Sun exec ponders OpenSolaris, Linux

In an interview, Ian Murdock, formerly with the Linux Foundation and now with Sun, discusses the company's open-source efforts and how to monetize them

What are you expecting developers to do with Open Solaris?

I think first of all, there's going to be a lot of experimentation now that the barriers are gone for a Linux developer, a Linux user to take a look at what OpenSolaris has to offer. We are spending a lot of time understanding what those developers are doing; namely, how they are moving up the stack and working in environments like PHP and Ruby on Rails. So how do we describe the capabilities of Solaris, such as DTrace, in a way that's relevant to them? For example, OpenSolaris is going to be an ideal environment for Web-facing applications because we've moved the DTrace functionality up into somebody's Web application frameworks. And if you think about it, the basic problem behind a Web application is, particularly if you are successful, how do you scale? If you build an application, you put it out there, you gain a large user base, people start hitting your servers, you have to figure out where in your code you need to optimize so that you can scale along with it. DTrace offers those kinds of developer's capabilities that are not available on any other operating system.

What do you see happening with the Amazon-based hosted version of OpenSolaris?

That represents yet another barrier to entry being removed. Now you can take advantage of these same capabilities without necessarily having to provision your own infrastructure. And it's all a part of the same trends that you've seen coming out of Sun over the last several years. The embrace of AMD and Intel, Linux, Windows. I mean, it's all about how do we get Sun technology as broadly adopted as possible, no matter what the vehicle?

Do you see a role for OpenSolaris in the Web 2.0 world?

Absolutely. If you are building a Web application and you become popular, your servers are getting hammered by all of these users who are coming, how do you scale with the increasing demand? And we've actually done this in several Web 2.0 shops where they've run into scaling problems, we've been able to come in, point DTrace at it, and extract some very amazing performance improvements in a very short amount of time. So we feel that now that the barriers to adoption have been removed, we're going to be able to play a much bigger role in this space than we have with Solaris 10 and previous.

Is there anything else you wanted to bring up?

One of the things to watch here in the coming months is what we are doing around [which is Sun's grid-based cloud computing platform]. At Sun we are fully committed to open source. To your earlier question about open source and business, we have a very clearly defined business model where the core offerings that are for developers are free and open source, no barriers to adoption. The one interesting question is what role does open source play in a world where software is no longer delivered as a product but rather delivered as a service? Web 2.0, for example, wouldn't be possible without open source. But why are people going to open source? They're going to open source for the same reason that they went to open standards and open systems. [There is] the desire to not be locked into a single vendor. Are we going back to the 30-year-old model in the pursuit of simplicity and moving everything into the cloud? I think you're going to see, coming out of Sun and around in particular, some pretty interesting answers to these questions.

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