Solaris 11.2: The Future of OpenStack?

NEWS ANALYSIS: Oracle has deeply integrated OpenStack as a core part of its Unix operating system. Here's why it matters.

Oracle is a late-comer to the OpenStack ecosystem, but it has now jumped in with the beta release of the Solaris 11.2 operating system this week. Oracle isn't just bolting on OpenStack as an afterthought; it's thoroughly integrating it as a core component of the operating system itself.

OpenStack is an open-source cloud technology platform that got its start as a joint effort between Rackspace and NASA in 2010. It has since garnered the support of many of the world's leading IT vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell, Cisco and now Oracle.

Solaris is Oracle's Unix operating system that it picked up through the acquisition of Sun Microsystems in January 2010. Oracle has been positioning Solaris as a cloud operating system since the initial Solaris 11 release in November 2011, but it is with Solaris 11.2 that the vision is truly fulfilled, thanks to OpenStack.

Instead of simply packaging OpenStack as a set of technologies that can run on top of Solaris, Oracle has gone a different route. The company is embedding OpenStack technologies within Solaris as the model on which the operating system is able to deliver many of its core cloud features.

For example, image management via the new Unified Archive capability in Solaris is integrated with the OpenStack Glance image management platform. The creation of virtual machines (VMs) is integrated with the OpenStack Nova compute platform, to enable users to easily spin up instances. Storage is directly integrated with the OpenStack Swift and Cinder platforms, and software-defined networking (SDN) capabilities are enabled via the OpenStack Neutron technology. Providing an interface overview to all of those capabilities is the OpenStack Horizon dashboard.

OpenStack isn't just an overlay in Solaris; it is Solaris.

From a competitive perspective, there are lots of different vendors with OpenStack distributions in the market today. Among Linux vendors, Red Hat has its own Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, which provides an optimized Linux platform for cloud deployment. SUSE Linux has its own SUSE Cloud distribution, which has a similar kind of offering. Canonical with its Ubuntu Linux, however, does not have a separate OpenStack distribution product, but rather just bundles it with its operating system. OpenStack can also run on top of regular versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Oracle is taking its marketing message of Solaris being a cloud operating system to a very deep technical level with its OpenStack integration.

"All of our new cloud capabilities are exposed through a full distribution of OpenStack that is in Solaris," Markus Flierl, vice president of software development at Oracle, said. "It's all one architecture."

This is the future of OpenStack and perhaps of all operating systems—namely one server architecture for application deployment.

What is an operating system, after all? It's a base layer of technologies that enables applications to run and be served to users. In the modern era, it has become increasingly apparent that all applications will be delivered in an agile cloud manner, whether that cloud is public, private or hybrid.

OpenStack provides an abstraction layer for the cloud, with a set of standard APIs that enable compute, storage and SDN capabilities. Under those APIs, there will be lots of different technologies, including different operating systems like Solaris and Linux.

It only makes sense that server operating systems evolve for the cloud era. Having OpenStack as the common denominator for the cloud is an incredibly powerful vision because it could enable a degree of interoperability, common IT skills and compatibility across disparate vendors and deployments.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.