Thursday, October 17, 2013

illumos corporate entity... non-starter?

I want to give folks a status update on the illumos corporate entity.

In a nutshell, the corporate entity seems to be failing to have traction.  In particular, the various corporate contributors  and downstreams for illumos have declined to step up to ensure that an illumos corporate entity has sufficient backing to make it successful.

While at first blush, this seems somewhat unfortunate, I think this is not nearly quite as bad a thing as it might first seem.  In particular, the failure of a corporate entity does not correlate to the health of the ecosystem -- indeed many successful open source projects operate without an umbrella organization or entity. 

Instead, we see corporate contributors and downstream distributions focusing on developing the communities behind their distributions such as SmartOS and OmniOS.  Those downstreams play an active role in improving illumos for the benefit of all, and its my sincere hope and belief that they will continue to evangelize illumos, and contribute to the common core.

Furthermore, incorporation in the state of California requires paying about $800 of taxes per year.  This is true even for organizations without any revenue.  This is money that would have to be taken from sponsors that would serve only to enrich our state government with no direct benefit to the illumos community.  (Non-profit status is a way around that, but its exceedingly difficult to obtain, and a number of open source organizations are finding themselves under very close scrutiny from the state and federal authorities.    Indeed, the community themselves lost their 501(c)3 status not that long ago.)

So, without corporate sponsors to justify the tax and administrative load, I've decided that the illumos corporate entity should expire.  I do want to thank Deirdré Straughan for the non-trivial amount of effort she put into this, as well as the Software Freedom Law Center for the pro-bono work they did for us while we were trying to navigate the waters of becoming a true non-profit open source organization.

And, if any corporate sponsors are out there watching this, and interested in resurrecting the illumos organization, then I'm happy to entertain the possibilities.  I think there is value in an actual organization with a legal status to receive and distribute funds, and who can hold certain items of intellectual property, including the rights to the illumos trademark itself.   But there has to be enough of a sponsorship behind this to make it worthwhile.

In the meantime, I will continue to hold the illumos mark as a trademark that I keep in trust for the community.  The code is something that is already subject to distributed ownership, and so is completely unimpacted by any of this.


  - Garrett

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Moving on (Adieu to Studio?)

I think illumos is at a key juncture, and the issue relates to our toolchain.

We have gcc 4.4.4 working thanks in large part to the efforts of folks like Rich Lowe.

We have historically relied on Sun Studio (now Solaris Studio) as our "base" or "default" compiler for C and C++ programs, and also to supply lint coverage.

I've been thinking for a long time that its past time we (the illumos community) moved on from this.  Not only are the Studio 12 compilers not available in source form, they are now not available in suitable form for building illumos as binaries either.  (Apparently it is possible under some terms to get Solaris Studio 12.3, but who knows if those compilers are suitable for building illumos.  In the past we have always needed specifically patched compilers for Solaris.)

The situation where a general developer cannot obtain the necessary tool chain for working with illumos is untenable.

Today we require "lint" as part of an official build.  But not just "any" lint, but lint generated by a specific patched older version of Sun Studio 12.  A version that is no longer available to the community at large.

(And in full disclosure, the problem for me is brought to a head by the fact that the machine I had my local installation of these tools on has been retired, and I find I don't have another backup of them readily at hand to install on my new machine.)

So, I'm placing this as a call to the illumos community at large, and especially to our RTI advocates.  Its time.  Really. 


Studio has to go.

I don't care if we leave the infrastructure in place for people that want to continue to use Studio, but we need to switch to gcc.  Rich's 4.4.4 version gets the job done for now.  It would be great if we could support newer versions, but I understand that this requires some non-trivial amount of effort (some gcc patches that need to be upstreamed, as I understand it.)

We cannot be tied to a closed tool chain; especially a tool chain that doesn't at least include binary redistribution privileges. 

For the record, I've posted the same content to the illumos developer and advocates lists.