Sun seeks developer help to make Solaris ubiquitous

Hoping to achieve for Solaris the kind of ubiquity already enjoyed by Java.

Williams is impressed by the community that's already grown up around OpenSolaris. "It's the most productive community I've ever been a part of," he said, with a posted query drawing 4 to 5 informed responses within an hour from both third parties and Sun engineers. Sun's approach to open source is "very mature and adult," Williams added, largely because Sun engineers are used to fielding customers' questions and know it's important to respond rapidly.

In order to win other converts, Williams recommends that Sun go back to school. "The key thing they need to do is get back into the colleges," he said. "That's where we formed our opinion of Sun." Making Solaris easy to use and highlighting useful tools such as DTrace could go a long way toward wooing developers, Williams added.

Sun is encouraging more use of OpenSolaris in universities, with plans to add 500 more Campus Ambassadors around the world to the several hundred that were already in academia, Hamilton said. The Ambassadors are students who receive free training and support from Sun and then establish open-source developer communities in their colleges and evangelize OpenSolaris and Java to their peers and teachers.

Williams also recommends letting Indiana "splinter" so that developers can freely create their own distributions and further spread the Solaris technology. Sun hopes that if it establishes Indiana as a reference platform for OpenSolaris, people are less likely to seek out or develop other distributions, Hamilton said.

"With Linux, what happened was there was a void and people filled it," Murdock said, referring to the large number of Linux distributions in the market. "Everything we do here is to allow for flexibility, so there is the possibility of multiple distributions."

Going after developers is only one of several strategies Sun is pursuing to raise the profile of Solaris. The vendor's also keen to increase the number of hardware platforms on which the OS is available on. Earlier this month, in a deal that would have been unthinkable a few years back, IBM Corp., one of Sun's main hardware rivals, agreed to redistribute Solaris OS and Solaris Subscriptions for some of its System x and BladeCenter servers.

From IBM's perspective, the move is in line with its pledge to offer users a range of operating systems and also will enable the vendor to make money on support calls involving Solaris running on IBM hardware. Hamilton said Sun's in discussions with about 40 original equipment manufacturers to make the OS available on their hardware. The companies include smaller hardware vendors that operate in particular geographies, but he's also interested in having IBM-like relationships with HP and Dell Inc.

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