After releasing Java under the open source GPL license yesterday, Sun’s senior vice president of software, Rich Green, hinted that the company might make the source code of the company’s UNIX operating system available under the GPL license as well. The availability of OpenSolaris under the GPL license would facilitate the inclusion of Solaris source code in the Linux kernel, something that can’t be done with the CDDL license currently used by OpenSolaris.
At yesterday’s public event, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz discussed Solaris licensing with Green, asking the executive if he was “adverse to changing the [OpenSolaris] license.” Green explains that he is “certainly not” opposed to the idea, and that Sun “will take a close look” at the possibility of releasing OpenSolaris under the GPL.
Sun’s opinion of the GPL seems to flip every year or two, and Schwartz first hinted at the possibility of releasing Solaris under the GPL in 2004 when he said, “we view the GPL as a friend.” Schwartz expressed a very different opinion in 2005, when he condemned the GPL license, characterizing its share-alike clauses as a “predatory obligation” and “intellectual property colonialism.” The Sun executive changed his opinion once more early this year when he again expressed interest in licensing Solaris under the GPL 3, citing a desire to promote “cross-pollination between Linux and OpenSolaris.”
Sun’s current interest in the GPL is likely a result of Green’s influence. Green describes the GPL as “an industry standard license” and says that the GPL was chosen for Java because it is “the most widely accepted, the most valued, and the most interestingly evolving open-source license.” Although many were skeptical last time Schwartz expressed an interest in licensing Solaris under the GPL, Sun has earned back credibility with the recent release of Java, and I think that the community will probably give them the benefit of the doubt this time. By releasing Solaris under the GPL, Sun could finally eliminate the barriers that currently prevent interchange of source code between Linux and Solaris.