Sun CEO keeps mum on GPLv3

But Schwartz reveals licensing dream, even as public rift with Linux creator Torvalds persists over the future of open source

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz showed up Thursday evening at the Burton Group Catalyst Conference and declared he would not answer questions about the GNU general public license version 3, but he did disclose his lifelong fantasy concerning open source licensing.

The GPLv3, which is expected to be released at noon on Friday, has been the focus of a public exchange between Schwartz and Linux creator Linus Torvalds over the future of open source licensing and the relationship between OpenSolaris and Linux.

Schwartz, who briefly stopped to talk to reporters, said he wants licensing to be kept simple.

"I want to get to uniform licenses for everything we do," Schwartz said. "So if you look at Sun you say 'Oh, I know you. I get you.'" Schwartz did not say which license he was considering. Sun has developed its own open source license, Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL).

Then he added, "One of my great fantasies in life is that the number of people with opinions on open source licenses will come roughly into balance with the number of people who have read them."

"Go read the Mozilla license," he said. "It is very difficult for an international company to use it because it is for the [United States] only. What do I tell people in China? Sorry, if you have a gripe you need to come back to Santa Clara," he said with a laugh.

Schwartz then took the stage and joked with the audience, thanking them for Sun's fourth-quarter revenue.

He then talked about helping customers to condense their infrastructure by consolidating workloads, to run virtualized infrastructure at scale, and to develop compelling services. He singled out identity as one of those services.

He then laid out Sun's position on open source software and licensing.

"The core value of Sun comes down to a basic set of things," he said. "Everything we build will be built in the open source community, it will be built with a community of partners around us and, with all deference to my friends from the Linux world, under a coherent license that we can draft, ideally in concert with Linus, so we end up with a common platform and a common opportunity."

"We're every way thinking to combine the communities because we think that gives us the critical mass to go after the big opportunities in the marketplace."

Shortly afterward Schwartz welcomed questions from the crowd, but added "just not about GPLv3, please."

Earlier this month, Torvalds used the Linux Kernel Mailing List to slam Sun in responding to a post about Sun and open source licensing: "You are making the fundamental mistake of thinking that Sun is in this to actually further some open source agenda."

He then launched into a "cynical prediction" slamming Sun's licensing interests around the OpenSolaris kernel and GPLv3, and predicting Sun would use licensing to protect patents on its ZFS file system rather than make it freely and widely available to the open source community.

The Linux kernel is licensed under GPLv2, and kernel developers have said there is little chance the Linux community would move to the new GPLv3 because it is not significantly better than GPLv2 and could take six months or more to convert all the components of the kernel.

"A GPLv3-only release [of the OpenSolaris kernel] would actually let [Sun] look good, and still keep Linux from taking their interesting parts, and would allow them to take at least parts of Linux without giving anything back (ahh, the joys of license fragmentation)," Torvalds wrote.

A day later, Schwartz responded on his blog in a friendly tone disputing Torvalds contention the Linux hurts Sun and saying Linux was not the enemy.

Schwartz, writing on his blog, addresses Torvalds personally: "We want to work together, we want to join hands and communities -- we have no intention of holding anything back, or pulling patent nonsense. And to prove the sincerity of the offer, I invite you to my house for dinner. I'll cook, you bring the wine. A mashup in the truest sense."

Like the licensing, there also was no word Thursday night about dinner.

This story, "Sun CEO keeps mum on GPLv3" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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