OpenSolaris Gets Linux

This early release brings some Linux application interoperability to Solaris, but it's more suited for technical experimentation than business deployment, analysts said.

After over a years delay, Solaris is getting some interoperability with Linux and other Unix systems.

Sun Microsystems Inc. has promised Linux binary application compatibility in Solaris 10—Project Janus—but was unable to deliver on its promises.

Now, Sun has released an application framework, BrandZ to the OpenSolaris community, which will eventually enable Solaris on Intel users to run not just Linux applications, but Darwin, Mac OS Xs underlying operating system, or FreeBSD programs as well.

Sun had to delay the project because many Linux binaries have dependencies for native environments already built in and require separate development work for each version, said Glenn Weinberg, vice president of Suns operating platforms group when the delay was first announced in November 2004.

Weinberg then predicted that Janus would be added to Solaris early in 2005.

/zimages/6/28571.gifSun adds Postgres Database to OpenSolaris package. Click here to read more.

The technical problems proved even more intractable than predicted though. By June 2005, Project Janus had transformed into LAE (Linux Application Environment). LAE was to enable users to run Linux applications with an optional Solaris kernel service.

That plan proved too optimistic. So it is only now has Sun released any level of Linux application interoperability to Solaris.

Even now, however, Nils Nieuwejaar, BrandZs technical lead, admits in an online memo that the project, and the Linux side, lx, are "very much works in progress —so they are being released independently from the mainline Solaris source tree."

BrandZ, Nieuwejaar explained, "is a framework that builds on the zones functionality introduced in Solaris 10, and is the technology that underlies the feature known as SCLA (Solaris Containers for Linux Applications.)"

"BrandZ allows for the creation of zones populated with non-native software. Each new zone type is referred to as a brand and the installed zones are called Branded Zones." Thus, the framework can theoretically support multiple operating systems at once.

Unlike VM (virtual machine) technology such as Xen, BrandZ supports not an entire virtual operating system with all its overhead, but simply other operating systems applications.

Thus, BrandZ has more in common with CodeWeavers Inc.s CrossOver Office or The SCO Group Inc.s LKP (Linux Kernel Personality) technology.

In any case, as Nieuwejaar has said, "BrandZ/lx is still very much a work in progress. This means that it should be expected to crash at any time, set fire to your datacenter and kick your cat."

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