Wandering Thoughts archives


Why I don't expect third-party support for OpenSolaris

One of the common reactions to Oracle's potentially ambivalent attitude towards providing OpenSolaris support is that since OpenSolaris is open source, third parties can spring up to provide support for it even if Oracle doesn't. However, I'm fairly pessimistic about the chances of this; even if OpenSolaris itself becomes reasonably popular, I don't think that we'll ever see an OpenSolaris equivalent of Red Hat or Canonical.

There's two reasons for this. One of them is the difference between forking code and merely supporting it, which comes down to your ability to get your bugfixes accepted upstream. My impression to date is that in practice there are relatively few outside contributors to OpenSolaris and that it is hard to get changes accepted upstream. This pushes anyone attempting to do OpenSolaris support towards de facto forking OpenSolaris, which is expensive and thus makes you unprofitable.

(Some casual searching didn't turn up any information about the rate of outside contributions to OpenSolaris that's more recent than 2008, when the news wasn't good. Certainly the OpenSolaris repository shows very little signs of contributions from outside developers, and there is no sign that the practices described in 2008 have changed much. Note that pushing changes upstream is hard at the best of time; you can imagine how much worse this gets if the upstream is not really interested in the whole business of outside contributions, especially if something is going to require significant amounts of effort and time from upstream developers.)

The other reason is more subtle. In order to really support code, you must have good programmers who understand it. With Sun not really being very enthusiastic about outside contributions, there are not many people like that outside of Sun (or, well, outside of Sun before Oracle took over and people started leaving). In addition, your good OpenSolaris programmers are probably going to face the constant temptation of taking a job with Oracle where they can actually work directly on OpenSolaris; the better they are and the more passionate about OpenSolaris they are, the higher the temptation. The less expert your programmers are the less attractive your support is, since you can't diagnose and fix people's problems as fast or as well.

(And if you can find good expert OpenSolaris programmers right now it's pretty likely that they're quite passionate, given the obstacles to acquiring that expertise.)

solaris/OSolThirdPartySupport written at 00:26:22; Add Comment

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