Open Sourcing Solaris: GPL? BSD? A Good Decision?





Sun Microsystems Inc. may be selling servers running Linux, but that doesn’t mean it is cutting back on the evolution of Solaris. Among its plans, the company is considering offering a free, open source version of its flagship operating system, said Jonathan Schwartz, the company’s recently appointed president and chief operating officer.

“Maybe we’ll GPL it,” Schwartz said of Solaris, referring to the GNU General Public License under which the Linux operating system is distributed. “We’re still looking at that.”

Those are not words to be thrown around lightly.  Of course it would be more logical for Solaris to bre released under a BSD-like operating system, as it was derived from BSD code.  It is encouraging to see Sun thinking about such things.

Solaris no longer has the clout that it used to.  People use it, sure, but many have migrated away from Solaris on Sparc hardware to a flavour of Linux on x86.  I’m sure that an open-source version of Solaris would give it a lot of publicity.  It may need such publicity in order to survive.

Solaris 9 (and a preview version of 10) can be downloaded for free, but a per-seat commercial license does apply.

Here’s another interesting tidbit:

Sun will likely move “very quickly” to a free licensing model where Solaris revenue would come from a paid subscription, Schwartz said. He wasn’t specific about when this might occur or what the pricing of such a model might be, other than to say it would be “less than Red Hat.”

“Less than Red Hat” still leaves a good bit of room to be overpriced though.  Once again, I’m really stoked that Sun is thinking about such things, given how anti-open source they’ve been about Java.  Keep up the intelligent decisions, Sun!