OpenSolaris derivative's founder has high hopes

OpenSolaris derivative's founder has high hopes

Although Oracle has no plans to continue supporting the OpenSolaris project, the founder of a recently formed Solaris derivative believes all hope is not lost.

Illumos, which was launched on Aug. 3, is a "child" of OS/Net (ON), the core OS and networking aspects of Solaris, which Oracle gained via the acquisition of Sun Microsystems. It arrived as speculation swirled about Oracle's intentions for OpenSolaris, an open-source version of the OS.

An internal Oracle memo posted to the OpenSolaris mailing list on Friday stated that the company plans to concentrate its energies on the commercial version of Solaris. "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."

Oracle instead plans to roll out Solaris 11 Express, a developer version of the OS. It will offer a support plan for Solaris 11 Express, along with a "cost-effective means" by which OpenSolaris users can migrate to it, according to the memo.

While unfortunate, Oracle's decision is far from the end of the world, according to the Illumos project's founder, Garrett D'Amore.

The original goal was to "track Oracle's code base as much as possible, to have a more collaborative relationship," he said in an interview on Monday. "That was my desire."

But the memo indicates that "Oracle doesn't believe there's any value in this type of collaboration," said D'Amore, a former Sun engineer and prominent contributor to OpenSolaris. As a result, Illumos may have to become more of a full-blown fork of the Solaris codebase, he said. "We'll be forced to evolve, and the code diverges as a result."

The Illumos project will need corporate backing in order to be successful. So far, it has gained early support from a number of companies, including D'Amore's employer, storage vendor Nexenta Systems.

In a blog post Friday, D'Amore indicated that some "very surprising" names have privately committed to help the project: "These are people that are big-name contributors; folks who have made very large numbers of code commits to Solaris -- some of the deepest and 'most challenging' parts of Solaris, too."

On balance, Illumos looks to be on solid footing, he said on Monday.

"If they want a relationship based on competition instead of collaboration. ... I actually think we're in good shape in spite of the vast economic resources that Oracle has," he said.

An Oracle spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

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