Sun accused of using threats to gain control of project

Sun potentially has torn a gaping hole in the OpenDS project

On Nov. 14, Wilson said, a Sun executive demanded during a call with one of the four OpenDS co-owners that the owners approve a governance change that would grant Sun full control of the OpenDS project. It was during that call that the co-owner was threatened with the loss of their severance benefits, Wilson said. The threat was not made directly to Wilson, but was directed at all four co-owners, he said.

"This was a very disappointing and hurtful turn of events. I believe that we acted only in good faith and in the best interests of the community," Wilson wrote on his blog.

Sun wanted the amendment so the project could be "controlled entirely by a Sun-selected committee," Wilson said.

Wilson said the foursome took Sun's threats seriously and all feared losing significant financial compensation. Wilson wrote they "were ultimately compelled to resign our ownership and end our association with the project on November 19, 2007."

Wilson said he is speaking out now because he is officially no longer a Sun employee and to explain his absence from the OpenDS project.

Wilson said he thinks Sun's move does not represent Sun's true open source strategy. He says it "was a relatively isolated incident brought on by middle management acting of their own accord."

But he wrote on his blog: "Sun management has shown that at least in this case they are willing to resort to rather hostile tactics to preserve absolute control. This is most certainly not in the spirit of open source and open development that we tried to foster or that Sun claims to embody."

Wilson, along with former Sun staffers Stephen Shoaff, Don Bowen, and David Ely were the co-owners and co-founders of OpenDS, while Trey Drake was the OpenDS community manager.

Wilson, the OpenDS architect, has since resigned all roles that he held in the project and has rescinded his Sun Contributor Agreement. He said he will no longer contribute code, documentation, bug reports, suggestions for improvement, or advice of any kind.

By alienating Wilson -- who was the project's architect and has written more than 50% of the code -- Sun has lost OpenDS's most valuable and knowledgeable contributor to date.

Even Wilson's competition lamented his absence.

"I've sent some negative comments your way in the past but I've always respected your commitment to open source development and your dedication to improving the LDAP landscape. I'm very sorry to hear about this," wrote Howad Chu in the comments section of Wilson's blog post. Chu is chief architect of both the OpenLDAP project and Symas Corp.

The company blog at Symas, a major proponent of OpenLDAP, also picked up the thread: "Sun just threw a large bucket of ice on their open source reputation no matter how you read it. I haven't looked at OpenDS's license, but it's tough to be comfortable with Sun's openness after a move like this."

One source who requested anonymity said, "It would be a shame if a goliath got away with this."

The accusations that Sun bullied the project owners come at a time when the company is actively working to position itself as a leader in the open source community.

The effort has not been without its hiccups as Sun has butted heads with high-profile open source leaders, including Linus Torvalds, who have questioned Sun's open source motives.

Steve Giovannetti, who authors the GioList blog wrote, "Some of the recent halo Sun has is due to its efforts in open source. A blunder like this could really tarnish what their executives are trying to accomplish."

Giovannetti is CTO of HubCity Media, a Sun partner in the identity management arena.

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