 for OpenSolaris, keeps CDDL only

Summary:I know that developers and architects and operators and CIOs would rather not deal with fine print on code intellectual property issues ad nauseam, but this is just too impactful for the contemporary and future use of software not to be studied and tracked very carefully. So follow Simon's lead and put GPL v3 on your radar of interest and keep it there. End users, after all, have the most to gain from standardized and accepted approaches to open source software development and use -- especially in mixed environments with commercial code.

I wonder what that was all about. I mean the last dozen months of Sun Microsystems seemingly interested in and participating in the definitions of GPL v3, only to come out now that GPL v3 is defined to say they will stick to CDDL for OpenSolaris and (for now) GPL v2 for Java EE.

Should we surmise that Sun did not get what it wanted, or surmise that Sun did get what it wanted? If GPL v2 -- after a long haul of end-runs, badmouthing, FUD, and backtracking -- finally became good enough for Java EE (in addition to CDDL), what is different about v3? Why is any GPL good enough for Java but not OpenSolaris? Shouldn't OpenSolaris compare on equal footing to Linux in licensing, if it is the better overall choice as Sun maintains? The market clearly likes fewer licenses.

Lot's of questions.

[Addendum: A wait-and-see approach seems common.]

But the essential result is that many more people will be trying to figure what GPL v3 means for a long time. If Sun doesn't know right away, who does?

With Sun equivocating, rather than whole-heartedly embracing, GPL v3 (though they love the process and Sharing), it's hard to conclude otherwise: GPL v3 has just made open source software more complicated, more time consuming to evaluate, probably with unknown myriad risks, and which will require a lot more deep review. Could it have been avoided? Probably not.

This could be a long vetting season. GPL v3 could force a lot of people's hands -- we just don;t know who and how. They probably don't know either. And we also still don't know how Microsoft will react, given the impacts on the deals (or pending deals) with the likes of Novell, Xandros and Linspire. And we don't know fully how Red Hat will view this either. IBM? Apple?

On the other hand, there may be highly positive long-term effects that protect users, build bridges to the Apache community, close patent infringement loopholes (you know what I mean), and that bring more low-risk open source use to more organizations (and spur them on as contributors) in a mission critical sense. Sun should be for that, no? But here's where they are at ...

I received this email from the Sun Analyst Relations Team on Friday:

Hello, all:

With today’s announcement that the Free Software Foundation has released GNU General Public License version 3, we wanted to keep you updated about Sun’s involvement and Sun’s strategy for freeing its software into open source communities.

As you may know, Sun has been participating in the discussions about GPL v3 for the past 18 months, and the results of this open process are impressive. Now that the GPLv3 license is in its final form, Sun is reviewing it and giving it the careful consideration it deserves.

Sun believes the GPLv3 revisions represent important steps in the evolution of the Free software movement. In particular, it clarifies language that was unclear in GPLv2 and addresses many issues that did not exist when GPLv2 was written more than 15 years ago, and thus provides a firmer basis for certainty in the interpretation of the license.

Sun's licensing strategy

Sun’s strategy for choosing one license or another is tied to our strategy for each given technology. We don't have a “favorite license.” We have a strategy to Free all our software into open source communities and we have strategies for each technology that lead us to choose certain licenses on a case-by-case basis.

When we announced that we were releasing Java under the GPLv2 license, we were asked whether we would *change* OpenSolaris' license to GPL. It's important to be clear: while there's plenty of community discussion on the topic, there has been no change in the licensing of OpenSolaris. We maintain that the world needs more than one type of Free software license and we believe CDDL is the most polished and complete version of the Mozilla family of licenses, which is one reason we kept CDDL for Java EE and added GPLv2, as well.

We regard the GPLv3 as a great achievement by the FSF in particular and by the greater open source community of Free software communities. The discussions were long, professional and detailed. The process was inclusive and respectful while retaining the ability to drive forward through clear leadership. The result is a strong and market-changing document.

"Hearty congratulations to Richard Stallman, Eben Moglen and all of the many, many participants in the process. The unity displayed is an example that we hope will be embraced, repeated and improved upon to yield an even more vibrant community of open source communities working on Free software with mutual understanding, respect and unity of purpose," said Simon Phipps, Chief Open Source Officer, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

For more commentary about GPLv3, please visit Sun Chief Open Source Officer Simon Phipps' blog at: http://blogs.sun.com/webmink/entry/welcome_to_gplv3

In Simon's blog post he adds more insight:

So the question I'm expecting to be faced with repeatedly over the next few weeks is, "will Sun use the GPLv3?" I think it's likely we will use it, yes, but I'm not clear yet for which code and when. We'll be carefully analysing the balance of benefits and risks in the released version of the GPLv3 and I'm not expecting to be in a position to bring a recommendation to our executive team for several weeks. I'm keen for us to take a leading position, though, even if some are sceptical of our motives.

I know that developers and architects and operators and CIOs would rather not deal with fine print on code intellectual property issues ad nauseam, but this is just too impactful for the contemporary and future use of software not to be studied and tracked very carefully. So follow Simon's lead and put GPL v3 on your radar of interest and keep it there. End users, after all, have the most to gain from standardized and accepted approaches to open source software development and use -- especially in mixed environments with commercial code.

As The Clash says, "Know your rights!"

Good music to post by, incidentally.

Topics: Software, Open Source, Oracle

About

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, an enterprise IT analysis, market research, and consulting firm. Gardner, a leading identifier of software and cloud productivity trends and new IT business growth opportunities, honed his skills and refined his insights as an industry analyst, pundit, and news edito... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.