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|Sun Releases Solaris Operating System and 1600 Patents under CDDL Open Source License.|
Sun Microsystems has announced the release of the Solaris 10
operating system under a new CDDL open source license approved by the
Open Source Initiative (OSI). The company is also releasing under open
source license more than 1,600 active Sun patents associated with the
The new OpenSolaris community governed by a Community Advisory
Board has been created to "help foster the innovation and
collaboration needed to open up new opportunities for developers,
customers and partners." The source code for Solaris 10, one of the
the most advanced operating systems in the industry, has its roots in
BSD UNIX and enjoys a strong reputation workdwide.
Sun is releasing the most current Solaris 10 technology, both
source code and binary, to the open source community under the CDDL
license. "At launch, this will include all of the features and kernel
innovations in the new Solaris 10, including DTrace, Solaris Zones
partitioning technology (Zones), and Predictive Self-Healing."
Solaris DTrace technology, one of the most popular features of Solaris
10, is immediately available for download as source code from the new
Opensolaris.org web site.
The Open Source Initiative (OSI) Board of Directors approved the
Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) on January 14,
2005. Based upon the well-known Mozilla Public License (MPL), CDDL was
Sun's choice because it "wanted a copyleft license that provided the
protections and freedoms necessary for true open source, as well as
enabling creation of larger works for commercial purposes."
The newly approved CDDL is file-based, which means that "files
licensed under the CDDL can be combined with files licensed under
other licenses, whether open source or proprietary. provides an
explicit patent license for code released under the license, as well
as provisions to discourage patent litigation against open source
developers. The CDDL was also created to be a reusable license that
would be attractive to other open source efforts, so that other
projects with similar community and licensing goals would not need to
create a new license."
In conjunction with the launch of the OpenSolaris community
initiative, Sun has announced the release of more than 1,600 patents
associated with the Solaris OS, believed to be the "largest single
release of patent innovations into the open source community by any
organization to date." Sun says the contribution marks "a significant
shift in the way Sun positions its intellectual property portfolio.
By giving open source developers free access to Sun OpenSolaris
related patents under the Common Development and Distribution License
(CDDL), the company is fostering open innovation and establishing a
leadership role in the framework of a patent commons that will be
recognized across the globe."
The 1670 contributed active patents cover "all aspects of operating
system technologies that encompass features ranging from kernel
technology and file systems to network management, to name a few;
patents for Sun's newest technologies, such as the anticipated Dynamic
Tracing technology, will also be available under the open access
program." The CDDL contains provisions to discourage patent
litigation against open source developers: "Armed with access to
Solaris OS platform intellectual property, OpenSolaris developers and
customers alike no longer need patent protection or indemnity from
Sun's and other participants in the OpenSolaris community."
The goal of the patent release is "to help facilitate innovation
and help users get new open source products and technologies to market
faster without having to obtain patent licenses from Sun. By removing
the emphasis on intellectual-property rights as an inhibitor to
innovation, Sun is leveling the playing field in key emerging markets,
ensuring that software will be available to open source developers and
that progress continues unabated."
The Sun announcement about the release of some 1670 patents under Open Source license recognizes that the patent system is not working well because the patent thicket ("quagmire") inhibits technology innovation: "Addressing the patent system that is under siege, Sun's pledge of open access reduces the quagmire for developers who previously had to walk through a minefield to avoid infringement and enables them to confidently produce derivative works without fear of reprisal or patent claims." Sun thus hopes to "revive an innovation system that is straining under a record number of patent filings globally." The company says it is also "addressing current issues and increased scrutiny in U.S. and international patent law which has increasingly granted overly broad patents on abstract processes."
Sun's commitment to Open Source evidenced by the large contribution of patents under open source license parallels the recent pledge by IBM to offer patents "free of fees or royalties" for Open Source Software (OSS) development. IBM's published "Statement of Non-Assertion of Named Patents Against OSS" was made as part of an innovation initiative to support an industry-wide "patent commons."
The patent commons model, though not yet realized in any institutional way, is exemplified in the Sun and IBM patent contributions. It means that a common pool of patented technology offered for public use without payment of fees or royalties can be used "to establish a platform for further innovation in areas of broad interest to information technology developers and users." A successful model widely used for digital content is the Creative Commons, now expanding into the Science Commons.
Sun's open source CDDL license does not prohibit the use of patented technology in commercial products, but it increases the pool of common resources as a technology baseline, making foundational technology available to all. Competitive endeavor based upon this deeper pool of rich resources should spur innovation. Conversely, attempts to tightly control foundational technology through royalty-bearing patents (and increasingly, as weapons used by pure-play patent-terrorist IPR companies) are now widely seen to have the opposite effect: imposing a regressive tax upon developers and consumers, while hindering software freedom and retarding technology innovation.
Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced the largest single release
of patent innovations into the open source community by any
organization to date, marking a significant shift in the way Sun
positions its intellectual property portfolio. By giving open source
developers free access to Sun OpenSolaris related patents under the
Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), the company is
fostering open innovation and establishing a leadership role in the
framework of a patent commons that will be recognized across the
"As the largest business contributor to the open source community,
Sun has always been an ardent believer in open standards and the open
source process going back to the inception of this company," said
Scott McNealy, Chairman and CEO, Sun Microsystems, Inc. "The release
of more than 1,600 patents associated with the Solaris OS far eclipses
any other vendor's contribution. Today represents a huge milestone for
Sun, for the community, for developers and for customers."
The new approach underscores Sun's belief that license agreements
for software are not as significant as the company who stands behind
its products. Sun is also addressing current issues and increased
scrutiny in U.S. and international patent law which has increasingly
granted overly broad patents on abstract processes.
In removing the emphasis on intellectual-property rights as an
inhibitor to innovation, Sun is leveling the playing field in key
emerging markets and helping to revive an innovation system that is
straining under a record number of patent filings globally. More
markets are looking for ways to monetize their knowledge economy and
patents are becoming the profit center. With growing attention on
locking up intellectual property in countries like China — which
has seen a five-fold increase in the number of patent filings from
1991 to 2001 — Sun is ensuring that software will be available
to open source developers and that progress continues unabated.
"By gaining access to these Solaris OS patents, participants in the
open-source community now have a tremendous opportunity to build
unique and innovative technologies for a wide range of markets," said
Stacey Quandt, Senior Business Analyst, Open Source Practice Leader,
Robert Frances Group. "An IP contribution of this magnitude has the
potential to deliver exceptional value to developers and strengthens
the overall open source community."
Addressing the patent system that is under siege, Sun's pledge of
open access reduces the quagmire for developers who previously had to
walk through a minefield to avoid infringement and enables them to
confidently produce derivative works without fear of reprisal or
By releasing the OpenSolaris OS platform under the CDDL, the open
source community will immediately gain access to 1,600 active Sun
patents for all aspects of operating system technologies that
encompass features ranging from kernel technology and file systems to
network management, to name a few. Patents for Sun's newest
technologies, such as the anticipated Dynamic Tracing technology, will
also be available under the open access program.
Historically, Sun has contributed more code to open source
initiatives than all other organizations with the exception of UC
Berkeley, and remains committed to providing engineering support for
Apache, Mozilla, Gnome, OpenOffice, Grid, JXTA, ODSL and other open
source projects. Previously, Sun donated the source code of StarOffice
software, which drives the OpenOffice suite bundled with most versions
of Linux and was awarded a Product Excellence Award at the 2004
LinuxWorld Conference & Expo for Best Productivity/Business
[Sun Microsystems, Inc. also] announced that the source code for
Solaris 10 — the most advanced operating system in the industry
— will be made available under the OSI (Open Source Initiative)
approved Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). The
company has established a community Web site at opensolaris.org.
Buildable source code for Solaris will be available at this site in
the second quarter of 2005.
"Sun's heritage has always been deeply rooted in open source and
open standards-based software. OpenSolaris(tm) represents a
significant milestone in the history of Sun, the Solaris community and
larger open source community," said John Loiacono, executive vice
president of Software at Sun. "We strongly believe the OpenSolaris
community will help foster the innovation and collaboration needed to
open up new opportunities for developers, customers and partners."
"Sun has its roots in the BSD UNIX distribution, which I released
under the pioneering open source license. I'm glad that the Solaris
source code, and its many innovations, are finally going to be more
widely available," said Bill Joy, Sun co-founder and current partner
at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
"As an Independent Software Vendor, OpenSolaris provides a deeper
understanding of Solaris and a direct channel of feedback to the
engineers. We now have deeper insight into the workings of production
systems," said Philip Beevers, a developer at royalblue. "Through the
OpenSolaris pilot program, we've been able to do things with DTrace
which we couldn't do before. With access to the source code through
CDDL, we hope to innovate more with DTrace and improve our own
In support of today's announcement, Sun will also establish a
Community Advisory Board to help oversee the evolution of OpenSolaris
OS technology and the community development efforts. Initially, the
advisory board will consist of five members — two will be
elected from the OpenSolaris Pilot community, two will be Sun
employees, and one member will be selected from the broader open
source community. This advisory board will be finalized by March 2005
and will grow and evolve over time to meet the needs of the
[See the complete text of the announcements below]
Introduces OpenSolaris, Releases 1,670 Patents." By Paul Krill.
(January 25, 2005). "Sun Microsystems on Tuesday launched its
OpenSolaris program, which provides access to the Solaris operating
system via an open source format, and also announced the release of
1,670 patents to the open source community. The initial piece of
Solaris being made available now is DTrace performance analysis
technology. Other Solaris source code, such as file system and
security technologies, will be offered in the second quarter of this
year. Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy, a surprise participant on
Tuesday's conference call pertaining to the announcements, declared
Sun as likely the largest donor of code anywhere on the planet. 'We
have been doing this open source thing for nearly 24 years now,
beginning with the use of the Berkeley Software Distribution
derivative of Unix..."
OpenSolaris Project." By John K. Waters. From Application Development
Trends (January 27, 2005). "One of the changes Sun made to
the MPL was to make the patent terms clearer and more favorable to
smaller developers, [Glenn Weinberg, VP of Sun's operating platforms
group] said. 'One of our goals is to use our patent portfolio to
actually protect the OpenSolaris community that we want to build and
to allow them real intellectual property protection.' McNealy said
that the changes will help to 'limit the IP divide that exists in
developing countries, and for those companies that are unable to build
network-based services and solutions because they are so far behind on
the IP and patent front.' 'They can now take the OpenSolaris code base
and build interesting services and bridging with access to this chunk
of IP and patents rights'... The company also announced its plans for
establishing a community advisory board to begin the process of
building an OpenSolaris developer community. That board will initially
comprise five members: two from Sun, two elected from the current
pilot OpenSolaris project, and one 'luminary' from the open-source
community, Weinberg said. 'Our goal is to be completely open,' he
said. 'We are not sticking our toe in the water of open source here.
We are embracing the true spirit of the open-source community and
Cracks Open Solaris." By Michael Singer. From InternetNews.com
(January 25, 2005). "Sun CEO Scott McNealy said the measure of success
of OpenSolaris.org would be more contributors, more embedded OEM use
and an adoption by other open source communities. 'We think a lot of
people will be writing drivers,' McNealy said during a conference call
with reporters. 'We hope we get surprised . . . this will morph and
evolve. Someone could take the code an build a set-top box, or take
the gaming APIs out of Solaris and build gaming platform, or put it in
next-generation handsets.' As part of the launch, McNealy also
announced the OpenSolaris project would include more than 1,600 of
Sun's patents associated with the Solaris OS. The patents are
completely indemnified against current IP controversies such as the
legal battles between IBM and SCO Group, McNealy said..."
"Sun Warms to
Open-Source Server Software." By Stephen Shankland. From
CNET News.com (January
25, 2005). "Even as Sun Microsystems took its first step to make its
Solaris operating system open-source software, the company said it's
considering a similar move with its server software product. Sun is
considering making its Java Enterprise System server software
open-source, John Loiacono, Sun's executive vice president of
software, said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. 'It's
something we're looking at closely right now. It's absolutely in our
interest to go pursue that.' Sun's open-source Solaris move is widely
seen as a response to competitive pressure from open-source Linux,
which has attracted thousands of volunteer and paid developers. For
server software, IBM, Microsoft, BEA Systems and others provide plenty
of competitors for Sun's JES, which is used for tasks such as hosting
Web pages, managing e-mail, tracking passwords and running Java
License to Give Developers Patent-Use Rights." By Peter Galli. In
eWEEK (January 19,
2005). "The Open Source Initiative has approved Sun Microsystems'
CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License), paving the way for
the Santa Clara, Calif., company to proceed with its plan to release
its Solaris operating system as an open-source project. But if Sun
does use the CDDL for its Open Solaris project, as is expected, one of
this license's benefits for developers and the open-source community
is that 'with the CDDL, if you read it carefully, Sun will convey all
of its patents to the community, and not just 500 like IBM recently
did'... Sun also is considering open-sourcing its JES (Java Enterprise
System) under the CDDL... Sun also has moved up its release plans for
Solaris 10, which will be available Jan. 31 as a free download from
Sun.com. Sun will begin preinstalling Solaris on Sun systems in
February and is working to do the same with its OEMs..."
DTrace is the first code from Sun to be released under the CDDL license.
"DTrace is a comprehensive dynamic tracing framework for the Solaris Operating Environment. DTrace provides a powerful infrastructure to permit administrators, developers, and service personnel to concisely answer arbitrary questions about the behavior of the operating system and user programs...
With DTrace, administrators, integrators, and developers can tune applications for performance and troubleshoot production systems— all with little or no performance impact. DTrace is the ideal tool for gaining visibility into kernel and application activity, giving you operational insights and performance gains you can't achieve with any other operating system. DTrace will quickly become a strategic tool in your quest to develop better performing, higher-quality applications, as well as saving significant time and money when debugging complex problems.
DTrace is a feature of the Solaris 10 Operating System, which is available as the Solaris Express release. Historically, debugging a device driver required that a developer use function calls like cmn_err() to log diagnostic information to the /var/adm/messages file. This cumbersome process requires guesswork, re-compilation, and system reboots to uncover software coding errors. Developers with a talent for assembly language can use adb and create custom modules in C for mdb to diagnose software errors. Bottom line, historical approaches to kernel development and debugging are quite time-consuming.
DTrace provides a diagnostic short-cut. Instead of sifting through the /var/adm/messages file or pages of truss output, DTrace can be used to capture information on only the events that you as a developer wish to view..." [from DTrace Case Study for Developers]
The new Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) license
was approved by by Open Source Initiative's board of directors on
January 14, 2005.
The Open Source Initiative
(OSI) is "a non-profit corporation dedicated to managing and
promoting the Open Source
Definition for the good of the community, specifically through the
OSI Certified Open Source Software certification
mark and program. You can read about successful software products
that have these properties, and about our certification mark and
program, which allow you to be confident that software really is "Open
Source." We also make copies of approved open
source licenses [available online]...
The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.
We in the open source community have learned that this rapid evolutionary process produces better software than the traditional closed model, in which only a very few programmers can see the source and everybody else must blindly use an opaque block of bits. Open Source Initiative exists to make this case to the commercial world..." [from the OSI home page]
- Sun Microsystems announcements:
- Announcement 2005-01-25: "Sun Grants Global Open Source Community Access to More than 1,600 Patents. Largest Single Grant in Patent History Spurs Software Innovation."
- Announcement 2005-01-25: "Sun Announces Open Source License for Solaris Operating System. Solaris Code to be Available Under the CDDL in Q2 2005."
- OpenSolaris references:
- Sun CDDL open source license:
- Sun Microsystems, Inc
- Related references:
- IBM Proposes a Patent Commons for Royalty-Free Open Source Software Development." News story 2005-01-13.
- Creative Commons
- Science Commons
- Patents and Open Standards - Main reference page.
- "How to Fight Against Patent Terrorism." By Richard Wilder (Intellectual-Property Counsel, Association for Competitive Technology). From CNet News.com (January 6, 2005). Describes the pernicious problem posed by what he calls "patent terrorists. Patent terrorists are companies whose business models are based on patent litigation as a threat and licensing as a revenue source." Others apply the phrase "patent terrorist" to a company that deals only in IP, seeking to gain a monopoly on most or all possible methods relating to a technology area (buying patents, cross-licensing large patent portfolios, writing frivolous patent applications that will be accepted by clueless patent office reviewers, etc), then extorting fees from everyone based on the claim that they own all possible methods in the thereby monopolized business application (sub)domain. As with all forms of terrorism, the (possibly credible, given court costs and witless judges) threat is all that's needed to extort.
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