Sun hits back at Torvalds in open-source row

Source code to Solaris causes scathing row

Software colossus Sun Microsystems has hit back at the founding fathers of open-source for criticising its decision to release some of the source code to Solaris, its version of Unix.

Linus Torvalds, creator of open-source operating system Linux, clobbered both Sun and Microsoft at Internet World '99 Thursday for indicating they may open up the source code for some of their software. Torvalds suggested that this had more to do with making money than improving software development.

Torvald's was particularly scathing in his attack on Sun, focusing his wrath on the wording of its prospective community licensing agreement. Within this, Sun retains much of the propriety rights over the prospective "community-source" version of Solaris.

Open source advocate Eric Raymond has also spoken out against Sun. "Sun has tried this scam before with Java and Jini and we're not going to buy it. They are trying to use us as free labour without making us a partner." After receiving this concerted battering from one of the grandfathers of open source, Sun has decided it can take no more.

New technologies manager at Sun, Andy Bush says, "The licensing scheme is not an effort to get the open source community to work for us for free. It is an attempt to get input from as many people as possible and make the best software. We have the best people in the world at our labs, but we don't have all of the best people and we don't have all the best ideas in the world."

Bush also defends Sun's decision to issue the source code for Solaris under a "community source" model rather than issuing it totally freely. "We will make it as open as possible," says Bush. "Solaris has taken 20 years of development and if we opened it completely it would fragment and become unstable."

The only reason Red Hat has been so successful as a business, reckons Bush, is because of the fortuitous timing of the Linux operating system. He adds, "Linux was basically the right operating system at the right time, people were getting fed up with Windows."

This is not a view Red Hat agrees with, as vice president and general manager for European operations, Colin Tenwick, points out: "Open source is more than a way of life, its about making information free" he says. "What Sun is doing is trying to wean itself off a closed model, and they can't quite do it. Most people see it for what it is."

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