OpenSolaris: A Time to Be Born

Opinion: With Microsoft's Longhorn spinning in circles, Sun's OpenSolaris may have an opening in the enterprise. But it's facing increasingly tough competition from Linux in the server space and now, Mac OS X on Intel for the desktop.

Suns OpenSolaris moment is finally here. Well, a lot of the source code—albeit no installer for beginners—arrived Tuesday on the market.

Even so, in some ways, its a great time for OpenSolaris to arrive (despite the summer heat wave).

As each week goes by, Microsofts Longhorn seems to drop one bright feature after another. It now looks to be little more than an expensive service pack for Windows XP.

The recent loss of its super-duper combination shell and script language called Monad must be a bitter pill for Longhorn lovers to swallow.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about how Monad will miss its Longhorn debut.

Microsoft fans can howl all they want to spank those who observe that the Longhorn emperor isnt wearing any clothes.

But Microsoft really does appear to be fumbling the ball with its next-generation operating system.

With Microsoft having fits with Longhorn, isnt now a great time for Sun to finally get OpenSolaris on the streets and gain some mindshare?

Sure, but theres someone else whos trying to steal the show: Apple Computers CEO, Steve Jobs.

All the excitement about the new operating system in Intel town is over Mac OS X and its open-source foundation, Darwin.

Most of the people Ive talked with are excited about whether youll be able to run Mac OS X on any Intel hardware or run Windows on a Mactel box. Despite a year of hubbub, the buzz over OpenSolaris is hardly heard over the Mac din.

Beyond future Mactel competition, Sun faces more immediate challenges for the hearts and minds of developers and enterprise customers.

Developers and ISVs, both big names like McAfee and vertical players like Plumtree Software, are producing Linux ready software at an ever-increasing rate. And most importantly of all, customers are turning to Linux.

More than mom-and-pop operations are deploying their business dreams on Linux. Big companies like CitiGroup and E-Trade have put Linux in the heart of their enterprises.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about enterprise Linux shown at the recent Linux World in New York.

Worse still, from Suns viewpoint, many of those enterprise customers are moving from Solaris to Linux.

Only a few weeks ago at New Yorks LinuxWorld Summit, Josh Levine, E-Trades CTO, said his company had gone from being a "poster-child for Sun" to being a Linux convert.


Some open-source developers enthusiasm has also been dampened by Suns announcement that OpenSolaris code would be governed by its CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License).

If you want to work on both operating systems in an enterprise setting, I suggest it would be wise to use a system like Black Duck and VA Softwares pairing of ProtexIP and SourceForge.

Announced on Monday, the package can make sure that code from one doesnt end up in the other.

Sun also faces the uphill task of putting together a viable community of developers.

Sun has a good start in its OpenSolaris site.

There are also a handful of sites like, where users create free software binaries for OpenSolaris, and, a longtime site for Solaris freeware, which support OpenSolaris.

Still, compared to Linuxs community resources, OpenSolaris has a ways to grow.

Sun had to answer the Linux challenge, and only time will tell whether OpenSolaris can persuade the companys Unix customers to forestall a defection to Linux.

A few years ago—say before Linux 2.4 arrived—OpenSolaris would have been the biggest operating system news around. But now, with Mac OS X on one side, Linux on the other, its a three-legged race.

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.