Sun considers GPL for Solaris

If Sun switched its Unix version to the General Public License, it could permit code-swapping with Linux.

Stephen Shankland
Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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2 min read
Sun Microsystems is considering releasing its Solaris operating system under the General Public License, executives said Monday, raising the possibility of cross-pollination with Linux.

The server and software company previously made Solaris an open-source project called OpenSolaris in 2005, releasing source code under the Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL). However, Sun this week chose the GPL for its open-source Java effort.

During a meeting with employees on Monday, Rich Green, Sun's executive vice president of software, said the GPL is a possibility for Solaris as well.

"Will you GPL Solaris, Mr. Green?" Sun Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz asked Green.

"We will take a very close look at it," Green said. "The familiarity and comfort level with the license we've chosen for Java doubtless is going to drive a lot of the decision-making, going forward, with the existing technologies that we've open-sourced."

Green also said he wasn't averse to changing Solaris' license and that outsiders responded warmly to Sun's decision to use GPL for Java. "I think today's event and the feedback we received today really cast a very, very positive light on our choices going forward," he said.

The Linux operating system is governed by the GPL, so releasing Solaris under that license raises the possibility of collaboration. For example, Sun's DTrace probe technology or ZFS file system theoretically could be moved to Linux. Or, going in the other direction, Solaris could benefit from Linux's comparatively broad support for hardware devices such as network and video cards.

Choosing the GPL also could help explain remarks by Schwartz in October that Sun "likely" will use the same license for Java as for Solaris. At the time, that made it appear likely Sun would use CDDL for Java.

However, Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open-source officer, was more cautious than Green.

"We use the right licensing for the job," he said in a chat in the Second Life online realm Monday. "In this case, GPL for Java, and for OpenSolaris, the right license was CDDL. Because there's 17,000 people in that community. And there's no great reason for changing that."