“Where do I download OpenSolaris?”

Quick poll: What do you think of when you hear the name “OpenSolaris”?

It’s an operating system? The community version of Solaris? Right?

Not quite. Like Linux, OpenSolaris is a kernel. Except that it’s more than a kernel. Or, rather, more than a kernel but not quite a complete operating system. Are you confused yet?

This comment from a recent Register article sums up the problem quite nicely:

If you go to the OpenSolaris web site, all bright eyed and eager to download a new operating system, you will walk away in bitter disappointment. Sure, it says the word “open” in two dozen languages on the web page, but when you go hunting for an installer disk to download, suddenly you are cast into a maze. Nevada builds? What the hell is Nevada? Oh, it’s what they’re calling the OpenSolaris code base. You’ll need to download these components and build them. Well, how do I install it? Oh, you can’t do that, you need to have a Solaris machine up already to build on. But you can get started if you go to Sun’s site and download their Solaris Express Enterprise Pro Champion Edition (after dutifully registering), and then enjoy that pleasant install experience. And when that’s done, you still have the work ahead of you of getting ON (what the hell is that? Oh, OS and Network. Sorry, I don’t work at Sun) built and updated. Did I miss anything? We haven’t gotten to packages to make the system usable yet.

Now, I’m willing to wager most of you reading this have probably heard about DTrace, ZFS, Zones, and the other great stuff Solaris has to offer, not to mention that Solaris is about as enterprise grade as they come, having been at the heart of the data center longer than many of the alternatives have even existed. And don’t forget about more mundane but critical things like backward compatibility, where Solaris has excelled for a very long time.

But how many of you have actually experienced this great stuff first hand? How many hands go down if you’re under 30 and don’t remember the Sun workstation—i.e., you’re one of the many for whom Linux = Unix for as long as you’ve been in the computer business? How many of you would take Solaris for a spin if doing so was as easy as, say, downloading the latest version of Ubuntu and installing it?

In other words, with all the buzz about making Solaris more familiar to Linux users, it turns out the widest part of the familiarity gap isn’t even technological.

So, how do we bridge it?

We need to make “OpenSolaris” something you can touch, something you can “Download Now!” and run on your laptop to try out the latest and greatest from the OpenSolaris community.

We need to clearly articulate the link between Solaris and OpenSolaris in ways the industry understands—namely, that OpenSolaris is the rapidly moving version that delivers the latest innovations, and that Solaris is the enterprise-grade, supported-for-many-years, backward-compatibility- guaranteed version for the data center. Furthermore, the link needs to be more than just “OpenSolaris as upstream for Solaris”. Given how many more copies of Fedora and Ubuntu are running in the world than the enterprise Linuxes, there is significant opportunity here if we can get the model right.

In short, to make OpenSolaris (and, by extension, Solaris) more familiar to Linux users, the first thing we need to do is make it a “distro” in the Linux sense of the word. After all, when people say they know “Linux”, that’s what they’re talking about—how many people really care about the Linux kernel underneath? What they care about is the GNU tools, the desktop, the development environment, and all the other things their favorite distro bundles—and the package system that holds it all together. There’s no reason in the world why (Open)Solaris can’t deliver those same things. Oh yeah, and DTrace, ZFS, Zones, enterprise grade security/scalability/performance/etc., backward compatibility, etc. too.

Put this way, it’s easy to imagine what OpenSolaris needs to look like. That’s why the issues here are not primarily technological.

This is the essence of the Project Indiana you’ve read so much about in the past several weeks. Our goal is to create a binary distribution of OpenSolaris that simultaneously delivers what people have come to expect from “Linux” alongside the great stuff that make Solaris unique.

What comes next? We’re working that out in real time. If you’re interested in following along, participating, or just giving us your two cents, I encourage you to join the indiana-discuss mailing list we just created. We’re particularly interested in hearing from you if you consider yourself a “Linux user” and have been interested in taking Solaris for a spin but, for whatever reason, have considered the gap too wide. What would it take to get you running Solaris?

60 comments on ““Where do I download OpenSolaris?”

  1. Pingback: Indigo Jo Blogs

  2. Terry

    Having experienced the hash Sun makes of OpenOffice.org (actually the name of the software!), why would I be interested in Solaris of any kind?

  3. Sándor Lengyel

    Packages, Packages and Packages.

    I have Nexenta now.
    Opensolaris (Nexenta) detected all my new hardware devices,including UAA audio. So I do not have problem with the kernel itself.
    With a small modification I can, it seems! compile all the programs in pkgsrc, although Nexenta also provides them with Apt-get..
    However the choice in packages is strongly limited compared to Ubuntu, Gentoo or Debian.
    So the primary effort should be increasing the package availability.

  4. itomato

    I am really loving Solaris after flirting since 8. All the good stuff, Zones, ZFS, Dtrace, etc., are well known and all good, to be sure.

    After realizing what a ‘clean’ and ‘orderly’ environment I was using (simplicity of ZFS, zones), not to mention the apparent responsiveness (I swear I can feel fewer ridges between clock-ticks) and reading through a style guide (in re: scripting init and such), it dawned on me:

    It’s going to take people going to Solaris from Linux world taking the time to adapt to the way things can and are being done in Solaris, from the user interface, downward to the kernel. Adjusting to differences in development process, attention to detail, while keeping true “Enterprise-level” integrity.

    It’s the transition from the anything-goes, “let’s package it up and watch it go”, “hey watch this”, hooting and hollering happening with Linux, and using “inside voices” and being Computer Scientists for a change that’s going to produce the headaches.

    Nexenta offers an interesting look, and provides crucial overlap in understanding the connections between Solaris, OpenSolaris, Debian, and Ubuntu, KNOPPIX, etc.

    A long-time Debian-family user will no doubt be at home in Nexenta, generally speaking. Some of the “Solaris-ness” is buffed of in favor of “GNU-ness”, but if someone pulled an “Instant Coffee Switch”, and swapped a Nexenta (when it had a desktop) machine in for a Ubuntu machine, not a lot of people would notice until they went for the kernel.

    That difference is magnified a level as you approach Sun’s logoed product. The tools change, and with it the level of integration, managability, and quality of services provided.

    I’d say your gap is bridged, you just need to get life flowing through it.

  5. Eric Dujardin

    The driver issue should be addressed if you want Joe User be confident that his complete hardware is supported before downloading. This is
    a lot a work. One way to solve that in a generic way is to run Solaris
    aside a Linux kernel more or less stripped down to its board support package (Okay you could also run Solaris in user mode on top of Linux but
    then you lose on the performance side and probably also some nice kernel features ). So for all pieces of hardware that are not supported, on the Solaris side you just implement generic drivers, and the real hardware is supported on the Linux side.

  6. Stuart

    I personally agree with the approach of making (Open)Solaris more like a Linux distro. I spent a little while having a look at opensolaris.org and the solaris pages on sun.com and I ended up alittle confused on what was what. I don’t think it is clear what is opensolaris express, developer express and solaris. I think that following a similar approach to the likes of Red Hat (with Fedora/RHEL) and Novell (openSUSE,SLE) who seem to be able to define and clearly(ish) differentiate the differences between their ‘community’ releases and ‘enterprise’ ones.

  7. Bryan Boone

    I agree with making Solaris distros like Linux ones as well. As a long time user of Debian, the release model is the thing that’s kept me coming back (I’ve tried a lot of distros and made a lot of cd drink coasters). I’ve also tried SolarisExpress, Belenix, Nexenta, and Solaris “proper”. Coming from the Linux world, Solaris “proper” had default disk partitioning “goofyness” where I ran out of parition space on a 300 gb drive. SolarisExpress was really a pleasure to work except there was the “goofyness” of not being able to register with Sun’s site for automatic update (some java proxy class kept crashing) Belenix, well, the liveCD worked, but when installed the initial ramdisk couldn’t get created, and finally Nexenta, which seemed to have a lot of promise failed to work after I did a dist-upgrade to the latest version.

    Maybe I’m odd, but I had hopes of actually using the OS for may daily work. As far as Java development goes, there’s no other platform that could outperform Solaris (and it’s children) I have 64 bit chips, so using an OS that could use the power and having programs that didn’t have to be recompiled for 64 bit was a big plus. Additionally, JavaDesktop was almost seemless with the gnome environment. By far, it seemed that Solaris and SolarisExpress were the most stable. (except the quirks mentioned)

    I for one think that if it can be done, this is the way. The quirks can even be overlooked if I could only mount samba shares via fstab. I know Sun would like Solaris everywhere, but it just isn’t the case right now;)

  8. datakid

    It needs drivers and support. I eventually was sent the discs in the mail, and tried to install it under VMWare in Feisty. It took me most of the night to still not have the network card configured, and it was difficult to get easy access to the information required – expecially since the Solaris/OpenSolaris distinction seemed to get in the way? I recommend as easy download….followed by either an easy install with fantastic desktop hardware recognition OR better forums and support.

  9. Trent J. Townsend

    I am very much looking forward to having access to an “official” OpenSolaris binary distribution.

    I’d very much like to see OpenSolaris *NOT* snowball into 300 different distributions that differ mainly in package management and file system layout, with random kernel configurations for that additional ‘fun’ or flavor.

  10. JRZ

    I want to second the request for a good VMware image of the latest Solaris version. A VM image is by far the simplest way for a newcomer to try out a new OS — there’s no need to wipe a system clean and no concern about possible hardware incompatibilities.
    However, Sun’s past attempts have had lots of little problems (well documented here: http://atucker.typepad.com/blog/) like missing VMware tools, etc. Sun also decided not to put up a VM for its latest developer edition, which is the main reason why I haven’t tried it yet. You could also add an entry in VMware’s virtual appliance marketplace to help folks find the Solaris image in the future.

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