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Al Williams

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Closing OpenSolaris?

July 17, 2010

I was a Unix user long before there was a Linux. Before Linux there were several attempts to get a Unix-like OS started: Coherent, Minux, and probably some others. I played with some of these, but they were all ultimately unsatisfying.

Of course, at work we had many expensive Apollo, HP, and Sun boxes. Sun's version of Unix was Solaris and had many nice extras. I noted a few years ago that Sun open sourced Solaris and create OpenSolaris but by that time I was entrenched into Linux pretty heavily so I didn't pay much attention.

Last year I got interested in better file systems and started looking at zfs. Unfortunately, Sun's licensing doesn't allow zfs into the Linux codebase, so the only way I've found to use zfs on Linux is to use a FUSE filesystem which means you really don't want it for, say, your main partitions. There is a recent native port here but I haven't tried it yet because it lacks the POSIX interface required to allow it be mountable (more about that in the related the FAQ). Of course, you can always use Solaris which supports zfs as you'd expect.

I installed OpenSolaris into a virtual machine to play with it and it was very nice. But when it became clear that Oracle was going to buy Sun I decided to hold off and see what was going to happen.

OpenSolaris is run by the OGB (OpenSolaris Governing Board). The July 12 minutes from the OGB had the following motion:

The OGB is keen to promote the uptake and open development of OpenSolaris and to work on behalf of the community with Oracle, as such the OGB needs Oracle to appoint a liaison by August 16, 2010, who has the authority to talk about the future of OpenSolaris and its interaction with the OpenSolaris community. Otherwise the OGB will take action at the August 23 meeting to trigger the clause in the OGB charter that will return control of the community to Oracle.

So effectively if Oracle doesn't send someone to talk to the OGB in a month, the OGB will disband.

Honestly, I'm not sure Oracle is going to see this as much of a threat. As a strong Linux company, I can't imagine they would not be all too happy to see OpenSolaris whither away. I can only presume that some of the community would try to fork a new version (OpenerSolaris maybe?) since the code is GPL. But without a major backer, it seems hard to imagine that will be very productive.

As for zfs, maybe Oracle will finally get it into Linux. Until then, the btrfs (pronounced "butter" fs") is in Linux and seems to work well even though there are still a few kinks to iron out in it. But I'm not anxious to adopt OpenSolaris until we see if its going to have a major backer in Oracle or some other company who might sponsor a fork.

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