Sun Confirms Inflexability & Community Disregard

14 Feb '08 - 11:28 by benr

On Monday OGB Chairman Rich Teer posted Sun's answer (crafted by Mr Bill Franklin with the assistance of Mr. Simon Phipps) to the OGB's request for clarification regarding the highly controversial decision to name Project Indiana "OpenSolaris". The issue is highly mixed, on one hand you have Sun Microsystems looking for a way to monetize OpenSolaris, on the other hand they are redefining the term "OpenSolaris", around which everything is based, without a single regard for the community. Here's the full statement:

Date: Fri, 08 Feb 2008 17:08:11 -0800
From: William dot Franklin at Sun dot COM
To: ogb-private at opensolaris dot org
Subject: [ogb-private] Sun's Responses to the Trademark

Rich et al:

In response to the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) meeting in early
November, and a number of other directed questions I, as the Sun
Executive liaison to the OGB, have been asked to respond to those
queries. Here is Sun's statement.

1. International trademark law requires trademark owners to take certain
specific actions to protect their brands, and the OpenSolaris trademark
and brand is no different. The OpenSolaris trademark, as a mark derived
from the Solaris trademark, belongs to Sun Microsystems Inc., and Sun
must defend it or risk not only the OpenSolaris trademark, but the
Solaris trademark as well.

When Sun originally set up the OpenSolaris project and invited the
community members to join it, it informally granted some uses of the
OpenSolaris trademark to the community, such as the use of the name to
identify the community. At that time Sun continued to reserve to itself
the right to name any operating system distribution with the Solaris or
OpenSolaris trademarks, and did not allow community members building
their own distros to use those marks in their distro names.

With the three years of experience since then, Sun has decided that it
would be better for both the community and for its own business, if
distros were allowed to use the OpenSolaris trademark so that they could
form an ecosystem of compatible software package and services.

To jumpstart this ecosystem, Sun has decided to fund Project Indiana to
build a base distro, which it will name OpenSolaris, and to allow others
to use the OpenSolaris trademark in approved ways in the name or
marketing of their distros.

2. In support of this effort, Sun invites the OpenSolaris community to
collaborate in the definition of a set of guidelines that will enable
others to build derivative operating systems that are compatible with
the goals of the OpenSolaris operating system and, as an expression of
that compatibility, are eligible to use the OpenSolaris brand in clearly
defined ways. Trademark law requires the mark owner to maintain
objective quality control measures that apply to uses of the mark. Sun
welcomes the input, expertise and influence of the OpenSolaris Community
Groups in developing these measures. The work is already in progress at

3. Legally, for the purposes of many nations' trademark laws, all other
uses need to be reserved by Sun, but terms for use are negotiable.Sun's
statement specifically left out bumper stickers, key chains, user groups
and book titles. The original debate was about distributions,and Sun
wished to clarify that naming position. Sun allows things like 'Solaris
User Group', and 'Java User Group', and 'I Love Java (J2SE1.4)' Coffee
mugs. Sun has a published fair use policy
( and Sun feels that this
would work for the use of OpenSolaris in 98% of the cases. Sun certainly
would love to see the next good computer thriller movie use OpenSolaris
as the platform that the good guys use to protect the earth from
impending galactic doom.


William L. Franklin
Vice President, Engineering
Solaris Core Operating System
Sun Microsystems

This response is condescending and inflammatory. Apparently 98% of trademark disputes are going to be over community generated swag and marketing. The legal gibberish is utter garbage and tries to gain some kind of sympathetic response. Linux has found solutions.

The problem here, which I've outlined to the involved Sun parties again and again, is not that Indiana will be named OpenSolaris. The problem is the way in which they did it. If this was proposed in an Indiana CG by the Core Contribs, then blessed by Advocacy, and then sent to the OGB for approval which would then take it to Sun, all this would have been a happy affair. Sun made this decision, debated the impact internally at length I'm sure, and consciously decided to make the change regardless of the communities opinion.

Bill Franklin passed drafts of this statement by the OGB privately over the last 3 months soliciting feedback. I was only involved in the last round, just days before this statement was made. During that meeting I outlined my objection, only one of which had an impact in what was produced (all prior drafts didn't explicitly state that OpenSolaris == Indiana, they danced around it). In that final meeting I explicitly asked if Sun was willing to negotiate or find some kind of compromise on this matter, the answer was no.

Lets face facts... Sun owns the trademark and clearly has no interest in adopting a Linux like "just don't be bad" enforcement policy. Sun is making decisions "for" the community with no regard to the membership or Governing Board which include redefining the meaning of the name of the community itself. The community has no control over its own website on top of it all. Sun is holding all the keys and while I trust 99% of the Sun employees involved in the community, the fact remains that it would seem that none of them had a hand in this decision.

This only drive home the reality we've been hoping to avoid... OpenSolaris as it was conceived by the community is a sham. Dr. Fielding who wrote our Constitution is fed up, Simon Phipps now believes that the framework of the community is wrong (he supported Dr. Fielding but didn't actually write the final constitution) and should instead follow the MySQL model, and we have disenfranchised members all over the place.

There is only one way out of this mess, and thats to embrace our constitution, do the painful restructuring we need to finally conform to the constitutional framework, and begin working from that base. Suggesting that we should scrap the works without bothering to ever really conform to our own community ratified constitution is idiotic. The community needs to be behind the OGB, so we need to build that trust relationship, and Sun needs to utilize the OGB, so we need to build that trust relationship. Frankly, thats difficult to do and will require a lot of hands on face-to-face meetings to get everyone lined back up and working properly, and who has that kind of time outside of Sun?

I've said it before, I'll say it again, we have open source but we don't have open development. Sun has done an admirable job with releasing code, but Sun's track history in the arena of open development efforts with the free software community has been abysmal. Many engineers inside of Sun "get it" (look at IPS, or almost anything Dr. Stephen Hahn is involved in, just beautiful) but somewhere in that middle-management there is a disconnect.

If Simon Phipp's and others like him have their way the community will be "rebooted" from what most of us envisioned, an open development effort in which Nevada is developed as a community effort, to a glorified support infrastructure in which the "community" is really just a bunch of bi-standers with no real involvement. The later case is apparently closer to the MySQL model, which I refer to as "glass house development", that is, you can look in at whats going on but you're not part of the action.

My friends, if you are passionate about Solaris and its future the time to get involved is now! Solaris will continue to be "open source", Sun can't change that stance now, but if things continue to proceed as they seem to be right now very soon the idea of external Hg repositories just won't matter anymore.

- - C O M M E N T S - -

I’ve pushed for Solaris at my previous and actual work, which resulted with it being installed at some places. Along with my collegues from Polish Portal Team, we are at the very end of orginising first Polish OpenSolaris conference. We have so far translated to Polish 3 books from We evangelise for Solaris, because we believe it a fantastic operating system. However Sun’s way of interaction with the real community is just dishreatening. For that reason I may ditch SXCE as my desktop and server system, since FreeBSD is going to have much of the goodness soon, anyway.
Indiana, which is just really a vision of Ian

trochej (Email) - 14 February '08 - 14:25

If this doesn’t push a fork, I don’t know what will. It’s just a matter of time before someone clones the entire repository and opens up their own “gates”.

It’d be a shame to have to come to that, really.

UX-admint (Email) - 14 February '08 - 15:07

Ben, I’m confused by your last sentence. Do you mean that even if we have external hg repositories, it won’t matter because you believe that Sun will dictate everything with respect to what gets into it? Or do you meant that you don’t see external hg repositories ever coming to fruition?

Speaking for myself, the intent has been and continues to be that we want external repositories out there as soon as possible. It’s just taken longer than anybody has wanted but as with everything that Solaris is known for, we’re trying to do so in a complete, sustainable fashion and not just open up a repository which cannot be managed successfully. A large part of that is the toolchain (beside hg) which folks like Rich, Steve and Mike have been working on heroically.

If you not doubting that the repositories will exist but instead the commitment for them to be open, again speaking for myself, I truly believe our ongoing intent is to allow the community to decide through various processes what changes take place in those source repositories. I think everyone wants to have OpenSolaris be a place for interesting OS development to take place but the mainline ON repository (as an example) is for development which is sustainable.

Of course, the project infrastructure (including the website) should continue to host projects where that interesting OS development can take place. Some of that development may not end up in the trunk but it’s my hope that much of it does eventually make it there once it’s followed the development proocesses.

I’ll admit to being ignorant about the MySQL development model but it was my understanding that most if not all of the “putbacks” are done by folks employed by MySQL. I still don’t believe that’s the intent here for OpenSolaris – we want external gates and the community (both those employed by Sun and those not) to be making changes to those gates.

@trochej – Indiana means many things to many people but the major ideas being done under that umbrella were already being explored prior to Ian joining Sun. Unless Solaris makes changes in the area of packaging, familiarization, installation, etc, it’s likely it will continue to be an excellent but increasingly marginalized operating system. Please don’t conflate the “naming issue” with the actual work taking place.

David Comay (Email) (URL) - 15 February '08 - 20:13

It always amazes me how much time Open Source people will waste on issues that even a child would care less about. So Open Solaris will now refer to Sun’s release which actually means the project has a chance of success. There will still be 3rd party releases based on Open Solaris.

It’s just sad how determined certain people in the Open Solaris “community” are to keep this an on going discussion. These people should go over to the Linux community and see if the grass is any greener.

Bryan Althaus (Email) - 15 February '08 - 21:39


I support Sun’s naming decision; but, like you, think Sun presented it in a very poor way.

The real problem here is that Sun should have never chosen the name it did for the community; i.e. a trademark that contained the name Solaris.

Letting the community control the trademark, as it is currently, is completely impractical. Why do I say this? Imagine, if you will, that the OpenSolaris community decided that our official distribution should label Taiwan as its own country and let you choose a “Taiwanese” language and even included a special graphic for their flag.

Now imagine how that could harm Sun’s business because actions taken by the OpenSolaris community would be seen as being condoned by Sun.

Yet, any alternative arrangement would require Sun or someone else to financially support it.

It feels wrong to me, to expect Sun to financially fund decisions that they have no control over because of their responsibility to their shareholders.

Ubuntu, Fedora, etc. are all quite successful, but have ensured that one person ultimately (who has the interests of the sponsoring corporation at heart) can alter decisions believed to be harmful.

I also believe that the naming decision made was the correct one long-term for users and developers. Most of the press has been calling Indiana OpenSolaris or the next version of Solaris every since it was announced.

I don’t know what the solution is to the current mess, but I still believe in the engineers at Sun when it comes to the technical side of things.


Shawn (Email) - 17 February '08 - 23:47

I’ve noticed this with ISO spins, drivers, ON itself, and most packages. Sun is many revisions ahead at all times, because of the potential legal boogie man. I’m tired of it. “Feature X is fixed in BY… if you’re a Sun employee” give me a break. I’d sign a stupid NDA if I didn’t have to wait for builds that fix stupid problems. (Like when xVM was broken on B85, or when indian giving ipw for legal reasons happened) It’s just a load of corporate scaredy cat garbage. Sun is not open with development, this is worse than Red Hat.

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