BSD/OS and FreeBSD merge / Walnet Creek and BSDI merge

Martin Hopkins martin.hopkins at
Wed Mar 8 14:10:59 GMT 2000

Thought you'd all be interested in this from

There's big news in the BSD community today, as two important mergers
are occurring. First, Berkeley Systems Design, Inc., better known as
BSDI, and Walnut Creek CDROM, the primary backer of FreeBSD, are
merging. The combined company, BSD Inc., will have a strategy of
promoting BSD on all levels. This merger, combining the two primary
corporate supporters of BSD, will allow the new company to really
focus its efforts on the improvement and promotion of BSD.

The other merger is that of the codebases of BSD/OS and FreeBSD. This
merger will occur over (hopefully) the next year and result in a
single operating system, still named FreeBSD. FreeBSD will remain
completely open source and primarily under the BSD license, as it is
today. Certain commercial drivers and components of BSD/OS which
remain under NDA will be administered by BSD Inc. as add-on
components. These components, along with the commercial backing, will
be the value-added features separating FreeBSD from BSD/OS, which will
continue as a commercial product (with FreeBSD at the core).

But how friendly is the merger? Look no further than the Principal
Architect's chair. David Greenman, who has been Principal Architect
for FreeBSD since its inception, and Mike Karels, who holds the
position's analogue (Chief Systems Architect) at BSDI, will be
co-architects for FreeBSD. This will essentially double the
architectural leadership for the project.

In addition to the architect position, having the BSDI developers
working on FreeBSD should greatly improve response time for creation
of new hardware drivers and advanced features. These developers have
managed to keep a closed-source BSD competitive with its open source
cousins--no mean feat.

As far as the code goes, this merger can do only good--and lots of
it. Additional people, energy, and spirit can only result in a more
rapid development pace. Right away, the biggest issue will be
selecting the code to use from both systems; the second will be
merging back changes from the current incarnations of each OS. Now
that the business end of things has been cared for, the developers
have a great deal of work ahead of them.

Although BSDI is merging its codebase with FreeBSD, the other open
source BSDs are not being left in the cold. Both NetBSD and OpenBSD
are welcome to either contribute code, suggestions, and improvements
to FreeBSD, or to take BSDI's code contributions and use them in their
own projects. Once BSDI releases the code to FreeBSD, it will fall
under a very liberal license. Basically, if the code is incorporated
into an existing open source project, it will fall under the licensing
terms of that project. This means that any open source project can
incorporate BSDI's code--quite a gift, especially when compared to
other commercial entities' offerings.

The BSD community has watched as Linux appeared, exploded, and
produced a host of commercial entities. Linux is now the
second-most-widely-used PC operating system in the world, firm proof
that the open source concept is completely commercially viable. With
BSD, Inc. as a backer, and an ever-growing pool of talent to draw
from, BSD can be taken from the realm of the hacker, the academic, and
the power user into that of the everyday, average user -- without
sacrificing any of its power or stability.

Martin Hopkins                      | martin.hopkins at
Insignia Solutions Plc,             | martin at
The Mercury Centre, Wycombe Lane    | Tel: (+44) 1628 539537
Wooburn Green, Bucks, HP10 0HH, UK. | Fax: (+44) 1628 539501

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