Sun sheds light on its open-source future

Sun sheds light on its open-source future

Summary: Simon Phipps, Sun UK's chief open-source officer, surveys the open-source landscape and reaffirms his company's commitment to open-software development

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…open source allows for the adoption of software, based upon its own merits, which can then be refined through rapid iteration as a result of exposure to the open-source community.

However, there comes a point in this adoption model where the chief information officer wants to offload the cost of his adoption team and either hires a DBA or a systems administrator, or actually buys a support subscription from a vendor. So it's not about getting a free product; it's about being able to choose which technology to invest in and how it is managed.

Now that you are so focused on open source, what do you think has allowed Linux implementations such as Suse and Red Hat to be so successful?
What these companies have done is to mould Linux into something which fits the procurement-driven market, and they have been very successful at it. What I have more time for is Ubuntu, which has very much embraced the adoption-led approach and is experiencing vast adoption but from a slow-burn growth perspective.

What would you say to non-technical business managers trying to evaluate the option to take the development of their company's technology stack towards an open-source model?
For business people, it's a fairly easy question of whether or not they want to be subject to "lock-in" by the technology vendors they form contracts with. Many will not see this as an issue and will be happy to stay with one vendor, but there are plenty that will want to get involved and will care about whether the architectural technology choices they make now will provide them with the freedom and independence they need in the future. I would argue that the managers that do care about this kind of thing are more likely to be the ones that use technology to forward their competitive advantage.

What are your views on Microsoft at the moment, as the company attempts to gain credibility for itself in the open-source space?
Well, I think it's a little early to be crying about things as yet. After all, Windows is built on open-source software. If you search through the binary of Windows for the phrase "Regents of Berkley University", you'll find that loads of their code is open source that they got from the BSD licence.

But, as a company, they clearly realise that the open source "brand" is popular and they don't want to miss out on being a potential "check-box" on a customer's prospect list. I believe, over time, it will grow for them, as I've seen more Microsoft people at open-source events than any other company.

Critics of open source have said that its early inceptions among the hobbyist communities make it an inherently risky long-term professional bet. What would you say to companies wary of moving their IT infrastructures to this kind of domain?
Remember: open source is not about "having" the source code; it's about having the freedom to do things with the source code. You can't isolate the philanthropic element out of open source; in fact, it couldn't have existed without it. The American software freedom activist Richard Stallman has been quoted many times on the subject of free software. He has always insisted that he's perfectly relaxed about people making money out of software, just as long as people don't lose their freedoms as a result.

Given that you said open source is the way forward, where do you see the technology developing in the longer term?
The scope is wide for sure. We're working our way through our infrastructure to make sure it is all opened up, from storage systems to our GlassFish application server project, right the way through to microprocessor design with open-source Verilog tools.

The meta-trend if you like, is that we continue to move towards a more loosely coupled world of technology, where costs can be more easily controlled and open source forms the bedrock of the new frameworks we build and interact with on a daily basis. What we want to do now is make sure that we're "bootstrapping" the governance that oversees the way we operate in this space, and this is really just the first stage. After this point, it's just one step at a time.

Topics: Apps, Software Development

Adrian Bridgwater

About Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater a freelance journalist specialising in cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects of software engineering and project management.

Adrian is a regular blogger with ZDNet.co.uk covering the application development landscape and the movers, shakers and start-ups that make the industry the vibrant place that it is.

His journalistic creed is to bring forward-thinking, impartial, technology editorial to a professional (and hobbyist) software audience around the world. His mission is to objectively inform, educate and challenge - and through this champion better coding capabilities and ultimately better software engineering.

Adrian has worked as a freelance technology journalist and public relations consultant for over fifteen years. His work has been published in various international publications including the Wall Street Journal, CNET.com, The Register, ComputerWeekly.com, BBC World Service magazines, Web Designer magazine, Silicon.com, the UAE’s Khaleej Times & ITP.net and SYS-CON’s Web Developer’s Journal. He has worked as technology editor for international travel & retail magazines and also produced annual technology industry review features for UK-based publishers ISC. Additionally, he has worked as a telecoms industry analyst for Business Monitor International.

In previous commercially focused roles, Adrian directed publicity work for clients including IBM, Microsoft, Compaq, Intel, Motorola, Computer Associates, Ascom, Infonet and RIM. Adrian has also conducted media training and consultancy programmes for companies including Sony-Ericsson, IBM, RIM and Kingston Technology.

He is also a published travel writer and has lived and worked abroad for 10 years in Tanzania, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Italy and the United States.

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