This past weekend I unsubscribed from my last opensolaris mailing list. While reflecting on where technology is heading, I had to take a few minutes to reflect on where things were just a few years back. I remember vividly the day that the opensolaris.org website came online. After the announcement came out, I spent 24 straight hours signing up for mailing lists, reading documentation and reviewing the source code for a number of utilities. This had been all too easy with Linux, since all of the code and documentation was available in the public domain. But when the Solaris source came online, I felt like a 4-year old in a HUGE candy store.
Over the next few months I saw the community start to grow at a decent pace. The first opensolaris books (OpenSolaris Bible and Pro Opensolaris) were published, Solaris internals was updated to take Solaris 10 and opensolaris into account and every major trade magazine was writing something about opensolaris. Additionally, our local OpenSolaris users group was starting to grow in size, and I was beginning to make a number of good friends in the community. All of these things got me crazy excited about the opensolaris community, and I wanted to jump in and start helping out any way I could.
After pondering all of the things I wanted in opensolaris, I came up with a simple change that would allow me to get familiar with the development model. The change I proposed and coded up would allow dd to print the status of the copy operation if a SIGUSR1 signal was received. This feature was available on my FreeBSD and Linux boxes, so I wanted to see it on my Solaris hosts as well. I went through the hassle of filling out a form to submit code and then I sent my changes over to my sponsor. He replied stating that he would look things over and get back to me. That was the last time I heard from him and my follow up e-mail didn’t receive a response either.
I am not the type of person to pester someone to do something, so I didn’t sent another e-mail to request status. This of course let to my proposal dying a silent death. :( This was the first thing that led me to wonder if opensolaris would truly flourish, since all of the source code enhancements I had made to other projects were added back within days (and usually the authors were grateful). Since I knew contributing code was most likely not going to work, I decided to be active on the forums and propose changes that would better Solaris. This is when I started to get the impression that most of the design and development was happening behind closed doors, and not out in the open. Linux has prided itself on openness when it comes to design and development, so once again I started to question whether opensolaris would flourish.
So fast forward to the recent announcement by Oracle that opensolaris design and development would not be happening out in the open. In my opinion this never really occurred in the past, so I wasn’t one bit surprised by this announcement. They want to capitalize on the product (Solaris) they bought, and I can’t really fault them for that. Some people appear to have been caught off guard by this announcement, but the second Oracle bought Sun I figured open development would most likely stop. My only remaining question was what would happen to Solaris? Will Oracle eventually scrap it in favor of Linux? The cost to support two operating systems has to be relatively large, and I have to assume that there are some folks at Oracle who are evaluating this.
The Oracle announcement appears to have stirred some things up, and a number of new things came about as a result of it. The Illumos project was erected with it’s goal of making opensolaris development open. While this is a great idea in theory, I’m skeptical that the project can truly succeed without Sun/Oracle engineering. The amount of code in Opensolaris is rather large, and I have to assume that you would need an army of engineers to design, develop and QA everything to make it battle ready. I truly wish this project the best, and hope it gets the momentum it needs to succeed (Garrett D’Amore is a sharp dude, so the source is definitely in good hands!).
About a year ago I ditched Solaris in favor of Redhat Linux, which appears to be a growing trend amongst my SysAdmin friends. I like that Linux development is truly open, and the distributions I use (RHEL, CentOS and Fedora) provide the source code to the entire Operating System. The Linux distributions I use also have a large number of users, so getting answers to support or configuration issues is typically pretty easy to do. There is also the fact that the source is available, so I can support myself if no one happens to know why something is behaving a specific way.
This post wasn’t meant to diss Solaris, OpenSolaris or Illuminos. I was purely reflecting on the road I’ve traveled prior to embracing Linux and giving up hope in the opensolaris community. Hopefully one day Oracle will make all of the awesome Solaris features (DTrace, ZFS, Zones, Crossbow, FMA) available to the Linux community by slapping a GPLv2 license on the source code. I would love nothing more that to have all of the things I love about Linux merged with the things I love about Solaris. This would be a true panacea as far as Operating Systems go! :)