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Friday Blogosphere Watch: Oracle and the Fate of OpenSolaris

News that Oracle might be dumping OpenSolaris sparked a lively response from the blogosphere this week. The OpenSolaris community is PO'd, to be sure, but for the most part, the bloggers were sober and serious on this topic -- for the most part.

The news broke when Athens, GA-based software engineer and OpenSolaris contributor Steve Stallion published an internal Oracle memo on his Iconoclastic Tendencies blog. The memo lays out Oracle's plans for the open source OS, which include ending open source developers' daily access to builds of Solaris binaries after version 2010.05.

The memo reads, in part: "All of Oracle’s efforts on binary distributions of Solaris technology will be focused on Solaris 11. We will not release any other binary distributions, such as nightly or bi-weekly builds of Solaris binaries, or an OpenSolaris 2010.05 or later distribution. We will determine a simple, cost-effective means of getting enterprise users of prior OpenSolaris binary releases to migrate to S11 Express."

Stallion's comment on this plan is downright poignant: "I can only maintain that the software we worked on was for the betterment of all, not for any one company's bottom line," he writes. "This is truly a perversion of the open source spirit."

Not surprisingly, his post drew numerous comments with many points of view on this issue. I have not been reading Mr. Stallion's blog, but it's on my list now.

Most of the blogging on this news grew out of the memo Stallion published.(The internal Oracle memo was also posted on the OpenSolaris Forum.) The best of these, in my view, is Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols' post on his Cyber Cynic blog: "Oracle Dumps OpenSolaris." I'm a fan of this blog for its insights and unapologetic crankiness. In his recent post Vaughan-Nichols responds directly to Stallion's post: "…[W]elcome to the Larry Ellison school of open-source thought," he writes. "As I'd been trying to tell OpenSolaris developers all along, the god-king CEO of Oracle doesn't give a damn about any open source that doesn't directly benefit Oracle. The moment Oracle acquired Sun, OpenSolaris' fate was sealed."

Great post. Tons of links. Comments piling up.

It's also worthwhile to take a step back and revisit some of the expectations earlier this year about the fate of OpenSolaris. Dana Blankenhorn, who blogs for ZDNet on Linux and Open Source, wrote back in March in a post entitled "Oracle taking back OpenSolaris" that "there's no long such a thing as Open Solaris, and I think anyone who bought Sun’s promises on building an open alternative to Linux just got punked."

Of course, more than a few people in the OpenSolaris community saw all this coming. (You're not paranoid if Big O really is planning to kill your beloved open source project.) About 350 of them got together to start a new project, dubbed Illumos, which launched officially on August 3. The project aims to create a fully open version of OpenSolaris independent of Oracle.

Evan Powell, CEO of Nexenta, a sponsor of the Illumos project, declared in an August 13 post that his company was ready for Oracle's decision. "We've been planning for this contingency for a long time," he wrote. "We have the team to continue to support customers and partners and to continue our development."

Also check out open-source-maven-at-large Simon Phipps' post on the ComputerWorld UK blog; Phipps sees the Illumos Project as neither a fork of OpenSolaris nor another OpenSolaris distro. "It is in fact a project to create a fully open-source-licensed version of the Solaris operating system and networking consolidation -- the closest Solaris comes to a 'kernel project,'" he wrote. "It's a downstream open source project, happy to contribute upstream but resolutely independent. As such it is a thoroughly good thing and a breath of fresh air."

Phipps is a keen observer of open source trends; I recommend his Wild Webmink blog.

And finally, it's a bit tangential, but you might want to check out Adam Leventhal's announcement in his blog that he is leaving Oracle. Leventhal is a longtime member of the Solaris Kernel Group and will continue to blog at http://dtrace.org/blogs/ahl.

Posted by John K. Waters on 08/20/2010 at 10:53 AM


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