Sun Microsystems chief executive Jonathan Schwartz has invited Linux creator Linus Torvalds to dinner to discuss how Sun and Linux can join forces, only a day after Torvalds publicly questioned the authenticity of Sun’s interest in serving the open source community.
"I wanted you to hear this from me directly," Schwartz wrote in an entry on his blog. "We want to work together, we want to join hands and communities. We have no intention of holding anything back, or pulling patent nonsense. And to prove the sincerity of the offer, I invite you to my house for dinner."
Schwartz was defending Sun against comments Torvalds made in a post on the Linux Kernel Mailing List. Torvalds suggested Sun is keeping some of the more interesting features of its OpenSolaris open source project, such as the famous ZFS file system, close to its chest because the company doesn't want to help Linux, which has hurt Sun's position in the market.
Schwartz begged to differ that Sun is punishing the Linux community for how commodity servers running the operating system trumped Sun's Solaris based hardware after the dotcom bust, a phenomenon that eventually led Sun to release Solaris as an open source project.
"Did the Linux community hurt Sun? No, not a bit," Schwartz claimed. "I draw a very sharp distinction, even if our competition is conveniently reckless. They like to paint the battle as Sun versus the community, and it's not. Companies compete, communities simply fracture."
Torvalds has taken issue with the fact that Sun has not released OpenSolaris under the GNU General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2), which currently governs Linux. The license for OpenSolaris is the Community Development and Distribution License, which Sun created based on the Mozilla Public License.
However Schwartz is leaning toward supporting GPL version 3 (GPLv3), which should be released in its final version in the next few weeks, as an option for OpenSolaris and other Sun open-source projects before GPLv2. In fact, the differences between GPLv2 and v3 have caused a public rift between Torvalds and other key members of the open-source community.
"We love where GPL3 is headed," Schwartz wrote, before citing a "variety of mechanical reasons" why it would be difficult to license OpenSolaris under GPLv2.He continued: "Why does open sourcing take so long? Because we're starting from products that exist, in which a diversity of contributors and licensors/licensees have rights we have to negotiate ... I would love to go faster."
Torvalds seemed unlikely to buy such an argument, writing: "To Sun, a GPLv3-only release would actually let them look good, and still keep Linux from taking their interesting parts, and would allow them to take at least parts of Linux without giving anything back (ahh, the joys of license fragmentation).”
He said that though his post was not strictly meant for Schwartz, he appreciated the executive's response, especially his assertion that Sun would not seek patent fees for ZFS, since some in the Linux community wanted to take the file system to Linux.
Still, Torvalds' mistrust of Sun's motives in the open-source industry is deep-rooted, though he remains optimistic that Sun and the Linux community still can come together on common interests.
As to whether Torvalds would accept Schwartz's offer, he joked in an email that while he does not get to the San Francisco Bay area very often, "free food is a big draw."
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