There are two posts I’d like to draw your attention to as a way to comment on this, both from other people.
First, from Erik Trimble, posting at the OpenSolaris forums, putting it better than I ever could and reproduced here:
“… With the various Linux projects, Oracle was pretty much *required* to share back, so they played nicely. With Solaris, the mindset seems to be that “We own this, so let’s make fat bank on a cool technology, and not let others steal our business”.
The unfortunate thing here is that most of the value in an Operating System is attributable to ADOPTION RATES. That is, the wider the OS is used, the more revenue potential there is. Now, the per-instance revenue potential tends to drop off, but the overall revenue ramps up very noticeably.
(note, this post, “OS” = Operating System, not OpenSolaris)
I think someone really, really, really needs to explain to upper management these things:
(1) Having an open source base / development process is pretty much a no-lose situation, with only an up side. The likelihood that other OSes will be able to take advantage of your technology is quite low (either due to incompatible license, or high barrier to port the code), and, at best, such other OSes will lag significantly in uptake. For instance, ZFS is about the only major technology from OpenSolaris that I can name which has any reasonable adoption in other OSes. The FreeBSD port of ZFS is *at* *least* 6 months behind that of OpenSolaris. The Upside of a open development model is that you can get outside contributions (if you actually want them, and design the development model appropriately), outside testing, and a radically higher adoption rate than a closed model.
(2) As a corollary to #1, yes, you might have some competitors use your source base to build their own produce (cf. Nexenta). *However*, those competitors actually *help* you, in that they will:
(a) most likely contribute work back to the open development base that you (Oracle) would not have done
(b) increase the userbase of the OS itself (even if only in appliances, this increases familiarity with the OS, increasing the sales recognition, so selling other products based on this OS is simpler)
(c) provide new and innovative products, which enables Oracle to “test the waters” in various market niches without committing any Oracle resources (i.e. let someone else do your market testing for you)
(d) be small companies which aren’t a serious threat to any Oracle revenue, relative to their benefit
(e) they are a very big potential source of revenue themselves, if you want to sell something like a “premium developer-access support” contract.
(3) Giving away for free BOTH Solaris and OpenSolaris distros doesn’t hurt the bottom line. Period. No lost revenue at all. It *absolutely* will drive additional revenue to you, particularly from ISVs and app developers, who will use your product to create their own, and drive more revenue back to Oracle, in the form of more server and support contract sales.
(4) As a corollary to #3, making a cheap support option consisting of security updates & Knowledge Base access only is FREE MONEY. It costs you virtually nothing (ok, perhaps pennies per contract), and gives you not only increased userbase (with the attendant better ISV/appdev attention), but also a reporting base to monitor for problems (i.e. free QA), and significant incentive for businesses to use the OS vs other options.
(5) High-cost (and high per-copy profit) niche closed OSes are a good way to die. OS/400, anyone? For that matter, going the route that Oracle has mapped out for Solaris is a quick way to turn Solaris into AIX or HP-UX. That is, anyone see either AIX or HP-UX gaining new installed base (or getting new apps written for them) these days? Solaris isn’t *that* much superior to either of them (technologically) to forestall a long slow decline into oblivion if Oracle decides to radically contract the userbase. Which is what closing it up, and requiring expensive support contracts for any use will do.
(6) The current model almost certainly guaranties that Solaris will be abandoned by the Academic community. Once again, I bring up OS/400, AIX, and HP-UX. Without an introduction to “serious” OSes – which the academic community by far is the leading provider of – you lose the next generation of sysadmins, app developers, and tech managers. If they don’t know your product, how are they going to use it (or be inclined to purchase them?). It’s already happening. There are very few new Solaris SysAdmins under 30. You *have* to make your OS product known to (and usable by) academia if you want any hope of future
sales. And, academia is requiring Open Source products these days (for a lot of reasons).
(7) Solaris is not a PRODUCT, it is a PLATFORM. Products you sell. Platforms you sell things to run *on*.
Frankly, at this point, I’d be all for Oracle spinning out the Solaris group as a fully-owned subsidiary, responsible for paying its own way. You’d see Solaris make lots of interesting product/marketing decisions and far more cash than I think Oracle is going to make with what they’re doing now…”
And secondly, this post from Garret D’Amore, which I urge you to read: