January 23, 2005

Sun to announce open source DTrace on Tuesday

Author: Chris Preimesberger

Sun Microsystems told NewsForge/ITMJ Thursday that it intends to open source a small but important new feature in Solaris 10 -- Dynamic Tracing (DTrace), a new framework for troubleshooting the network and tuning system performance in real time. Sun had asked NewsForge to honor a non-disclosure agreement until Tuesday about this announcement, but CMP's Computer Reseller News (CRN) leaked the story Friday night, citing "sources close" to Sun. CRN had not been briefed on the announcement, a Sun spokeswoman told NewsForge.

Sun marketing executive Tom Goguen told us that the company will hold a press conference Tuesday to show "good faith and demonstrate its commitment to open source the bulk of Solaris 10" by making DTrace available under its newly approved Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL). The CDDL, customized by Sun lawyers and engineers, is based directly on the Mozilla Public License 1.1.

On Tuesday, the company will launch a new Solaris 10 community site, OpenSolaris.org, Goguen said. The site will serve as the headquarters for all news and discussion about Solaris 10, he said.

Solaris 10 itself -- the pay version -- will be available on Jan. 31. The whole of Open Solaris will not be available for several months, because Sun is still sifting through millions of lines of Unix code to make certain copyrights to all features and utilities are cleared. There's a lot of archaeology involved.

The new Open Solaris community will also be creating a new advisory board, consisting of five members -- two from Sun, two elected in at-large seats, and one well-known "open source community leader," Goguen said. He didn't say who the company had in mind for the latter position.

Why did Sun select the Mozilla license on which to base its new license? "We selected the Mozilla license for starters because is it a well-written, liberal license," Goguen said. "The CDDL is also very liberal -- it is designed specifically for the mixing of open source and proprietary codes. It is very business-friendly."

DTrace could turn out to be a valuable tool in open source development in the future. The utility is able to seek out and identify problems that crop up within the network and file a report within minutes. It is specifically designed for live use on production systems. DTrace, which uses more than 30,000 data monitoring points in the kernel alone, lets administrators see their entire system in a new way, revealing systemic problems that were previously invisible and fixing performance issues that used to go unresolved.

"We can find out what's wrong in a system in minutes or hours, not days or weeks," said Sun senior kernel engineer Bryan Cantrill, who said he started working on the idea for this 10 years ago. "And whereas in older troubleshooting apps you get a long, drawn-out series of hundreds or thousands of characters to interpret -- if you get an answer at all -- with DTrace you usually get like a 30-character answer, and usually in a few seconds. And you never have to shut down the system, or any part of it, to do the troubleshooting or tuning."

"We've found that once you use DTrace in your system, there's no going back. I mean, it's like your roof -- whether you like it or not, you need it," Cantrill said. For now, however, DTrace is Solaris-specific.

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