[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
If you follow the news at all, you've probably already heard about the
OpenBSD project losing the funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA). What's less than clear is why the
funding has been pulled. In fact, it's quite a test to figure out who's
actually responsible for pulling the plug, much less the reason. DARPA
is, essentially, just an intermediate agency for the funding, which is
passed on to the University of Pennsylvania. The funds themselves come
from the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Most speculation has gone to comments made by OpenBSD project leader
Theo de Raadt. The comments in question come from an interview in The
Globe and Mail, where de Raadt is quoted as saying he's "uncomfortable"
about the source of the grant. De Raadt also told the Globe and Mail that,
"I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile
doesn't get built," which might not sit well with U.S. military types. A
few days after the comment appeared in the Globe and Mail, de Raadt was
contacted by University of Pennsylvania professor Jonathan Smith. According
to de Raadt, Smith objected to the comment, but wouldn't give a specific
reason why. The funding was pulled on Thursday of last week.
If that is the reason for the cancellation, it's not the official story
from DARPA, in as much as DARPA has or will give an official story. A
statement forwarded to LWN by de Raadt, attributed to DARPA spokesperson
Jan Walker, claims that the funding is under review.
As a result of the DARPA review of the project, and due to world events
and the evolving threat posed by increasingly capable nation-states, the
Government [sic] on April 21 advised the University to suspend work on
the "security fest" portion of the project.
Walker did not respond to e-mails or phone calls requesting confirmation
of this statement or requests to elaborate on or clarify the statement.
The most immediate consequence is that the OpenBSD project has had the
rug pulled out from under them with regards to the upcoming hackathon in
Canada. 60 OpenBSD developers are scheduled to travel to Canada for the
event, almost all of whom have already purchased tickets based on a
go-ahead given in January. The hotel was contacted and told to cancel
the reservation, despite the fact that an 80% cancellation fee is
in effect. According to de Raadt, this amounts to about $24,000
Canadian. De Raadt also reports that the hotel was instructed not to
allow anyone to pay the remaining balance to keep the reservation.
However, de Raadt said that the hotel has agreed to cut the OpenBSD
project a deal for the hackathon, even if they cannot apply the
cancellation fee to the bill.
Fernando Pereira, chairman of the Department of Computer and Information
Science at the University of Pennsylvania sent this statement to the
OpenBSD "misc" mailing list to explain why the cancellation fee cannot
be used towards the hotel costs:
When the contracting agency requested that work be stopped
on the security fests component of POSSE, the only expenses that they
would still allow are documented losses to the conference hotel due to
cancellation. Any other use of funds, including use of the cancellation
costs in partial support of conference accommodation, would not be an
allowable contract expense. Contrary to a widespread misconception, the
University of Pennsylvania could not have "allowed" that use of US
Government funds. The funds belong to the US Government, not to the
Apparently, quite a few people in the OpenBSD community have already
sent letters of protest to the University of Pennsylvania, newspapers
and other sources. If you'd like to write a letter to complain or
comment on the decision to official sources, de Raadt notes that it's
helpful to have the contract number. The contract was granted by the Air
Force Research Lab, Material Command, and is DARPA contract number
With the exception of the hackathon, the loss of funding may not be as
dramatic as it sounds. On Monday, de Raadt said that the OpenBSD project
had already received about $7,000 in donations, and more was "in the
mail." The OpenBSD project has been around for eight years, and has done
just fine without the DARPA funding. In addition, the funding was set to
run out within four months anyway and de Raadt noted that he works
through a Canadian contracting company that should ensure that he
receives the rest of his pay for the next four months. The major losers
appear to be the University of Pennsylvania grad students who were also
receiving money from the grant, as well as the 60 OpenBSD developers who
are wondering whether there will be a place for them to stay when they
arrive at the hackathon.
Comments (16 posted)
Readers of the discussion on LWN.net may have seen comments posted by
Kristopher Magnusson, who happens to be the chair of Novell's "Open Source
Review Board" and the person responsible for managing the company's
relations with the free software community. We had the opportunity to ask
Mr. Magnusson a few questions about Novell's plans with regard to Linux;
his answers appear below. But first, a couple of other Novell-related
- Novell has become
a gold sponsor of the Linux
Professional Institute, and is recommending LPI certification as
part of its own certification program.
- Jack Messman, Novell's CEO, has sent us a
clarification of Novell's view of Linux and the free software
community, and an apology for some remarks in an interview that did
not come out quite right. " Novell wouldn't be spending the
tremendous time, money and resources to make this strategy a reality
if we didn't believe in the present and future of Linux. After
building and enhancing NetWare for 20 years, this is new territory for
us. We simply ask for your patience along the way."
And now, on to the interview.
In the ComputerWorld interview, CEO Jack Messman said "Linux is an immature
operating system right now. It hasn't had somebody like Novell worrying
about making it robust, reliable and scalable for very much time. We think
we can bring that to the Linux kernel." He has since noted that he could
have expressed himself better, and his apologies have been accepted. But
the point remains that Novell sees room for improvement in the Linux
kernel. The kernel developers agree, of course; otherwise they would be
working on something else. Could you explain what improvements Novell would
like to see in the Linux kernel?
First, I want to reiterate that Novell believes the Linux kernel is
quite mature, robust, reliable and scalable as it is today, or else we
wouldn't have decided to use it in NetWare 7. That said, at this point,
Novell currently has no definitive plans to improve the kernel, though
as Jack indicated we will indirectly enhance it by the services that
runs on top. We intend to let the Linux developer community go through
its normal development process and use whatever kernel they develop
Job number one for Novell engineering is to port the services that run
on the operating system. Whether customers are running NetWare 7 on the
Linux kernel or the NetWare kernel, we want to make sure they have
access to the very best services for file, print, storage, directories,
messaging, collaboration, resource management, Web development and many
Which of those (if any) does Novell plan to work on (and contribute
As I stated, we like the Linux kernel as-is, and have no plans at this
point to to develop our own improvements. Novell's focus today is
delivering a number of services above the kernel.
A quick search through the linux-kernel mailing list did not turn up
Novell engineers participating in the discussion - at least, none that
identified themselves as such. Does Novell have engineers working on
Linux kernel, and do they plan to participate in the development
We do have a team of Linux engineers who have joined the Linux-kernel
mailing list and they are reading the Linux-kernel mailing list posts.
My understanding is that they are getting a feel for how the discussions
take place before they actually participate with questions and so
forth--they want to understand the lay of the land before they jump in
The recent announcements mention Novell's contributions to various
source projects, including Apache and OpenLDAP. Can you give a quick
summary of what some of the more important contributions have been?
Novell has been quietly engaging the open source community for a number
of years. For example, our OpenLDAP work has been quietly humming along
for four years. And it's not well known that we've thrown our weight
solidly behind the "AMP (Apache/MySQL/PHP)" platform that's been so
popular on Linux. Because of our AMP work, developers can take AMP code
and move it to NetWare 6.5 pretty much unmodified.
Our Apache work is one of our more important contributions. We have a
strong relationship with the Apache Software Foundation. In the case of
Apache, Novell's lead engineer in charge of porting Apache to NetWare is
a member of the Apache Software Foundation, which gives him code
check-in privileges as well as some degree of control over the general
technical direction of Apache development. Further, Novell has been very
conscientious about contributing our improvements to the Apache codebase
back to the Apache Foundation.
Novell recently formed a relationship with MySQL AB. We licensed a
commercial version of MySQL to ship their database on every NetWare 6.5
CD, and this has been a big hit with our biggest customers. We practice
a kind of open source process between our two companies--Novell
engineers porting MySQL code make improvements that we contribute back
to MySQL AB. These improvements find their way into the GPL version of
the database, which benefits everyone who uses the open source version
Novell also has a relationship with the PHP group that's part of the
Apache Software Foundation. We ported PHP to NetWare as part of our AMP
strategy, and we made a number of improvements to the PHP code that we
contributed to that organization.
Beyond AMP, our relationship with OpenLDAP dates back to 1999, when
Novell was looking for open source C-based libraries for programmatic
access to LDAP directories. We found OpenLDAP's implementation, which
needed some work. We decided to pitch in and help; so we completed the
work for them and contributed our improvements back to OpenLDAP. Next,
we needed a set of Java libraries. OpenLDAP didn't have any, so we wrote
our own and contributed them to OpenLDAP outright under their BSD-based
license. After four years, we still check in Java library code to
OpenLDAP on a weekly basis. Most recently, a few months ago, we
contributed to OpenLDAP a DSMLv2 server written in Java.
So we've been consuming open source software for some time, and have
been contributing our improvements back to each community. It's been a
satisfying process over the years to see our improvements included in
new versions of each piece of software.
Novell has released its UDDI code with a fair amount of fanfare. Can
look forward to other releases of Novell technology in the near
Yes, we will definitely release more technology in the future. In fact,
we have another open source announcement planned for later in the spring
that, like the UDDI server, is related to standards activities. We are
also evaluating which proprietary Novell technologies could be good
candidates for open source release, although we haven't finalized those
If I understand correctly, Netware 7.0 will be able to run on top of
Linux kernel. The thinking seems to be that giving customers the option
move to Linux will make them more inclined to stay with Netware. Is
an accurate summation of Novell's strategy? How will Novell respond if
turns out that most customers would rather run on the Linux kernel?
I think it's only one element of our strategy that the option to move
to Linux will make our customers more inclined to stay with NetWare.
Both versions will be bona fide NetWare 7--whether customers purchase
the version that runs on the Linux kernel or the NetWare kernel, they're
both revenue-generating products for Novell. If it turns out that most
customers would rather run on the Linux kernel, then it would only
validate our decision to move NetWare services to Linux. This is the
same approach that we've taken with other products, like eDirectory,
NetMail, and iFolder.
Taking it one step further...if Netware 7 runs well on the Linux
what reason would Novell have to continue developing and maintaining
own kernel? What advantage does a proprietary kernel give to Novell
it can run Linux and benefit from the reliability and scalability work
being done by IBM, SGI, HP, Red Hat, SuSE, and others?
Novell still has a huge installed base of NetWare customers who depend
on a clear upgrade path to the next version of NetWare running on the
NetWare kernel. That's why we have a dual-kernel strategy--to ensure
that we don't lose customers who want to upgrade to the non-Linux
version of NetWare 7. Besides, Linux and the NetWare kernel are both
excellent pieces of engineering that have benefitted from years of
enhancements and improvements. Many traditional NetWare customers will
want the value of the NetWare kernel.
For customers wanting to run Netware over Linux, will Novell ship a
specific distribution, or will customers be expected to obtain a
distribution from elsewhere?
The answer to this question is in a state of flux. We're not sure yet
exactly how this is going to work yet--please bear with us while we sort
Why is Novell releasing Netware on top of Linux, rather than (or, at
prior to) Windows?
We're going with Linux because our customers are telling us that they
are moving off of Windows and onto Linux. It's as simple as that. Linux
has the momentum and the mindshare and we want to lend our considerable
energy to Linux.
Comments (5 posted)
AMD has, at last, released
its long-awaited "Opteron" (or "Hammer") processor. LWN does not normally
devote much space to following developments in the microprocessor field,
but Opteron is worth a mention. There is a good chance that this is the
architecture many of us will be running in the future.
Opteron has the potential to deliver the best from both the 32-bit and
64-bit computing worlds. It will run 32-bit x86 code natively, and with
good performance. That is a nice feature for people with binary
applications, of course, though it is less useful in the free software
world. If you have source (and an operating system which has been 64-bit
capable for years), support for a new processor is often just a matter of
running "make." There is another important aspect to 32-bit support,
however: for most applications, 32-bits is the optimal size. Moving to a
64-bit mode involves a sizeable expansion of a program's code and data,
with bad effects on cache utilization, virtual memory use, and memory bus
bandwidth. Building "cat" as a 64-bit application can only serve to make
it bigger and slower. So a processor with native 32-bit support is a good
There are situations, however, where only 64 bits will do. In particular,
applications which need to address vast amounts of memory (e.g., big
scientific crankers, large databases, emacs) will benefit from 64-bit
pointers. So good 64-bit support matters too.
Of course, the thing that really matters for Linux users is Linux
support. AMD has worked with the free software community for years to
ensure that its processor would be supported. The end result is that you
can buy an Opteron server running a stable Linux port (choosing from
multiple distributors) today. Windows support, instead, will show up in
beta form only later this year, and Apple's support remains a rumor. In
some areas, hardware support in Linux still lags behind other systems; with
the Opteron, however, Linux got there first. If Opteron lives up to its
PR, it could be a platform which brings Linux into many more machine rooms
in the next few years.
Comments (16 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: The other security issue; new vulnerabilities in mime-support, snort, ...
- Kernel: Memory allocation and interrupt handler changes; internal device number representation; atomic kmaps
- Distributions: The State of Regional Linux Distributions
- Development: 3D mesh graphics with Gmsh,
New versions of OSCAR, CUPS, Etherboot, Glame,
Galeon, Mozilla, Vera Fonts, Gmsh, Glade, GStreamer, AbiWord,
SQL Ledger, Chandler, KDevelop, Visual Tcl, Treebeard, CUTE.
- Press: Will patents pillage open source?, XFree86 Mission Statement,
Firebird name collision, SuSE on Opeteron, new OSDL CEO.
- Announcements: Linux Household Robot, Open Source Reference Book submissions,
EULA vs GPL, Perl Beginner's Portal.
- Letters: Desktop Linux; Alternative names for Firebird; Searching for software