OpenSolaris: Murdock Speaks on Project Indiana

Those who suggest that Sun Microsystems' Project Indiana is about making the Solaris operating system more Linux-like are missing the point, said Ian Murdock, Sun's chief OS platform strategist. Headlines such as "Sun Hopes for Linux-like Solaris" and "Sun OpenSolaris To Become More Linux-like," drive him crazy.

"It's not about copying Linux or making a Linux clone or whatever you might have read," Murdock said. "It's about the distribution model that Linux pioneered and this broader open source platform, which is generally referred to as Linux. It's about combining the enterprise-class capabilities, innovation and backward compatibility of Solaris with that distribution model. It's about the best of both worlds."

Project Indiana is the OpenSolaris community initiative, sponsored by Sun, to develop a binary distribution of the OpenSolaris code base. This distribution will focus on providing a single-CD install with the basic core operating system and desktop environment, with the opportunity of installing additional software from network repositories.

"Even in open source, it's the binary platform that matters," Murdock says. "That's the thing that people download, the thing you target if you're an application developer. We're taking the binary platform, which is currently behind the Sun firewall in the form of Solaris Express, along with the processes that are used to build that and make decisions about how it evolves, and we're moving them into the OpenSolaris community alongside the code base."

Today, Murdock is a Sun exec and chair of the Linux Standard Base (LSB), the Linux platform interoperability standard. However, back in 1993, he was the founder of the Debian project, through which he helped to develop one of the world's most popular Linux distributions. Millions around the world use it, about a thousand developers are currently working on it, and the founding document of the open source movement itself (the Open Source Definition) was originally a Debian position statement.

Murdock was on hand at last week's LinuxWorld event, explaining Project Indiana and Sun's plans to promote a new OpenSolaris distribution model.

"Solaris today, like most operating systems, is a monolithic product," he said. "With Project Indiana, we are turning it into more of a collection of software held together by a package system. There will be a core that defines the application compatibility environment, and a package system that can pull from a large repository of software to verticalize, specialize and customize that core, depending on the application environment. So if you're building a Web server, an HPC cluster, or whatever, you're going to be pulling in different sets of packages."

The operating system distribution model, with a package system that holds it all together, essentially brings all software under the same umbrella, Murdock observed, but without actually putting all software into the operating system, which users simply don't want.

"We see the distribution-model-with-software-collection approach as a key part of the story going forward," Murdock added, "in terms of how we pull in the broader open source platform that is largely what defines Linux."

But the project also provides Sun with a new distribution vehicle for its own products.

"If we're successful," Murdock says, "we'll see a lot of developers using OpenSolaris, and that will provide us with a lot of opportunities to sell other things."

Prerelease versions of Project Indiana are expected this fall.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].