Thursday, March 8, 2007

OGB Postition Statement

As you probably know, I'm running for a seat on the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB). I've answered a number of questions already, but I really like how Keith Wesolows has set up a position statement, so much so that I'm going to do the same. Much of my layout and presentation follows his, but rest assured that there are real meaty differences here. :-)

Before I do that, after reviewing a lot of the material that has been submitted by nominees, I do think there is a really good group of candidates who are as passionate and level-headed as I am running... its likely that I'll be happy with the board that is elected regardless of whether I'm on it or not. Now, on to the details... I'll start with my positions on things, along with a short bio at the end.

  • The Constitution
YES.

The document isn't perfect, but it is an excellent start, and we can address issues with it as we move along. Without it, the OGB cannot exist, and the project will not be able to exist as a legitimate entity independent of Sun.
  • Community Structure
We can do better.

The biggest issues I have with the way communities and projects are laid out now, is that it seems very ad-hoc. However, I'm not sure that we should throw the baby out with the bath water. I think there is a need for communities to exist without specific code bases, and many projects may have efforts which span otherwise logical code boundaries (e.g.. work in both the ON consolidation and the Gnome consolidation.)

Simply providing better guidance on the creation of groups, the conditions under which a group should be terminated, and clarifying how projects are created and terminated can be done.

I do believe that every Project should have a Group that "owns" it, and that some of the way that we have created Groups (using DTrace as an example) should really have been projects under some umbrella Project.
  • Change control, SCM, and ARCs
Open it up!

Historically "significant" changes to Solaris have had to go through ARCs. (Architectural Review Committees.) As painful as the process can often seem to be, I think that the end result has been the creation of the finest operating system on the planet. So I don't want to muck with it too much.

However, I believe that if OpenSolaris is going to really be Open, then the review process for it needs to be open, and that these ARCs need to include representation from stakeholders in the community. And I think there can be some minor tweaking to help the community in dealing with this process. I would consider this the first step that OGB should be pushing Sun for, simply because it does not require any change in the technology or tools to make it happen right now.

Ultimately, the community needs to have the ability to access the code directly, and there needs to be some powers that are delegated to the community, such as RTI advocacy. More on that later.
  • Licensing
No simple answer.

This seems to be a hot-bed of controversy. Let me state some things unequivocally. First off, I do not believe that changing licensing is at this time likely to significantly improve mindshare or marketshare of OpenSolaris. Second, I do believe there is a real risk of a license-driven fork if the "core" of OpenSolaris is dual-licensed. Third, for various reasons, I believe that wholesale relicensing of OpenSolaris to GPL (either v2 or the draft v3 that I've seen) is bad idea that will ultimately severely harm a number of commercial stakeholders (among them Sun, but not just Sun.)

However, I'm not a license zealot, and I believe that there may be cases where dual licensing to enable certain components of OpenSolaris to be used in foreign projects may ultimately be in the best interests of the project. If the goal of a project is to have as many people using a certain technology, then it is also in the best interest to eliminate the barriers to use. For example, the project may decide that Linux adoption of DTrace is something that has concrete benefits. In this case, those portions could be dual licensed, on a case by case basis.

One important stumbling block, however, is the concern about enhancements to the code from an external project under a license other than CDDL. Ultimately I would prefer to see such contributions able to come back to Open Solaris under CDDL. I'm not sure how best to achieve this, though; and if the concern arises, it may be a good idea to get some legal assistance with the matter.
  • On Commercial Use and Intellectual Property
I make my living writing software.

Furthermore, I've worked at Sun in the past, expect to start working their again in about two weeks, and have most recently worked at a significant Sun licensee and technical partner.

I would like to see Open Solaris continue to encourage commercial endeavors based on it. We should continue to have a friendly relationship with Sun and other companies (such as my soon-to-be-previous employer) and encourage their participation.

I also believe that there is a case for software patents, but that the patent process is badly busted and needs repair. You won't find me at a protest against patents or against companies that make money selling software, but you also won't find any content I don't have a legal right to have on any of my systems. But you will find me contributing time, energy, and actual code to Open Source projects I believe in. Right now Open Solaris is the first and foremost of those.
  • The Role of OGB
Strong non-technical leadership.

I believe OGB has a limited number of tasks to accomplish. First, I think OGB can help provide non-technical leadership for the Open Solaris umbrella. By that, I mean that OGB can help direct what markets the project should be pursuing, how we image ourselves, arrangement of constitutional matters (such as the election itself), etc. Second, OGB can help act as a liason between the community (and projects and groups within it), and other 3rd parties, including Sun. Third, this first OGB has, IMO, an important goal of getting some of the infrastructure and political issues worked out (perhaps by creation of a separate group) to finish making the project independent of Sun. Finally, it can act as the final arbiter in cases where an issue cannot be resolved at a lower level (such as at a project or group level.)

I do not believe that OGB should be providing any technical direction whatsoever, although some of its members will undoubtedly do so as a result of their other roles. Indeed, apart from the fairly large set of tasks the initial OGB has to perform to address organizational and administrative shortcomings, I do not expect the OGB to be very involved in the day to day running of the project.
  • The role of Sun
A contributor, perhaps the most important contributor.

(Disclaimer: I will shortly be working for Sun -- indirectly, but they will be paying my salary nonetheless. I am running as an individual however, because I'm passionate about Solaris. I just also happen to be going to work for Sun also because I'm passionate about Solaris. Well, that, and the nice salary...)

Sun is a major contributor, and the copyright holder for nearly all of the source we work with. However, by creation of the Open Solaris project, Sun has made it clear that it wants the project to stand on its own.

There are various technical, administrative, and political barriers still standing in the way. None of them are insurmountable. I think OGB should be actively trying to drive solutions to these problems (perhaps not the actual solutions themselves, but make sure that the right people are working on them, and track the progress.)
  • Technical Matters
Yes, I'm an engineer.

I think I've already stated that OGB shouldn't be involved in the technical direction of Open Solaris. However, a few items that have been asked already.

Binary compatibility. Much of the appeal of Solaris has been the fact that it has been stable from release to release. I would be hard pressed to find a case for breaking this. Stability levels and standards like the DDI have been a key value proposition for Solaris in the past, and will continue to be so if we don't break it.

Quality first. The various processes that Sun has had in place for Solaris for over a decade now have done a lot to ensure that Solaris is the high quality product it is. Change for its own sake is bad. Peer review is good. Oversight review by a strong (genius!) technical leadership (ARC) is even better. I don't want to change this culture. I do want to figure out how to bring non-Sun parties to the table though, and involve the whole community. Its going to be tough for some people who are used to "commit first, fix it later, and hope that someone else will document it" policies in certain other open source projects. But we'll all be better for it.

Now, all that being said, there are probably questions I forgot to answer, or simply haven't thought of. You can ask me, or the whole group of candidates at board-candidates-2007@opensolaris.org. I'll post any of my replies here.

About Me (Bio)

I'm a 35 year old software engineer from southern California, where I currently reside. (I telecommute.) I have a BS in Computer Science from San Diego State University (class of '95). My areas of expertise are kernel, device drivers, embedded systems, networking, and security. I've hacked on Linux, NetBSD, and Solaris, as well as some proprietary kernels (including the Sun Ray firmware). Far and away I prefer Solaris -- I could go on and on about its benefits... but you already know them, right?

I've worked as a UNIX systems administrator at Qualcomm, as a software engineer (systems software and device drivers) at Sun, and as a kernel, networking, and thin-client engineer at Tadpole Computer (now General Dynamics.) I'm expecting to start a new job as a Contractor at Sun working on Solaris starting March 19, 2007. (My whole resume is online if you really want to know the details.)

I also have a loving wife, and am blessed with two girls and a boy (ages 5, 7, and 6). We also have two cats.

When I'm not in front of a computer, or spending time at home with the family, I enjoy white water kayaking (including ocean surfing in playboats), sailing, skiing, swimming and reading.

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