Sunday, January 02, 2005

Lifecycle thoughts

In The Care and Feeding of FOSS, Craig James discusses the Lifecycle of Software technology.

It's an interesting read, and has lots to agree and disagree with.

It also talks about Sun and OpenSolaris. For example:

There are, as of this writing, two major holdouts against the dominance of the Gnu Linux FOSS operating system: Sun and Microsoft.

Really? Sun is a major contributor of Open Source software. Including OpenOffice, an open source product that which strikes straight at Microsoft's heart. And Sun is pushing hard to get FOSS into much more widespread use, through it's (appallingly named) Java Desktop System.

Sun's case is interesting. Unlike HP and IBM, Sun has not embraced Linux. Instead, it is taking a, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach by making Solaris itself a FOSS technology. They believe the superiority of Solaris will attract talent and users away from the Linux effort. They predict that this will ultimately build momentum, until Solaris displaces Linux altogether as the primary FOSS operating system.

We might see users attracted from Linux, but don't forget that Solaris already has a strong community of its own. And some of us get very upset to be told that such a community isn't already present.

This author predicts that the opposite will happen: Solaris has many excellent technological advantages over Linux, ...

Dead right. And Linux has advantages over Solaris. Each has different focus areas. I use Solaris because it does a better job - for me - of solving my problems.

...but rather than attracting developers to the unfamiliar Solaris OS, those developers will incorporate the Solaris technology into Linux. The end result will be a hybrid, a marriage of the best of Linux and Solaris, but it will be called Linux, not Solaris. Linux simply has too much momentum to be derailed by the upstart (to the FOSS community) Solaris.

I don't think so. Some of the technology can be easily ported - in the same way that Solaris contains an awful lot of free software already, but other key technologies are based on architectural principles and are going to be a lot harder to transfer to any alternative OS. Dtrace, for example, is based on the fundamental belief that the OS should allow thorough debugging and diagnostic capability, and is intrinsically reliant on a kernel architecture based on that philosophy. Linux could, if wished, dramatically enhance its capabilities in these areas, which are significantly lacking, but it doesn't seem to be a high priority.

Maybe somebody will come up with a Gnu/Solaris distribution. It shouldn' t be that hard, especially with OpenSolaris.

I don't actually see the release of Solaris as Open Source as having that much of an impact on the Linux kernel. After all, Linus has said that he's not going to bother taking a look. And the codebases are likely to be sufficiently different that you can't simply copy the code. Taking the fundamental design principles of Solaris and using them to enhance Linux would benefit Linux, but you don't really need the source to do that - you just need to understand what those fundamental principles are.

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