Alan Hargreaves' Blog

The ramblings of a former Australian SaND TSC* Principal Field Technologist

More on “Vapourware”

This is not going to be as short as I would have hoped, but we’ll see how we go.

First off, I do thank Renai LeMay from ZDNet Australia for what I read as a good article reporting what was going on and not an opinion piece. As such I think the neutral stance was more than appropriate.

The only correction that I would make is a relatively minor one. That is, that I’m not a Kernel Developer. I am doing work with these folks to get opensolaris out the door, so I guess in that sense I could be mistaken for such. My main job is customer focussed, but at a kernel source code level.

Now shortly after this article was releasedit hit slashdot

This prompted a lot of comments there, against the ZDNet AU article and my blog.

I think that 19 comments is the most I’ve had on any entry.

More than a few pointed out the perception that until the source code is out there that it is difficult to see it as other than vapourware. Quite honestly, I can see that point of view and I would like nothing better than for us to be in the position to say, “OK folks, here it is. Go for it”. I hope that when we do release it folks will see the amount of work that has gone into making it available.

A few also suggested that we should be releasing it piecemeal. For example, as code gets reviewed and “passed”, it goes up. This was discussed amongs the pilot members during January and the decision was taken that this would actually delay the release. There were strong arguments in both camps on this issue.

I would agree with the comments about pure hype, except that we have people building and using the code tree outside of Sun. Many of these have also spoken about their experiences building and running it, along with posting screenshots. The latest that I’ve seen here are from Dennis Clarke of Blastwave.

Another questioned how many developers we expect. Well we have in excess of 120 external folks on the pilot. Already we have a number of them talking about distributions based on opensolaris and we have a PPC port underway. I think we’re off to a reasonable start.

I must take exception to the commenters that believe that Once opensolaris is out there that Sun will immediately start the lawsuits. Check out our history, Sun has no history whatsoever as a patent terrorist. This argument is pure FUD.

Shipping Solaris under licence to a commercial partner is a completely different beast to open sourcing it. Many companies license their code in such a way that it is easy to do one and not the other. This is one of the areas where a lot of work has been going on.

One anonymous poster to my blog was saying that we should not be trying to beat Red Hat. Reality check people. Red Hat and Sun are competitors. Competitors compete. I’m sure if you had a look through some of what Red Hat is saying about us it would be in the same vein.

Now to comments on the ZDNet AU article.

The first two are from me, I probably don’t need to say anything about those (short of the fact that I managed to submit one of them before I had finished writing it ;-).

The majority of these comments are along the lines of “Put up or shut-up”, that is, “show use the code or shut-up”. I know it’s sounding like a worn our record (you remember those vinyl things from a previous era), but it really is coming. I think if we miss the deadline that we have set ourselves now, we deserve a roasting.

One poster appears to have Containers (zones) confused with something else (ZFS perhaps?), as they were implying that we hyped it before it was present. Containers were present when Solaris 10 FCS’d. ZFS and Janus? Fair comment. I can only say that we want these right before they go onto production enterprise hardware. In my (20) years as an SA, I know I would be less than happy if I changed my filesystems over to a new filesystem, only to find that a bug-fix changed the on-disc format and I had to take out a major production fox for an extended outage while I fixed it.

I also believe that ZFS is currently in a public beta.


I’m going to miss a lot in here as even at Threshold 0, there are comments that I don’t see and also as of writing this, there are 258 comments. I’ve also already addressed a lot of what I saw on slashdot in the preceding text.

Some of the early comments were quite good. I like the ones about vapourware and clothing, particularly the undergarments one.

I do see a lot of speculation on what we are doing, for example one poster believes that we have to rewrite large sectoins of code becuase it contains Veritas code. Nope.

One poster pointed out that we would not be going for a “it barely works” first release. This is spot on. Quality is one of the main concerns for any Solaris. One of the things that anyone putting back code to Solaris lives by is “FCS Quality All the Time”.

A few folks asked why Fintan and I bothered to respond to an obvious troll. The main reason that we both responded to this is that we both felt incredibly insulted by the assertions. That writeup that I did only took me about 10-15 minutes. I’ve spent much more time on this one already. In fact this one took me a little over an hour (of my own time after my workday finished for those who are interested).

> There are a lot of us out there who both do and do not work for Sun

Wow! Quantum programmers!


A few other folks tried to get pedantic on the above italised statement by taking it out of the context in which is was written. Please note the phrase “a lot of us” which is referring to the previous sentence – “opensolaris certainly exists, you only have to speak to anyone involved in getting it out there.”

Some others are saying that Renai whould have used the word “claim” rather than “refute” as we were only claiming, not showing. Why do I need to show when we have folks already posting screenshots and build logs of open solaris? Folks who don’t work for Sun. Surely it would be difficult to do this with a product that does not and will not exist?

People also complained about how Jim Grisanzio set the tone by “attacking every critical statement about Sun’s OpenSolaris release like a brain-dead pitbull with rabies (appologies to all pitbulls)”. I for one have only seen Jim getting this critical on people who are posting obvious rubbish with an obviously anti-Sun agenda. The flamewars started well before this. I believe that there are a lot of folks out there who are scared silly by the concept of an open source Solaris (note that I am stating a personal belief here, there is no way that I would try to claim this as a given fact or anyone else’s belief for that matter, I’m not that arrogant).

I will mention that there was one Anonymous post (who I am all but certain that I know who it is) who points out that I was not a kernel developer when he worked at my office. He points out that when he left he was a tier 4 CPRE engineer and that I was tier 3. Well actually, at the time that he left we both worked for the same group (which was a merger of tier 3 and 4) for the same manager. Since that person left I have actually gone on to work with kernel sustaining and workign with engineering to get fixes into the code base, and I don’t just mean backporting to the non-develoment versions either. He also claims that any kernel development work that I do is in my own time and I should be doing customer work. Things have changed in the two years since you left and process has changed considerably. As this person posted anonymously I will respect their privacy and not name them.

Well, that’s considerably more than I intended to write, but for what it’s worth, there it is.

I’d like to think that when I comment on this (and pretty much any topic), that I come across as well considered rather than rabid. You get a lot more accomplished through calm conversation than flame fests.

Update – May 10

As Dan Price points out in the comments to this entry, , ZFS is actually in a private Beta.

Also in the comments, Carl Trusiak provides links to information about builds done by Bill Bradford, Jรถrg Schilling and Ben Rockwood. I would have put these in but I was a little pushed for time when writing as I wanted to get home.

Chris Rijk also made some good points on the usage of the word “Vapourware”.

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Written by Alan

May 9, 2005 at 1:07 am

8 Responses

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  1. It’s rather sad how the term “vapourware” is being thrown around now. It almost seems synonymous with “not released” in some cases. As far as I remember, the original meaning was refering to announcements of software or features “coming soon” before they were actually implemented – basically lying about availability to get a market advantage.
    From that point of view, “OpenSolaris is not vapourware because it’s already in beta” is perhaps the best response.
    Unfortunately, the “half-life” of terminology in the IT world is rather short (the meaning decays quickly)

    Chris Rijk

    May 9, 2005 at 2:26 am

  2. A very good point.
    That does look like a reasonable response and there are a few people using variatons of.

    Alan Hargreaves

    May 9, 2005 at 2:38 am

  3. A minor correction: ZFS is in what I can best term as a “private” beta (I’ve worked with the ZFS team to design the Beta). This is because:

    We want to get the best possible quality of feedback, and focusing on a few active customers will help us do that.
    We don’t have the human or monetary resources to support the thousands of people who might want to pull it down.
    We don’t want the Beta *itself* to be a marketing exercise, but rather a way of ensuring the best possible product. We feel like we’re pretty good at doing that.

    Dan Price

    May 9, 2005 at 4:16 am

  4. Don’t forget announced builds by Bill Bradford, Jorg Schilling and Ben Rockwood and these are just the ones I’ve seen announced.

    Carl Trusiak

    May 9, 2005 at 5:43 am

  5. As far as worrying about the slashdot crowd, forget ’em. They are clearly worried about the myth that Linux is not open source will be exposed. The upcoming distros with the OpenSolrais kernel is a BIG threat to the Linux kernel.

    What worry’s me more is why Sun doesn’t have any deskside or desktop servers with Solaris 10 pre-loaded for sale. A Sun AMD-64 mini would be nice. Make a cool developer machine as well.


    May 9, 2005 at 8:33 am

  6. Re: Redhat Comments
    I fully understand that Sun and Redhat are in competition but the sniping and rock throwing just makes Sun look bad. Beat Redhat with good products and solutions, not on the name calling.
    Consider the Australian Motor Industry as a good example. Sure, the fans tear each other to shreds but you never hear the CEO of Ford stabbing the CEO of Holden in the back publicly. This is professional competition.
    Moving Solaris 10 towards the “pay for support” model is exactly what was required to quell the “Linux Is Free” shouting from the back of the room.

    Aaron Browne

    May 10, 2005 at 4:17 am

  7. You mention ZFS. Is ZFS going to be under an OSI-approved license? Does Sun claim patents on it? Will we be able to port it to Linux?


    May 12, 2005 at 11:53 am

  8. Post the url for ZFS
    Post the url for Janus
    or spell it out “Pre Announced” long before you could deliver ,good to start talking about what you aim for, but not good if your by intend talk as if “its there use it”…….
    We all learn lessons some are cheap but valuable; some are expensive and avoidableโ€ฆ
    I intent to present to world on a spot of a contact lenses one day….but to say its already there in version 0 …will be stretching the truth even through the view of the hubble telescope


    May 12, 2005 at 2:09 pm

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