RealTime IT News

Open Source Solaris Stalls

If you were expecting a sneak peak of an open source Solaris or to buy a commercial version next week when it launches, don't hold your breath.

Although Sun Microsystems said it is on track to officially launch Solaris 10, the next generation server operating system, on Nov. 15 at its Network Computing 04Q4 event in San Jose, the products will actually take a bit longer.

Glenn Weinberg, vice president of the Operating Platforms Group at Sun, said the company's goal is not to "dribble it out" or release a "half-baked" OS, but to have something that is ready to go.

Executives told reporters Tuesday that the latest version of Solaris to purchase won't officially be available until the end of the year. The open source version of Solaris won't emerge for several months after that.

Earlier this year, Sun promised it would eventually open the Solaris source code as a way to commoditize the operating system and foster third-party developers. The company is expected to discuss its progress with open-sourcing Solaris 10 at next week's event.

Weinberg said Sun is in the middle of a coordinated pilot program to open source all of the code with 30 people from outside Sun and 40 people from inside Sun. The next step is to expand it beyond Sun's firewall, but snags in the device space are causing delays.

"There are limitations to what we can do," Weinberg said. "We don't own all the IP rights to Solaris. There are things we have from third parties we don't have rights to yet, or third parties don't want us to expose source code."

The next-generation OS for use in Intel Xeon and AMD Opteron processor-based servers has been available in bits and pieces since September 2003, courtesy of Sun's Software Express. Sun said this should be the final Express release before the Nov. 15 release announcement if everything goes according to schedule.

"I prefer to believe any delay in the availability of Solaris 10 is due to additional input from beta users that Sun deems valuable or important enough to incorporate before general release," Robert Frances Group principal analyst Michael Dortch told internetnews.com. "And it doesn't surprise me that Sun doesn't own all the IP behind Solaris 10; the software likely includes elements developed by multiple entities, as do many other commercial and open source offerings. This is part of why there are so very many open source software-licensing variants, something becoming its own larger-than-cottage industry."

Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz said he was optimistic that concessions could be met and open source critics silenced based on Sun's track record of contributing to free and open source software projects with offerings like Project Looking Glass and Java 3D. The outspoken executive said the real fight is not between the Solaris and Kernel.org camps.

"We want to ensure that everything in Solaris that we built is available and open sourced to the community," Schwartz said. "One debate we're having is with the open source community, and we're working with OSI [Open Source Initiative] and others because many of those developers tell us that they feel marginalized by Red Hat. [Open sourcing Solaris] is not to undercut Linux; it is to beat Red Hat."

That disdain has been evident for sometime at Sun. A war of words erupted last month between Schwartz and Michael Tiemann Red Hat's vice president of Open Source Affairs. And even though Sun maintains Red Hat in its OS and other Linux-compatible applications, it does not "guarantee" support in the same way it does for Solaris.

"There is no binary for Linux, so they may have a dependency that any binary from Red Hat or SUSE is flawed," Weinberg said. "We are focused on running Red Hat, and over time we'll have more environments, as well."

Instead, Sun has developed its Project Janus as a technology that lets customers run Linux binary applications unmodified and un-recompiled on Solaris without having to acquire extra x86-based hardware.

Weinberg said Sun has the platform running in the lab but will not ship Janus with the first edition of Solaris 10. It will instead follow in the first major update.

"Janus being unavailable until the first release of Solaris 10 likely helps to assure that early Janus users will be more pleased with its performance than they might be if Sun shipped it earlier," Robert Frances Group's Dortch said.

As for migration, Dortch said Sun would be shooting itself in the foot with a cannon if it led enterprise customers to believe that Sun's previous commitment to Red Hat was merely a ploy to try to sell Solaris.

"This is especially true as long as there is no open source version of Solaris," he said. "Sun would best serve itself, its partners and their customers by touting the strengths of Solaris 10, combined with effective, proven services and architectures to help enterprises move in the direction best for their specific business goals. In some cases, this will mean moving to Solaris 10, and in some cases, it may not. "If Sun is truly paying attention, though, it will be more interested in maintaining and increasing its presence within key enterprise accounts than in trying to throw Red Hat out of those environments in favor of Solaris."

Sun also brought in a couple of partners to show that adoption rates for Solaris 10 are strong even before it officially hits the markets. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker highlighted Topspin Communications through its InfiniBand connections and Veritas , which competes with Sun for contracts with companies looking to shift their businesses to a utility computing or "on-demand" model. Both firms have alliances with Microsoft and Red Hat, as well as Solaris.

The cross-partnerships are no bother to Schwartz, who said he even expects HP , and perhaps even IBM , to adopt an open source version of Solaris.

"Both HP and IBM are abandoning HP-UX and AIX," Schwartz said. "What else do they have in the Unix market?"