One other fun thing about the Fowler-DHH interview that I mentioned recently: about 37 minutes into the podcast, the conversation turns to large companies and their involvement in open source in general, Ruby in particular. They initially start off dubious about the concept, with Microsoft as their example, which made me wonder “hey, what about my employer?” And, right on cue, DHH brings up Sun: Rails may have started partly as a rebellion against some aspects of Java, but that doesn’t mean that the Ruby and Rails communities don’t appreciate JRuby. (Which just released version 1.0, yay!)

Not that it was a big Sun love-in, or anything: the discussion mostly went back to Microsoft bashing, spurred by their recent “253 patents” threat. That discussion was interesting from a Sun insider point of view, too: they speculate that some important people at Microsoft were really annoyed at those threats, but Microsoft is too disorganized to have a strategy in this regard. Which I can’t imagine happening at Sun right now: I’ve been really impressed recently at how coherent we’ve been on our strategy. Sure, we have a Chief Open Source Officer who’s doing a great job, but the open source support goes all the way up and back down. (I get the feeling that Sun wasn’t so coherent in the years before I showed up; don’t have direct experience, though, so I could be wrong.)

We still have a way to go, admittedly. There was a thread half a year or so ago on a red-bean mailing list in which some of the participants were annoyed at the open source talk coming out of Sun, feeling that our talk outpaced our performance, so clearly we have some work to do to build up our credibility. But I’m hearing more and more kind words from the community these days. Which speaks to the openness of the open source community, too: I’ve been very impressed in particular by how we’ve been welcomed by the free Java community. Clearly there are a lot of people there who just want the best free Java implementation that they can get, and are willing to accept help from wherever they can get it, not letting inertia and preconceptions get in their way. (Which has been evident for some time: I was floored by Tom Tromey’s proposal a year and a half ago saying that he thought the best thing for gcj was to throw away code that he’d spent a lot of time working on and replace it with the Eclipse compiler.)

And then I see Eben Moglen saying something along the lines of “In fact Sun could, moving forward, in principle be seen as the commercial avatar of the FSF.” Which is just amazing, and it’s not the only piece of support the FSF have given us recently. (Incidentally, I didn’t realize that Balaji was an open source supporter; he’s on the StreamStar team! And I see some other StreamStar programmers in that picture, too! Alas, StreamStar is not currently open sourced; I’d be happy to present my point of view on that should anybody care, but it has a lot more to do with the extremely small size of the team than with any active desire to keep the software proprietary, and I can easily imagine us open sourcing it in the future.)

I suppose I might as well get my Sun boosterism out of the way all at once, on the theory that people who are turned off by that stopped reading a couple of paragraphs ago. So:

  • Go Constellation! I’m far from a blade expert, but I get the impression that it’s quite a system: a good job of balancing processor, memory, I/O bandwidth (not sure how much I can talk about it, but we have some very impressive evidence to that end coming up soon), and a good job of avoiding proprietary lock-in. (E.g. using PCI express for I/O cards instead of inventing an interface that other people would have to license.) And while Opteron chips have served us well, I’m really glad to see a product with Intel chips launched, and that we can mix and match with Niagara as well. My favorite part, though, is the rack-sized blade chassis that you can see about 15 minutes into the third part of the launch video: I just like big honking products these days.
  • ZFS has been out for a little while now, but I’m glad to see that people are continuing to take notice of it. Here’s the most recent example that I’ve seen. Certainly none of my disk experiences over the last half year have given me any reason to doubt the excellence of ZFS’s ideas…

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