OpenIndiana - LOSUG March 2011

Tonights (the March 2011) London OpenSolaris User Group (LOSUG) was a little different to usual and while the topics have always been quite diverse we’ve never had as seditious a talk as one covering the Solaris fork, OpenIndiana, Illumos and the OpenSolaris community.

Alasdair Lumsden did an excellent job of explaining the new projects, why they exist and what they’re aiming for. As someone who took a few steps back when Oracle purchased Solaris it was an interesting catch up. The short version seems to be that “Illumos is a derivative of OS/Net (aka ON), which basically is a Solaris/OpenSolaris kernel with the bulk of the drivers, core libraries, and basic utilities.” (from Wikipedia) and is being quite heavily invested in by companies (such as Joynet and Nexenta) and by individuals that were previous employed by Sun to work on Solaris. OpenIndiana is to become an OpenSolaris distribution and packaged software ecosystem.

To me the project has a similar feel to the early days of CentOS and Scientific Linux and I think my biggest take home is that Illumos and OpenIndiana, when taken together, want to be to Solaris what CentOS and Scientific Linux are to Red Hat Enterprise Server. Unfortunately they have a massive disadvantage as Solaris, unlike upstream Red Hat, isn’t entirely open. One of the most immediately visible casualties is the excellent ZFS, which is closed source upstream and will both lag behind and diverge from the official Solaris version. Which I consider to be a great loss.

On a more cheerful note the OpenIndiana project is looking for people with an interest in taking free Solaris forward and is still young enough that there are plenty of interesting aspects to get involved with. Websites, CI environments (I’m guessing they won’t use Hudson. Heh) and all the other usual roles a large opensource project needs filling are up for grabs.

The talk itself was quite well attended, with what looked to be 35-40 people in the audience, and well presented. It’s also the first time I’ve been in to Oracles Moorgate offices and they’re actually quite nice and modern. The open sided lift and the suspended spiral staircase that only serves three floors were personal highlights.

I wish the project well and hope it enjoys success while being able to retain some of what made Solaris great. I may even take the DVD for a spin…