Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz on What's Next for Open Source

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 23, 2009

This week, the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) is taking place--March 24th and 25th at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The conference will include much discussion on the future of open source. In preparation, OStatic has been  running a series of guest posts on this theme, featuring thought leaders from top open source projects. We checked in with Dries Buytaert, founder of the Drupal content management system, and co-founder of Acquia. Martin Schneider, director of product marketing for SugarCRM, weighed in on the open cloud, and Novell VP Justin Steinman wrote about open source and mass customization. Brian Gentile, CEO of Jaspersoft, also discussed the consumerization of information, and Erik Troan, founder and CTO of rPath weighed in. In this final installment in the series, OStatic is very pleased to offer up a guest post from Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz, on what's next for open source. Here it is:

Open Source Has Arrived, So What's Next?

by Jonathan Schwartz, CEO, Sun Microsystems

Changes in the global economy have had an impact on all our businesses. I'm routinely talking to customers now partially owned by governments, whose share prices have suffered massive declines, whose balance sheets and basic business models are under extraordinary duress. But I'm also seeing customers who've never had it better, from media startups and telecommunications firms, to government agencies flush with new funding – although they’re certainly a cheerful minority.

You have a choice. Hide under your desk or keep moving forward.

Universally, the market is open to those willing to listen to new ideas that save money or drive efficiency. Free and open source software is sweeping across the vast majority of the Fortune 500. When you see the world's most conservative companies starting to deploy open source, you know momentum is on your side. That's creating massive opportunity for those of us who have pioneered the market, to drive commercial opportunities.

There’s a misconception from outside the technology industry that open source is the crutch you turn to when times are tough. It’s a cost-cutting measure. There’s certainly no need for making the point to this audience, or to those attending the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) this week in San Francisco. It's a business model many of you know well -- some of the world's biggest businesses are built with communities at their heart.

In fact, the Internet's most valuable brands are all free – Amazon, Google, EBay, Skype, Yahoo!, Facebook, Hi5, MySpace, Baidu, etc. Those brands reach more people and have greater affinity than just about any other consumer brands. And in the technology marketplace, Linux, Java, MySQL, Firefox, Apache, Eclipse, NetBeans,, OpenSolaris, the same applies – free is a universal price, requires no currency translation, and reaches the longest tail of the market.

That is why we, at Sun, have invested so aggressively in open. Free distribution and access to source code is our investment in the global developer community. We invest with our code, our ideas and time, and we promote and encourage derivatives. We're reaching people we'd otherwise never reach – by earning their attention and engagement. Together, the community of developers builds on our ideas, improves and expands their potential and grows the ecosystem. Open drives innovation, innovation drives preference, preference drives adoption. The largest companies in the world are now seeing the appeal and benefit of living outside closed, proprietary systems.

And now we're turning our focus on bringing these resources to bear -- more than 20 years of innovation and 4,000 developers -- to the Cloud Computing market. We announced just last week that we're building the Sun Cloud, atop open source platforms - from ZFS and Crossbow, to MySQL and Glassfish. By building on open source, we're able to avoid proprietary storage and networking products, alongside proprietary software.

Second, we announced the API's and file formats for Sun's Cloud will all be open, delivered under a Creative Commons License. That means developers can freely stitch our and their cloud services into mass market products, without fear of lock-in or litigation from the emerging proprietary cloud vendors.

Third, unlike our peers, we also announced our cloud will be available for deployment behind corporate firewalls - that we'll commercialize our public cloud by instantiating it in private datacenters for those customers who can't, due to regulation, security or business constraints, use a public cloud. We recognize that workloads subject to fiduciary duty or regulatory scrutiny won't move to public clouds - if you can't move to the cloud, we'll move the cloud to you.

Which is all to say, I'm not worried about the role information technology will play in the economy, nor am I worried about the relevance of open source. In the technology world, free and open is the new black. So while we all have to acknowledge, and will clearly feel the challenges of today, I cannot imagine a better time for us to come together to talk about tomorrow. I imagine that most of you attending the Open Source Business Conference share my view – I’m not worried about the future; I’m focused on delivery of it.