OGB Threatens to Shoot Itself In The Head

Posted on July 12, 2010

This morning, at the 8AM (Pacific) OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) meeting, the following was proposed and unanimously resolved:

The OGB is keen to promote the uptake and open development of OpenSolaris and to work on behalf of the community with Oracle, as such the OGB needs Oracle to appoint a liaison by August 16, 2010, who has the 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.

That is to say, “start talking to us or we’ll just shot ourselves in the head.”

I made my opinion very clear via the IRC back-channel during the call. At least my call for a liaison was added into the resolution, but I am extremely opposed to this cowardly act.

What exactly do we have to gain or Oracle to loose? All Oracle does is runs out the clock, the entire OGB resigns, and then the one little bit of control the community has is gone. What motive, other than a benevolent act to garner press attention, does Oracle have to comply? We’ve just made their job easier.

I once advocated this kind of self-implosion tactic back in the Sun days. The reason was to re-organize the OpenSolaris leadership to be more engaged and industry focused. That was a good idea back in the days when I had faith that Sun would “do the right thing”. However, those times have past. Oracle has made it clear that it either controls things or it doesn’t… there is no give and take. I don’t think we can demolish the structure and believe that Oracle will re-organize in such a way as to give the community more power. It was a long shot with Sun anyway.

Frankly, imho, this is just the OGB throwing its hands in the air. The body has been useless for a long time, but only because it has chosen to be. The majority of the OGB’s life its wasted by trying to restrict its own authority by endlessly debating and re-writting the constitution. Its never lead anything, and it isn’t now.

But the fact that its a wet rag doesn’t mean we should simply throw in the towel. A weak seat of power is better than no seat at the table.

So where do we go from here? Who knows. At this point the die is cast and OGB is putting up their last stand. Maybe Oracle gets serious and does something, but I really doubt it. Not because they can’t, but because its not in their best interest. Why kill something intent on killing itself.

My only concern as this point is to not loose regular code updates and access to the bug database. Yes, the existing code is “out there”, but Oracle is still the biggest contributor, 99.999 to 1. Anyone can fork at any time right now, as is, so if your going to do that why would you risk cutting off the huge contributions continuously made by Oracle?

We’re in no worse a position right now than we were during the Sun days. They didn’t communicate, we had no visibility or impact on the OpenSolaris distribution, etc. Don’t fall into the lie that things are now “worse” than they were… they aren’t. Its status quo. The difference is that the OGB is no longer composed of Sun insiders who can get a sense of control from hallway conversations and are now as blind and weak as those of us in the community always have been.

The request for a liaison is a good one… I support it. But damnit, put the gun down. We don’t need to act like irrational children having a tantrum. Ultimatums rarely workout the way you hope.

The bar is lower than the original resolution was, so we’ll hope for the best and see.

UPDATE: OGB Member Peter Tribble has written a blog entry about this action, recommended reading. While I disagree with the action, Peter is a great guy whom I greatly respect.