Now is the time to get Sun and Solaris back into the IT conversation.
It's been nearly three years
since Sun Microsystems kicked off its OpenSolaris project by releasing most of
the code that comprises its Solaris operating system under an open-source
license. And yet, it's only just now, with the release of the first official
distribution of OpenSolaris, that the project begins in earnest.
I, like most people
interested in OpenSolaris at its inception, expected to find at the project Web
site a button labeled, "download OpenSolaris here." Instead,
potential OpenSolaris adherents were met with a source-code browser and a
labyrinthine set of instructions for downloading and compiling the load of
source code that Sun had released.
The problem was that while
the label "open-source" refers directly to code, the sort of
open-source community that Sun hoped would spring up around OpenSolaris cannot
live on code alone.
I remember talking to an
OpenSolaris team member at OSCON in 2005 and getting the impression that Sun
expected to fork sterling Solaris code over the firewall and watch while a
vibrant Linux-style community collected around it. Sun didn't want to interfere
with the growth of an OpenSolaris ecosystem by blessing any particular
While it's true that a
couple of all-free, OpenSolaris-based distributions did pop up, these options
were more proofs-of-concept than budding branches of a true OpenSolaris
community. For one thing, these OpenSolaris distributions lacked the sort of
direct corporate backing that community-focused Linuxes such as Red Hat's
Fedora and Novell's OpenSUSE enjoy.
I have argued that Sun
should simply adopt the most promising of the OpenSolaris-based distributions,
the Ubuntu/Solaris hybrid Nexenta, and move on from that fairly well-formed
base to marry Solaris' unique features (ZFS file system, container-based
virtualization and Trusted Extensions, among others) to deliver an offering
with the appearance of Ubuntu and a slate of functionality unmatched by Linux
or Microsoft Windows.
The trouble with a
Debian-centric approach is that it may have broken too many ties with existing
Sun stakeholders and thrown the future road map of Solaris into doubt. No
matter where OpenSolaris goes, Sun will be shipping a Solaris 11, and that
release must flow naturally from Solaris versions that preceded it.
Considering these factors,
Sun's OpenSolaris reinvention team (led by none other than Debian founder Ian
Murdock) was right to crank through months of proceedings over how best to
bridge Solaris with OpenSolaris, even if it meant ending up with a product that's
less about showcasing the considerable benefits of Solaris than providing a
foundation upon which to begin that work.
Now that the foundation
(complete with "download now" button) is in place, the real work of
putting Sun and Solaris back into the center of the IT conversation can
eWEEK Labs Executive Editor
Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.