Friday, August 13, 2010

OpenSolaris dead as a distribution

A supposedly internal memo from Oracle has been posted to the opensolaris-discuss list. The most important part of this is probably that it finally states that OpenSolaris as a distribution is dead, Oracle will no longer make OpenSolaris available in binary form as a release or in bi-weekly development builds. The source will for most parts continue to be open, but will not be pushed out in realtime as it does today, it will be posted after a Solaris 11 release has been made available. This way Oracle will always be first in line to productize their latest innovations and fixes. neither will Oracle continue to post most of the PSARC externally. There will however be options for partners to gain early access to source and binaries from Oracle. Solaris 11 will be made available in an Solaris 11 Express form as a preview to the next release of Solaris 11. It will be free to use for developers and has an optional support plan.

As am enterprise customer the message is great, to know that Oracle really believes and invests in Solaris and that Solaris 11 will be made available early. The availability of the source after a release is also very important. I also feel that Oracle genuinely are going to make Solaris even better and are willing to put in the resources to do so. Looking at all the new features available in OpenSolaris since Solaris 10, Solaris 11 will be a huge leap forward for Solaris.

As someone involved and personally interested in the OpenSolaris community this is not very good. I will be cut of from the day-to-day changes in the source and no free OpenSolaris distribution will be available to attract new customers outside of the large enterprises. I think there will be some other distribution that will try to take the place of OpenSolaris, but with the access to the source cut, except for snapshots from releases it will not be as interesting as the weekly builds have been. It would also stall months behind Solaris 11 as it has to wait for the release to be made available.

If Oracle just would make Solaris 11 available at a lower price with obviously less support commitment it might come something good out of this even for businesses with smaller budgets. I think this is really something Oracle must do, otherwise the adoption rate of Solaris will decline drastically. It would neither undercut the sales of the enterprise support contracts, they will still be sold, mission critical deployments are not run with patch or mail-only support options. I've been involved with several smaller startups which love Solaris and like to use it, but neither need or can afford the support contracts for Solaris today, it would be sad if there was no open option for them to continue to use Solaris for a, for them, reasonable price.

So in short, I think that this will make Solaris even better for the large customers, Oracle will put much effort in keeping Solaris the most capable and advanced operating system available. But smaller companies, startup and hobbyist will have a harder time to adopt Solaris 11. I will continue to use Solaris 11 express for my private servers if possible, but I can obviously not be as involved as before since I get cut off from frequent builds and changes to the source.

The full memo is available here.


nathan wise said...

This is bad news. I pity the people like Roland Mainz who founded the first community Opensolaris projects, the ksh93 integration and the POSIX utility modernisation projects, and spend the larger part of 4 years to plan and execute them and is now getting his work ruined by Oracle.

On the bright side I see that Apple will pick up that work now. Nothing is better than having a competitor, i.e. Sun, to pay development and testing and then take over the glass shards Oracle created by shattering the Opensolaris projects and pick up one of the most valuable parts of it - for free.
I bet Larry will vomit when he reads that.

kworr said...

I just want to add some words from the Oracle outsider.

Pushing Solaris 11 release and ceasing work on OpenSolaris is definitely good in the near future. But there are other things that would definitely happen.

As you say Solaris was given a huge leap forward after last release. But any result has it's own cause. I don't want to say that opening sources clearly does the trick, but this was essential. Look at the ZFS: it has been tested, inspected and followed my many others. Just taking ZFS in mind without opening sources some things were definitely impossible:

* There would be a lot less people perusing the code. Right now many operating systems support ZFS and their support continues to grow. Don't they submit patches?

* There would be a lot less people trying to test or use ZFS. Refusing to share the code also means "we would pay for full pre-release test cycle". An this will result in more rough and untested code. Label it NT, for the time being NT means Non Testatura to me. Ok, that wouldn't kill the project but definitely this will slow development of risky features.

* Getting the hype. This is also a big deal. It wasn't so big for Sun, 'cause Sun was always cautious about reputation. But very big deal to Oracle, infamous to the number of bugs in their flagship product. Just imagine Oracle will came up with some new tech. (i said "imagine", don't think this could be true). For me Oracle talking about new tech is talking about new way to obtain money. While the same situation about Sun doesn't look so straightforward to me. So when ZFS was announced that was a "oh, they can do that". And after that when someone else tested it and post a test or memo that was a "oh, they can do that too" and "oh, this is interesting for me". This thoughts slowly transform into "hey, I want it too". And when I see new feature only in next Solaris release what should I think of it? Probably not much.

There's also one big question about closing the source. Actually Oracle closes their part of source. But what is split numbers for OpenSolaris community? What percent of active developers really works for Oracle? And the Oracle would silence only those directly working for it, all others are free to code an post. And if the number of outsiders is high we will have a split. Illumos for example. That's not good for Solaris future either, but whenever Illumos will get attention I think Oracle will came up with patents. Just the Google case.

There can be other matters for Oracle. For example I think before of Oracle as a Linux shop. This can also matter, the ZFS competitor btrfs was born here. I just fear the linuxish tribalism. But what would you do if you came up with two different operating systems?

PS: Hugs and kisses from FreeBSD community :) Was nice to share some code. Feel sorry to see you leaving the open source shop.