OpenDS started as a skunkworks project inside of Sun to create a directory service written completely in Java. The current proprietary Sun directory is written in C and based on code dating to 1994.
OpenDS became an open source effort in part due to a declaration by Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz that all Sun software projects should go open source.
The FAQ on the OpenDS Web site says Sun turned the project over to open source because "Sun believes very strongly in the value of open source, and is one of the top contributors to open source software."
But it appears that the company was unwilling to be left out of OpenDS oversight.
"It could be perceived as a disadvantage to not have control," said Wilson. "It all depends on how the ownership behaves. As owners we would have the capability to cause them some grief, but that was never our intention."
Wilson said after the layoffs that the four owners decided to continue working on OpenDS and held face-to-face meetings, conference calls, and e-mail discussions with Sun employees still involved in OpenDS "to provide advice and knowledge transfers."
The OpenDS owners even went as far as electing a fifth project owner, Sun employee Ludovic Poitou, so that Sun would continue to have a stake in OpenDS.
"The project owners decided that as an act of good faith and without any prompting from Sun that we should elect a fifth owner since Sun had certainly made a significant contribution to the project," Wilson said.
Wilson and his five colleagues were laid off in September when Sun consolidated its Directory Server engineering group in Grenoble, France, and eliminated its U.S.-based positions.
The one swift move caught Wilson and the others by surprise.
"I'm not upset at Sun," said Wilson. "But certainly there was hurt when the threat was leveled."
Wilson said Sun refused to resolve the issue through "amicable avenues."
"Certainly as the owners we tried to extend an olive branch," Wilson said. "We appointed another owner who was a Sun employee and we met with them to discuss granting Sun a permanent seat on the project."