Beginning with Solaris 10, Sun Microsystems rearranged the development and licensing processes surrounding its flagship operating system to better tap the sort of community participation that has helped lift Linux fairly quickly to prominence. The result was OpenSolaris.
eWEEK Labs recently scoped out the current OpenSolaris environment, spinning up three LiveCD-based OpenSolaris x86 distributions: NexentaOS Alpha 5, Belenix 0.5 and Schillix 0.5.2. We found that none of these systems is ready for production use but that they certainly represent burgeoning development diversity for Solaris. Whats more, these distributions point to intriguing new directions for Solaris, particularly in the case of NexentaOS.
Suns foray into expanded openness began in earnest about a year and a half ago, when Sun released the core of its Solaris operating system under the OSI (Open Source Initiative)-approved CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License). Almost immediately, the first all-free, Solaris-based distribution hit FTP servers. While that distribution, Schillix 0.1, wasnt too much more than a proof of concept, it was a promising sign for the OpenSolaris project.
Today, the chief OpenSolaris distributions are those that Sun maintains itself. Theres Solaris Express, a version of OpenSolaris that tracks the forthcoming Solaris 11 (code-named Nevada). Theres also Solaris Express CE (Community Edition), which also tracks Solaris 11 but is faster-moving. (For instance, at press time, Solaris Express was at Nevada Build 46, and Solaris Express CE was at Nevada Build 49.) Like Solaris 10, both Solaris Express editions are freely downloadable. Neither, however, consists entirely of open-source software. That distinction, for now, belongs to a few Solaris spinoffs.
Solaris Express CE is unsupported; Sun offers Web-based support for Solaris Express for $99 per year. Were pleased that Sun offers a supported version of the in-the-works operating system, as it gives organizations the option of getting early access to new features without forgoing support completely (as is the case with Red Hats Fedora distro).
What wed really like to see is a simpler way to upgrade among Suns test builds—over the Internet and package by package, rather than by downloading four CD images. With Debian GNU/Linux, for example, upgrading from a stable version to a testing version (and even—although not simply—back again) is a fairly easy affair.