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Q&A: Sun's John Loiacono on open-source Solaris

It will make the OS available under an open-source model by year's end

By Carol Sliwa
July 9, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO -- Sun Microsystems Inc. will make its Solaris operating system available under an open-source model by the end of the year, according to John Loiacono, the company's executive vice president of software. Although Loiacono said no decision has been made about the open-source licensing model, he discussed the philosophy behind the move during an interview at the company's recent JavaOne conference here. Excerpts follow:
Why is Sun going to make Solaris available under an open-source model? If you talk to CIOs about something like Solaris, you know what they say to me? "Why would you do that? It makes no sense to me." They say, "I want mission-critical, reliable, redundant, available, secure. That's what Solaris brings to me. I want that to continue. Open-source means very little to me."
Conversely, you go talk to the developers in that corporation, and they say, "Oh, this would be great. I can write drivers. I can do innovation. ... I'm a university kid who can't afford to buy stuff. I want to put it on the PC in my dorm room. I can download it and have a quality product vs. something that's got a lot less features and functionality."
So there's a sense of creating the community. This is about how I get more people actually developing software on the platform, because at the end of the day, it's all about applications. It's not about the OS itself. People like Windows because there's a lot of applications running on it. People are liking Mac more because there's a lot of applications on it. They like Linux because there's a growing number of applications on it.
The reason we're doing this on the whole is because we're trying to create relevance in the fact that there's more people finding Solaris and being more able to use and modify and actually develop on top of Solaris. And that isn't just about the [people] that we sell to. It's about creating the community of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people who actually want to then go innovate on top of the code we give them access to.

Will moving to open-source allow Sun to decrease its Solaris development staff? There's not going to be a huge decrease. ... The CIOs say, "My biggest worry about open-source is all the problems that things like Linux give me. ... What I want is your QA tests and all the rigidity you put behind a Solaris release." And my point to them is, absolutely. What we'll do tomorrow

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