Sun hires Debian Linux founder

Ian Murdock, founder of Debian and several other Linux initiatives, now will work with Solaris and Linux.
Written by Stephen Shankland, Contributor
Sun Microsystems has hired Ian Murdock, who founded the Debian version of Linux and who has held various posts involving the open-source operating system.

At Sun, Murdock now holds the title of chief operating platforms officer. On his blog, he said he'll work both with Linux and Sun's competing, newly open-source Solaris.

"I'm not saying much about what I'll be doing yet, but you can probably guess from my background and earlier writings that I'll be advocating that Solaris needs to close the usability gap with Linux to be competitive," he said on his blog. But it won't be just about Solaris at Sun: "Even with Solaris front and center, I'm pretty strongly of the opinion that Linux needs to play a clearer role in the platform strategy."

Murdock's most recent job was chief technology officer of the Linux Foundation and chairman of that group's Linux Standard Base effort; Murdock will continue with the latter role.

Sun has had a mixed approach toward Linux. Initially disparaging, Chairman and then-Chief Executive Scott McNealy donned a penguin mascot outfit in an about-face to show support. But the company afterward resurrected a nearly exterminated version of Solaris for x86 servers, where Linux is most popular, and McNealy predicted in 2005 that Solaris and Windows would be the "two clear survivors" in the operating system market.

Under current Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz, the company takes an in-between approach. It supports both operating systems, touting the fact that Linux runs on its UltraSparc T1 "Niagara"-based servers, but boasts of Solaris' legal protections and technology. The head of Solaris marketing, Tom Goguen, in February announced his plans to leave Sun.

Murdock was involved in Linux long before that, though. He founded one of the earlier versions of Linux, Debian. He tried to commercialize Debian with a start-up called Progeny that never gained much traction; in 2005 he helped found the DCC Alliance, an attempt to provide common software underpinnings for various Debian-based versions. However, arguably the most successful Debian derivative, Canonical's Ubuntu, isn't a member, and one DCCA partner, Linspire, has moved its foundation to Ubuntu.

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