The Battle for OpenSolaris

All's been quiet on the OpenSolaris front since Oracle's acquisition of Sun, but there's a reason for that. The company has been focused on getting Solaris 11 out the door, according to John Fowler, Oracle's executive vice president of systems.

Fowler led a webcast earlier this week in which he outlined Oracle's Systems Strategy roadmap, including its plans for tape, ZFS, and the continued evolution of the Exadata database machine. It was nothing we haven't heard before. What was interesting, however, was the live chat session that ran alongside Oracle's webcast.

Tweet-chants like "Oracle needs to communicate with the OpenSolaris community!" came fast and furious as Fowler detailed Oracle's roadmap, including next year's release of Solaris 11, which is said to include a number of technologies developed by the OpenSolaris community.

Fowler admitted to sister site InternetNews.com that Oracle has "been a little quiet on the open source front. It's not that we're not investing in Solaris, we're just investing to make sure that we have all the major components for the new release."

Fearing the worst for OpenSolaris, a new open source community has formed to provide alternatives to the closed components of OpenSolaris. The community, dubbed the Illumos Project and spearheaded by Nexenta Systems' new senior director of engineering Garret D'Amore, a former Sun engineer and a leading contributor to the OpenSolaris operating system for the past five years, claims that the core concern of the OpenSolaris community is that critical components of the platform aren't open at all.

However, D'Amore maintained Illumos is not an Oracle competitor. "We would love to have Oracle and its employees as peers. They can't own it, but they can participate. We want the technology to be usable by Oracle and taken back upstream," he said. "We want to create the insurance that the industry desperately needs in case the tap gets shut off."

There's a subplot to this drama. The underpinnings of Nexenta Systems' NexentaStor software are based on the OpenSolaris ZFS file system, which is at the center of a years-long legal battle between Oracle-Sun and NetApp.

NetApp fired another salvo recently by threatening to take legal action against Coraid, a storage startup that was about to begin selling NAS products based on Nexenta's technology. The NetApp legal threat stopped Coraid in its tracks.

Illumos has its own plans for ZFS. "At the moment, the code is identical. In the future, there may be additional enhancements and innovations in Illumos beyond what Oracle has. We have some concrete ideas we are exploring, but we're not quite ready to provide concrete details yet," D'Amore said. "We want to be a self-hosting Solaris derivative without any corporate dependencies. In my ideal world, anybody could use this code for whatever they want."

It seems to me that the concerns of the Illumos folks may be valid. In recent months, Oracle has forced Lustre users to buy Oracle hardware if they want to continue to be supported, as well as shut down servers Sun Microsystems was contributing to the build farm for PostgreSQL, the open source database software.

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posted by: Kevin Komiega

Kevin Komiega, Senior Editor
by Kevin Komiega
Senior Editor

Kevin Komiega has been the Senior Editor of InfoStor since 2005. He was previously a senior news writer with SearchStorage.com and held a position as a public relations account executive with Porter Novelli, Boston. Kevin also spent four years running tape backup operations at the University of Rhode Island's Academic Computer Center. He can be contacted at kkomiega@quinstreet.com.

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