OpenSolaris – July Update

By Alasdair Lumsden on 15 Jul 2010

Well, the OpenSolaris Governing Board has given Oracle an ultimatum: Make contact by August 16th, or they resign and hand control of the community back to Oracle.

To quote the above linked forum post..

“Without the Oracle part of the partnership at the table, there is effectively nothing for the OGB – or development community – to do. The flagship OpenSolaris distro is absent, the IPS repositories are stagnant, the build instructions no longer work for the sources that exist, even the architectural reviews of community-developed components are being held behind Oracle’s closed doors. It is as if the spirit of open, collaborative development centered around the Solaris operating system has died.”

Nobody really knows what Oracle are up to, but their decision not to even talk to the OpenSolaris Governing Board strongly suggests Oracle are disinterested in the health of the community. My personal opinion, based on what I’ve read and observed, is that Larry wants Solaris for Oracle’s enterprise systems at the top end, and doesn’t give two shits about OpenSolaris or the community.

As such, the best the community can hope for is that Oracle will continue to provide the source code to OpenSolaris. Worse case, this disappears. I don’t even want to contemplate this, as it essentially means we’ll have to formulate a “Solaris Exit Plan”. Effectively this means NetApp and Ubuntu.

Anyway, lets assume for now Oracle will continue to provide the OpenSolaris source code to the community. If they do, then I have some opinions on what the community should do.

Here is what I posted to the OpenSolaris discuss and ogb mailing list:

IMHO, The Oracle/Sun provided OpenSolaris reference distribution (henceforth referred to as Indiana to avoid confusion) has done the community a disservice, in the sense that it has prevented a community from producing something itself.

All the other OpenSolaris based distributions such as Schillix, Nexenta etc all cater for particular niches, but what what’s needed is a community produced version of Indiana. One with the same (or at least, similar) goals with an identical/similar architecture including aspects such as IPS, Automated Installer, Zones, etc.

As long as Oracle/Sun continue to release their own distribution, the community has no real reason to do so. Well, perhaps now is the time for this to happen. Perhaps what is needed is an agreement with Oracle along the lines of:

1. Oracle agrees to continue to provide the source code for OpenSolaris (nevada), along with constituent parts (such as IPS/pkg). Oracle continue to provide bug and security fixed updates to the closed source binaries.

2. OpenSolaris 2010.xx is never released, but becomes Solaris Next.

3. The community steps up and produces it’s own version of Indiana, tracking Solaris Next as best it can in a binary and package compatible way.

4. The community maintains it’s own source code repository that developers can commit to, and Oracle takes community improvements that they want.

This frees Oracle from their obligation to the community, and allows them to maintain their secrecy and radio silence. But it forges an even stronger community that can stand on it’s own legs.

Obviously the issue the community has is that we’ve never had the ability to produce the distribution itself. We don’t have the ability to build all the packages that go into the IPS repo, nor produce the Live CD, nor do we have an installer. And of course, finding people to do the actual work would present a significant challenge.

The good news is that there is a community out there. There are the community members who have been involved with the OpenSolaris derived distributions. There are ex Sun/Oracle staff who have moved to other companies, such as Nexenta. There are projects such as OSUnix who are trying to produce their own OS from the OpenSolaris codebase by replacing the closed binaries/code (such as the internationalised bits of libc).

Not to mention, there’s Blastwave and OpenCSW who are already building large amounts of software for Solaris/OpenSolaris, and if one/both decided to contribute, we have a huge source of software packages for the community based distro.

If the fragmented OpenSolaris community rallied round and came together, I’m quite confident a community based distribution could thrive. Indeed, if Solaris Next does become an “Oracle Hardware Only” OS, then an entire company providing support for the community based distribution would definitely have legs, and this could potentially afford to pay staff to work on building the distribution full time. Solaris is run by a very large number of people on Dell/HP/etc kit and these users would no doubt be eager to jump onto such a distribution.

I’m going to be talking about my thoughts on this at the London OpenSolaris Users Group later this month, if anyone is in London and wants to come along. And of course I’d appreciate peoples comments here on this thread.