An Open Letter to the Community: A Proposed Solution

Posted on November 11, 2007

UPDATE, 11/14/07: A motion was informally submitted to the OGB for discussion and endorsement of this proposal. Today that proposal was placed on the meeting agenda however no member of the board was willing to even submit it for discussion or debate. This proposal is therefore, for the time being, dead and this author is saddened by the continued lack of action on the part of the OGB to even advance the discussion. This only further enforces the reality that change will come from within Sun, not from the OpenSolaris Community or its Board.

The following is an open letter to the OpenSolaris Community, of which Sun Microsystems is a member, as a response to the great naming debacle.

We stand at a crossroads. Two paths before us: success and failure. Two parties opposed: Sun Microsystems and “the community”. One simple problem: will Project Indiana take on the name “OpenSolaris’.

Does that sentence seem overly dramatic? Yes. Is it untrue? No. The situation we find ourselves in is nothing short of madness, utter confusion and chaos. With the success of Project Indiana’s maiden voyage we should be more unified and excited than ever, but alas we are not. We stand more divided than ever… over a name.

Ian Murdock came to Sun as a savior. He did not invent something great, rather he brought together greatness in a unified force. Project Indiana was its name. When Solaris was without direction, when our future was clear but path unknown, he brought together the projects and persons together necessary to chart that path. In the course of that work he sought to solve a simple yet important problem: “Where do I download OpenSolaris? How do I run it?” This is a branding problem, a naming problem, with powerful implications and a hurtle to success. The answer lies in the question… the distribution must be called OpenSolaris.

But OpenSolaris carries a variety of meanings now. Most importantly, it carries two:

  1. OpenSolaris is currently synonymous with “Nevada”, the Open Source (CDDL) code base. This may be used by a Distribution such as Nexenta (“Based on OpenSolaris”; “Based on OpenSolaris Technology”, in this cased meaning the source), by a provider such as Joyent (“Built On OpenSolaris”; in this case meaning Solaris Express), etc.
  2. OpenSolaris refers to the community around the code, in a wide variety of projects and efforts. This may be used by a Users Group (“Silicon Valley OpenSolaris Users Group”), a project or effort (“OpenSolaris Desktop Project”), etc. None of these things use the term to mean any one product in specific but rather the whole.

Hence our dilemma. To name the distribution OpenSolaris is to confuse the term by making something fairly generic mean something very specific… yet, to name the product/distribution something other than OpenSolaris is to create yet a different type of confusion. Is there no solution? Is this a perpetual stalemate?

I believe there is a solution and that everyone can win. Whats more, I believe that the only true solution is a win-win solution. I believe that Ian Murdock is a worthy leader and I also believe that the community has legitimate concerns.

I therefore humbly submit that OpenSolaris’s reference distribution, Project Indiana, name become: OpenSolaris RD

This name provides a variety of advantages:

For the community, OpenSolaris RD is clearly delineated, drawing on the OpenSolaris brand but being distinct at the same time.

For Sun, this provides a clear, hip, conventionally accepted naming scheme that is extensible over time. Taking up the name “OpenSolaris” alone is short sited. Because of the nature of the distribution a fully supported version will need to be created for ISV Qualification, etc, down the road. This qualified version will be a customized version of OpenSolaris RD and perhaps named OpenSolaris GS (“Genric Server”) or OpenSolaris DS (“Data Server”). Furthermore, specific pre-canned varieties can extend yet futher without confusion: OpenSolaris HPC, OpenSolaris HA, etc. Given that there are several plans for appliances in the next year, this naming scheme can bring them into the mix as well, and later provides a simplified naming convention for picking the binary distribution thats right for you.

I believe that my proposed naming provides advantages to both the OpenSolaris Community and to Sun Microsystems, where we can both share the brand, monitize the brand, and minimize confusion both now and down the road.

The current actions of both Sun and the OpenSolaris Governing Board are gear toward a stalemate at this time. The OGB is deciding on a official position statement regarding the issue, yet allowed a review of that statement by Bill Franklin (representing Sun Microsystems) prior to declaring it an official position; this simply defeats the purpose of making such a statement given that the purpose of such a statement is to send a clear message to Sun on where it stands. The motions currently pending seek not to resolve the problem but rather to post-pone any steps toward a real resolution. I believe that my proposed naming offers a long term solution to end the current line of motions and put it firmly behind us, and back on a unified path of glory.

It is with great humility that I request the serious consideration of this proposal by Sun Microsystems (represented by Bill Franklin), Project Indiana Founder and Chief OS Strategist Ian Murdock, and the OpenSolaris Governing Board.

In closing, I believe in light of recent frustrations that a word be devoted to Mr Ian Murdock. I have had the pleasure of meeting with him several times since coming to Sun and getting to know his mind. I believe with ever core of my being that he is one of the most open minded and receptive technologists that I’ve ever met. I am personally offended by the various accusations that he is closed minded or inflexible. I humbly ask the community to consider that there are many persons at Sun who have various agenda’s which are in several cases being unfairly placed on him. He has tried to be open and honest with the community and repaid with mockery and condescending remarks. It is, in my opinion, of the utmost importance that we quickly resolved this naming controversy, re-group, organize ourselves, and work together with Ian Murdock toward a brighter future for OpenSolaris and Sun Microsystems. Our best hope for the future of all parties is his continued leadership; we tried it without him for 2 years and got no where, now, because of his leadership, regardless of your personal opinion of him, his decisions, or his execution, we have come further than we previously could have seen ourselves in 2-5 years. I applaud Ian Murdocks leadership, his honesty, and his commitment to this process.