Alan Hargreaves' Blog

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

Martin’s at it again

As many are aware, Martin Fink did some posturing at the recent LinuxWorld and made the following Challenge:

“…I also want to ask Scott McNealy and Jonathan Schwartz to deprecate the CDDL and run under the GPL.”

Now what you have to remember here is that Martin is certainly nobody’s fool. He would know exactly why we cannot release Sun under the GPL. It’s been explained many times.

A major part of Martin’s job is to market for HP. If he believes that he can do that by muddying the waters with regard to his his competitors, of course he is going to do it.

What we distribute as Solaris is not totally owned by Sun. There is IP in there that is owned by other entities. As Al Hopper commented today on the yahoo solarisx86 list:

Over time (in the long term), the parts of OpenSolaris which are delivered
as closed binaries right now, will dwindle down to zero. These are
currently restricted because of several possible reasons:

a) there is still work to be done to reach agreement with the copyright
owners, or the copyright holders may be difficult to ascertain etc. Or
there are other, open (legal) issues still to be resolved.

b) the copyright holders have said “No”. In some cases they are Sun
compeditors and will continue to say No, until hell freezes over, so as to
“help” the OpenSolaris project as much as possible.

c) something else entirely different.

In the case of b) or c) the solution will be to re-write the required
functionality from scratch and thus make open source available. There is
still the possibility of a “clean room” type reverse engineering effort ..
which is another way that a completely compatible open source version of a
piece of code could be created or the last few “bugs”/incompatibilities

This is pretty easy to understand.

Now the reason that we can’t use the GPL is that if we did, we could not distribute an Operating system with this code. Let me make that plainer. We allow code owners than ourselves to link against the Solaris kernel. As we are not the code owner, we cannot change that license, nor could we then abide by section 2b of the GPL. I wonder why Martin would see us having to removed functionality from Solaris as a good thing? Could it possibly be that HP competes with Sun?

If this is really not an issue, then I look forward to seeing HP release some of their products this way. I’d especially like to see openview and HPUX. I’m sure that there are parts of HPUX that are required to make it functional that HP does not own and could not release, just as we can’t.

What I find interesting is that under CDDL, HP is perfectly entitled to use OpenSolaris code in HPUX and not be forced into the situtuation that I outlined above with regard to code they don’t own. If it had been released as GPL, and they wished to keep HPUX closed, guess what, they couldn’t.

As I stated earlier, whenever you read pretty much anything that Martin says in public, you have to remember that part of his job is to market HP.

I noted the following comment under the ZDnet article that I am quoting here.

Bash it all you want Martin, but I would first ask – what exactly do you dislike about the CDDL? Why do you dislike it so much? I can think of reasons why I dislike …

You can ask all you like, he’s not going to answer as it’s not in HP’s best interest for him to answer. I managed to have him go so far as to commit to “thinking about” responding to similar points that I pulled him up on in December (here, here and here). I’d post a link to where he said this, but he has conveniently removed that comment. Martin, I’m still waiting.

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Written by Alan

August 12, 2005 at 2:11 am

Posted in OpenSolaris

8 Responses

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  1. Alan
    As much as I like what you say as much I dont like what you say…as you are saying Martin is a markekteing machine , but like Sun is doing…
    talking crap…. there is no JAE (aka) Janus ….(immm the 2 face comes in handy here)
    Ok you can say its in our labs ….what do you know is in the planning (lab) stage of HP…….lets see who delevers to customer expectation ….


    August 12, 2005 at 10:18 am

  2. Just have to love people like ‘frans’… hey, I’ve got a great idea, frans, why don’t you go work for HP? They’d love to have someone like you who seems to just point out the negative aspects to put a positive spin on a failing company (and yes, HP is a failing company – their printers have gotten poorer, they no longer make cutting-edge calculators, and their OS is a joke (and I’ve worked with over a dozen different Unices, HP-UX is one of the worst)).
    Get over yourself, frans, you’re not impressing anyone. I, for one, am extremely pleased and impressed with what Sun has done lately, which is more than I can say about HP or have been able to say about them for many years now.

    Kenneth Lareau

    August 14, 2005 at 12:46 am

  3. Frans, you appear to have missed the main thrust of what I wrote.
    As I said, Martin is not stupid, but that request that Sun deprecate CDDL and go GPL is something that he must know that is something that cannot be done, for reasons that he is well aware of.
    With regard to Janus, I’m probably as disappointed as you are that it’s still not out. However, I don’t expect to be disappointed for much longer. I believe that there is a technology review scheduled for well before the end of the year.
    I’m not saying that Martin is a marketing machine. He certainly does have somethings to say that are worthwhile. The point I’m trying to make is that this challeng is a simple grab for headlines and nothing more; and it appears that a lot of people who would normally support what he has to say have caught him out on it.

    Alan Hargreaves

    August 14, 2005 at 4:51 pm

  4. Very nice, Alan. Fink’s comments represent the first real competitive attack since we launched OpenSolaris. I think the value of the CDDL is starting to sink in. — Jim

    Jim Grisanzio

    August 14, 2005 at 9:13 pm

  5. I was hoping for more. When you criticize someone, it’s easy to just focus on motives or some particular sentence. Why not address the real underlying issue ? With new Open Source licences it becomes harder to actually share code which, I hope you’ll agree, is counter-productive.

    Sun probably had an agenda (not sharing too much with “competition”) and some pressure from it’s IP/legal department in drafting a new licence. For all those publicly unadmittable reasons I think it’s fair to ask if there wasn’t some better options (dual-licensing, L-GPL, BSD, MIT,…).


    August 15, 2005 at 4:50 pm

  6. There has been a lot of discussion on Sun’s motives for choosing a new license rather than going for an existing one. A lot of theories were presented (some realistic, some blatantly paranoid).
    There is a discussion of why we went for this license available at
    The license actually does allow for sharing. It is a clause within the GPL that prevents it being one of them.
    Many will (and have) argued that the GPL was there first so the obligation is for licesnses to be copmatible with it. The bottom line is that section 2b of the GPL means that Sun could not possibly use it, and still distribute third party binary code.
    I would have loved nothing more than to have been able to use the GPL for opensolaris. Unfortunately it was not the right license and it’s provisions requiring the whole of a work to then be licensed under it mean that if we said that we would use it, then we would actually be lieing.
    Sun not wanting to share too much with the competition is a great sound bite, but it’s not true.
    Have a read of the link I provided above for explanations of why the other licenses weren’t quite right.

    Alan Hargreaves

    August 15, 2005 at 5:12 pm

  7. You can, if you are the copyright holder of a work, license it under the GPL with a special exception that permits linking with with non-free software without imposing any conditions on that non-free software’s licensing terms. If Sun is the copyright holder of OpenSolaris, that should be easy enough to do.
    The “GPL+exception for linking non-free software” concept been done since ages, literally, in libgcc, and various other libraries.
    dalibor topic

    Dalibor Topic

    August 18, 2005 at 8:39 am

  8. Regarding all of the anti-CDDL comments: Where were your comments when Netscape created the Mozilla license? CDDL is nothing more than a more open, better implementation of MPL. Unless someone can point to criticism of MPL (or the Apache license, or the BSD license, or other open source licenses), you guys have <u>no</u> credibility on this subject. Your attacks on CDDL are just thinly veiled attacks on Sun, as are Martin Fink’s.


    August 21, 2005 at 11:03 pm

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