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So long, OpenSolaris

I'm on record (see "OpenSolaris is here to stay" from May 2008) as saying that OpenSolaris was here to stay, and even thrive, as an open alternative to Linux. Unfortunately, some two years later, it now looks like history is ready to prove me wrong.

I really wanted OpenSolaris to succeed. Up until 2007 I was a pretty happy proponent of Linux, preaching its benefits and the joy of using various distributions such as openSUSE, Ubuntu, and Mandriva. But some time around the middle to latter part of 2007, Linux's overall quality began to decline; updates to distributions released in the early part of 2007 (openSUSE 10.2, Ubuntu 7.04) were suffering breakages in various packages and the loss of certain capabilities. I became less enchanted with my distributions of choice. Then I stumbled onto OpenSolaris, specifically the Project Indiana Developer Preview, which I wrote about.

Later in 2007 I ran a mini-comparison between openSUSE 10.3, Ubuntu 7.10, Fedora 8, and the same Project Indiana Developer Preview by booting all four on two seperate Gateway notebooks. While openSUSE 10.3 came away as the best of the four under those circumstances, it was surprising to me that OpenSolaris actually booted to a full GUI with wireless networking on a Gateway M680 notebook. Fedora 8, it should be noted, failed to boot on either Gateway notebook in that test.

Finally, in 2008, when my annoyance was greatest with Linux, I booted the LiveCD of OpenSolaris 2008.5. I was able to boot the LiveCD on my two home machines and my most current work notebook, a Gateway M685. In hindsight OpenSolaris 2008.5 was a remarkable achievement, more than I appreciated at the time; it integrated the heart of Solaris with a then-current Gnome desktop. And all the various drivers, including the video card drivers, Just Worked. Buoyed by those good experiences, and watching OpenSolaris improve release after release, I wrote "OpenSolaris is here to stay".

I wrote it in response to an article published by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, "OpenSolaris Arrives just to Die." Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols rattled off a series of fatal flaws with OpenSolaris, the most notable being:
Still, all that said, I think OpenSolaris could survive, and possibly even thrive, if it wasn’t for one sad, simple fact. Sun may not have the IP (intellectual property) rights to open-source Solaris in the first place. (emphasis mine)
I said it then, and I say it now: bullshit. Sun had as much right to Unix IP ownership as anyone else, including SCO, which as time and circumstance proved, Novell had not transfered ownership of its Unix IP to Caldera/The SCO Group.

All of this who-owns-what is moot now. It wasn't Linux that killed OpenSolaris or Novell asserting its Unix IP over Sun; it was Oracle's indifference after it purchased Sun that has killed OpenSolaris. To be sure, there's talk of forking OpenSolaris, and the rather remote possibility that Oracle will finally decide to support OpenSolaris. I don't know; I'm no mind-reader and certainly no seer. But if we loose OpenSolaris, we'll loose one of the best non-Linux open distributions on the market today, and that won't be good for anyone.


  1. The FUD continues?
    Once and again, OpenSolaris is alive there. Proof needed? Well, ON build 145 has been released recently. Actually, I expect the future release of OpenSolaris be based on non-134b but on a new version. Anything can happen. Oracle is doing bad in communicating with the community, as it does with customers and users.
    If you really like OpenSolaris, you should not worry people once more again. Oracle's promise was to keep OpenSolaris. Until there's official statement from Oracle to kill it, we should not speculate and bury it while alive. Oracle is very careful when they say something: they wouldn't promise to support anything, if they really don't plan to do that.

  2. FUD? Solaris 2010 was supposed to have been released back in February (or was it March? or June?) of this year.

    The best thing that can happen to OpenSolaris is to set a schedule for a release this year as originally intended and then stick to it. I'm happy that there's a new ON build to work with, but what OpenSolaris needs is an official release.

  3. I've been a big proponent of running Solaris on various systems for a long time now. First, it was on second-hand Sun hardware. Now, its on my newest x86-64 file server. However, Oracle's becoming less and less interested in giving half a damn about "unofficial community users" than Sun ever was. OpenSolaris stands to suffer even more than regular Solaris from this.

    At this point, however, I currently have two Solaris dependencies I'm not yet willing to give up: ZFS and SunRay Thin Clients. FreeBSD also does ZFS these days. Linux does not, but it'll have an equivalent when btrfs finally matures.

    SunRay is another issue altogether. I'm currently completely unaware of any equivalent alternatives. (like an X terminal, but with hot-desktop, and doesn't suck like VNC) The closest option there is the Linux version of the official SunRay server. However, its a bit too painful to make that work, especially if you don't want to run one of the officially-supported (i.e. antiquated) distros its targeted for.

  4. Today's news seem to support Gleb's comment. Yes, Oracle isn't good at communicating with an open-source community, but it looks like the company tries to promote Oracle Solaris.

    Oracle Solaris isn't Open Solaris, but since Solaris has advantages that fits into Oracle's portfolio of business solutions, there's reason to believe it will support Solaris the way the link suggest. Solaris and Open Solaris, as I understand it, share code base. It would be smart to have the benefit of a vital open-source community feeding the enterprise product.

    I don't know, I just comment what I read.

  5. I don't know either. But supporting a paid-for version of Solaris, in this case "Oracle Solaris", is not the same as supporting OpenSolaris, and no-one should infer that. Don't kid yourself; Oracle is in this to make money, and as much money as possible. Oracle Solaris supports the business model, OpenSolaris does not.

    And keep in mind this won't be the first "open" project that was taken private with new owners.


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