Sun Announces Open Source Solaris Operating System

Sun Microsystems has released Solaris as open-source software. This is a step to counter the dominance of the rivals Red Hat, IBM and Microsoft.

The move hands over access to the source code for Solaris 10 to all comers–as long as they agree to contribute their improvements back to the Open Solaris community. Sun also offered up free access to 1600 Solaris patents, so participants don’t have to be worried about being sued for infringement. The move doesn’t threaten Sun’s revenue stream since corporate customers typically want commercial versions of operating systems, complete with on-going support.

Sun has been losing business at a rapid rate over the last few years as customers shift to Windows or Linux for the price advantages. It launched a counterattack by pushing server computers that run on cheaper Intel and AMD chips, but it hasn’t really been working the way Sun hoped. Analysts estimate that about 65% of the servers it ships running Intel’s and AMD’s x86 processors are powered by Linux rather than Solaris. Making Solaris open source may help out a little bit, but analysts say one thing that’s holding back Solaris-on-X86 chips is that it isn’t as good as the version of Solaris that runs on Sun’s Sparc processor. Open-sourcing the operating system doesn’t fix that.

For programming tools, developers will have their choice of two compilers. (A compiler is the software that translates source code into the binaries a computer actually runs.) Sun has been working to make sure Solaris can be built with GCC–the compiler most widely used in the open-source realm–but Sun also will make its own compiler available for free use.

Programmers who want to submit software to OpenSolaris will have to sign a contributor agreement. That agreement requires that they permit Sun to become joint copyright owner.

“Solaris 10 is the best operating system on the planet, bar none. Now we’re open-sourcing it, so that takes another barrier to innovation out,” said Sun CEO, Scott McNealy

Source: The Tech Beat

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