Where to turn if you're committed to building a top-notch open source operating system but are frustrated with the logistics of pure community-driven development? In Ian Murdock's case, the answer is to join Sun Microsystems. Sun announced today that Murdock has come on board as the company's new Chief Operating Platforms Officer.
Murdock is better known to the Linux community as the founder of Debian. In addition to being the Linux distribution that places the most emphasis on the Gnu GPL and Richard Stallman's concept of Free Software, Debian has long been known as the most democratic distribution. But in a recent interview with Linux Format, Murdock reveals that he might have preferred a more top-down approach.
"I believe that open source projects are no different from businesses or any other kind of organization in that to get any meaningful work done, there has to be strong leadership," he says.
Now it seems that Murdock may have found the organizational structure he's been itching for. In his blog, he admits that he has "always loved" Sun, and the company's new emphasis on open source must have something to do with his decision to sign up. But what does Murdock's move to Sun bode for the future of Linux and, potentially, Solaris? So far, both Sun and Murdock have been fairly tight-lipped. Nevertheless, the possibilties are intriguing.
"While Ian is not giving out too much information yet about what he will be doing, we can tell you that he will be responsible for building a new strategy to evolve both Sun's Solaris and GNU/Linux," says Sun PR rep Bob Wientzen.
A union of Debian and Solaris code could be an intriguing development for the Linux and Free Software community. Sun has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Linux, generally preferring to tout the merits of Solaris over the competition (in particular, Red Hat). But Debian has arguably the best package management software of any Unix-like OS, and a growing number of Linux distributions are basing their offerings on the Debian core, including Linspire and the fan-favorite Ubuntu. Doubtless the speculation will be flying fast and furious in the coming months as to what Murdock's contribution may mean and how this latest development might affect Sun's relationship to the Linux market.