An internal Oracle memo that was released last week provides a detailed summary of the company's plans for the Solaris operating system, which Oracle obtained when it acquired Sun. The memo offers a mix of good and bad news for Solaris enthusiasts. It reveals that Oracle is strongly committed to advancing the Solaris platform and intends to increase the availability of resources for Solaris development. The bad news is that Oracle plans to discontinue Sun's community-centric OpenSolaris distribution.
The OpenSolaris project emerged in 2007 with the aim of producing a downloadable distribution that includes a complete computing environment built around the open source components of the Solaris operating system. Sun brought in Debian founder Ian Murdock to orchestrate the endeavor in collaboration with contributors from the Solaris enthusiast community.
Murdock believed that a downloadable desktop-oriented distribution would help to build mindshare around Solaris technologies and attract more interest in the platform. He cited Ubuntu as an inspiration and said that some top OpenSolaris priorities included usability, ease of installation, and cultivating a package repository with a broad selection of third-party software.
Although the OpenSolaris project never really had the potential to deliver a practical mainstream desktop platform, it arguably succeeded in producing a compelling workstation environment for developers and system administrators. Due to the ease with which it could be installed, it significantly lowered the barrier to entry for technology enthusiasts who wanted to try out unique Solaris capabilities such as ZFS and DTrace.
According to the memo, Oracle does not intend to release any future version of OpenSolaris. The company plans to migrate existing corporate OpenSolaris users to an upcoming Solaris 11 Express binary distribution that will be made available prior to the official launch of Solaris 11.
"All of Oracle's efforts on binary distributions of Solaris technology will be focused on Solaris 11. We will not release any other binary distributions, such as nightly or bi-weekly builds of Solaris binaries, or an OpenSolaris 2010.05 or later distribution," the memo says. "We will determine a simple, cost-effective means of getting enterprise users of prior OpenSolaris binary releases to migrate to S11 Express."
Although OpenSolaris is headed for the chopping block and Oracle will no longer be developing Solaris in an open and inclusive manner, Oracle does not intend to close the platform. The existing open source Solaris code will continue to be made available under Sun's open source Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). Most of the new code will also be published under the CDDL—but only after the official stable release and possibly with significant omissions.
"We will not remove the CDDL from any files in Solaris to which it already applies, and new source code files that are created will follow the current policy regarding applying the CDDL," the memo says. "We will distribute updates to approved CDDL or other open source-licensed code following full releases of our enterprise Solaris operating system. In this manner, new technology innovations will show up in our releases before anywhere else. We will no longer distribute source code for the entirety of the Solaris operating system in real-time while it is developed, on a nightly basis."
The termination of OpenSolaris is disappointing for community contributors who have invested considerable time and effort improving the technology. It's also going to be frustrating for third-party vendors that build their own technology on top of OpenSolaris. Independent contributor Steven Stallion, who published the memo in his blog, is clearly unhappy with Oracle's decision.
"This is a terrible sendoff for countless hours of work [building] quality software which will now ship as an Oracle product that we (the original authors) can no longer obtain on an unrestricted basis," Stallion wrote. "I can only maintain that the software we worked on was for the betterment of all, not for any one company's bottom line. This is truly a perversion of the open source spirit."
The silver lining for Solaris enthusiasts is that the operating system will remain strong and most of the components will still be made available as open source eventually, albeit without any community involvement. The absence of the OpenSolaris 2010.05 release created a lot of crippling uncertainty about the future of the project. Now that the memo has provided clear confirmation that OpenSolaris is dead, former contributors and other stakeholders can move on. It's likely that some will move to community-driven projects such as Illumos that seek to develop independent open source Solaris distributions.
Source: ars technica