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?