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OpenSolaris Governing Board Issues Ultimatum to Oracle -- Update

07.13.2010
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Update:  At the bottom of this page you will find commentary on these events from Nexenta CEO Evan Powell.  Nexenta is invested in the future of OpenSolaris with its NexentaCore platform, which utilizes the OpenSolaris kernel along with ZFS and core Solaris.

The OpenSolaris Community's independence from Oracle is in jeopardy because the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) is threatening to dissolve and relinquish control of OpenSolaris to Oracle.  The board decided to force a decisive action from Oracle when Jeb Dabsteel, an Oracle senior VP and Chief Customer Officer, confirmed that he would attend yesterday's meeting.  The board says that Dabsteel never showed up, and no explanation was given.  This final straw, along with the chilly relations that have persisted between Oracle and the OGB since February, led to present action taken by the board.

Once the meeting started with no Oracle representative in sight, the OGB came up with three options for dealing with this situation:

  1. Do Nothing:  Wait to see what Oracle will decide to do with our community sometime in the future,
  2. Do Something: Work (somehow) to revitalize our existing community in the face of Oracle's public apathy, or
  3. Force the Issue: Disband the OGB, trigger the Constitution's board dissolution clause and officially give control and direction of the OpenSolaris Community back to Oracle


The former Open Source evangelist for Sun/Oracle and head of the OSI, Simon Phipps, sits on the OGB and believes that the lack of dialog between Oracle and the OSB has led to stagnation.  In Phipps' estimation, it seems that a co-development effort between the two entities will not materialize and, the usefulness of this current community setup has run out.  Any effective communication between Oracle and the OGB has been nil for months.

After some deliberation, the board unanimously carried a motion that would implement the third option.  The motion issues an ultimatum asking Oracle to appoint a designated liaison for the OGB by August 16th.  This person must have the "authority to talk about the future of OpenSolaris and its interaction with the OpenSolaris community.  Otherwise the OGB will take action at the August 23 meeting to trigger the clause in the OGB charter that will return control of the community to Oracle."  

This decision is being relayed to Oracle, essentially putting the ball in their court.  There was no mention of plans for forking OpenSolaris at the meeting, but the idea is probably in the minds of some community members.  DZone emailed Nexenta CEO Evan Powell about his thoughts on the OGB's decision.  I recently spoke to Powell in an interview, and at the time he seemed confident that the OpenSolaris project was in good hands.  Nexenta has commercial and open source products that use the OpenSolaris kernel.

Here is the complete reply email I recieved from Mr. Powell:

DZone:  What would it mean for the future of the OpenSolaris project if the governing board dissolved?

Powell:  We hope this does not happen. However, the community is actually growing in strength if you look at the number of users of all distributions, including NexentaCore Platform at nexenta.org, and also the size of many of these users which now include a number of larger technology firms. Also, ZFS and OpenSolaris are becoming a defacto foundation for cloud storage, for example, as well as being the foundation of our Nexenta's unprecedented rate of growth in the enterprise storage market.
 
DZone:  What would this mean for Nexenta if the board dissolved?

Powell:  Nothing. We are more concerned about which of our patches, for example the recent ZFS monitor, are included in core Solaris. This is decided by the ARC, which is another body that gates which commits are included. The OpenSolaris governing board never had this type of authority.
 
DZone:  Any opinions on how the OGB or Oracle are handling the situation?

Powell:  I would not want to judge as we do not know why they have reached this situation. However, it is clear that at the level of technical improvements Oracle is behaving as they said they were going to behave and appear to be increasing their contributions even as the overall community increases their contributions as well. As we always say, look at the code commits not at the commentators.