Sun Open Source Chief Leaves Oracle To Join OSI

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

As Oracle cemented its purchase of Sun last week, the head of open source at Sun left to take up a post at the Open Source Initiative

The head of open source at Sun Microsystems has left, as the company’s acquisition by Oracle was finalised – and is joining an open source body whose strategy has been controversial.

Simon Phipps, who spent ten years at Sun Microsystems and five as chief open source officer, announced last week that he would leave the company – just as Oracle launched a renewed bid to reassure Sun customers that Sun’s products and strategies were safe in its new owner’s hands.

Phipps joins the Open Source Initiative (OSI), an organisation which promotes open source, holding the “open source definition” and approving new open source licences. After a successful few years at Sun, some observers are already predicting he may liven things up at OSI, which has a somewhat staid reputation.

How Sun opened up

In his time there, Sun set up OpenSolaris – the open source version of Solaris – and “got some of the most important software in the computer industry released under Free licenses that guarantee software freedom for people who rely on them,” Phipps said on his blog. The company also played an important role in the development of the Open Document Format (ODF), which has seriously challenged Microsoft’s dominance in office file formats.

His only regret: “I’m sad that we didn’t get the code for some of those projects permanently outside the Sun firewall”.

Later in the week, he announced he was “honoured and delighted” to have been chosen as an OSI director, but promised to shake it up a little. “One or two friends have asked why on earth anyone would want to commit time to OSI,” he said, adding that OSI has had a low profile and “has been criticised for allowing too many licenses to be approved”.

“I think it’s time for change, first at OSI and then more widely,” he said. “OSI needs to move from a ‘supreme court’ model to a member-based model. I’d like to see activities promoting software freedom around the world both encouraged and represented by OSI.”

Response seems favourable so far. Joe Brockmeier, the community manager for OpenSuse (who we interviewed last year) expressed his wishes on the Ostatic blog: “I sincerely hope that Phipps can do something to shake the OSI out of its somnambulance,” said Joe Brockmeier on Ostatic.