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Solaris Kernel in Debian Distro

Thanks to the magic of open source licensing, you don't necessarily have to run Sun Solaris or even OpenSolaris in order to run the Solaris kernel.

A new effort is aiming to take the Solaris kernel (SunOS) and use it as the core of GNU systems with Debian-based packages. The effort could potentially represent an affront to Sun's open source effort OpenSolaris. Then again it might not.

The GNU Solaris effort is called Nexenta OS and has the aim of integrating the Sun OS kernel with GNU userland applications. In its completed form Nexenta will provide a complete GNU Solaris operating system with an OpenSolaris kernel and runtime.

The OpenSolaris kernel itself is open source licensed under Sun's CDDL license. OpenSolaris, Sun's open source version of Solaris has been publicly available since June.

The GNU packages used in Nexenta originate from the Debian-based Ubuntu Linux, which recently released its latest version the Breezy Badger.

The initial pilot of Nexenta dubbed Elatte Alpha 1, will support both 32-bit and 64-bit x86/x64 platforms and will utilize OpenSolaris kernel build 25, which was released on Oct. 21.

"Our ultimate goal is to create something really, and I mean it, really good and take it from there," Nexenta developer Alex Ross told internetnews.com.

According to Nexenta, its GNU Solaris distribution will integrate over 2,300 packages, including GNOME, Perl/Python/PHP and the Synaptic package manager, among other popular open source applications.

With Nexenta, users don't need Janus (Sun's project that will allow Linux code to run on Solaris) to run Linux's ELF binaries, according to Ross.

"We are using DEB-packaged open source software in its source form," Ross explained. "The OSS as it happens is cross platform."

The GNU Solaris Nexenta Web developer portal is currently in pilot and is expected to be made available to the general public by mid-November.

Not everyone thinks that Solaris running on a Debian base is necessarily a great idea.

"I don't really think that Solaris on a Debian base makes a whole lot of sense for real users, even if it's a fun experiment," open source luminary Bruce Perens said.

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff doesn't think that the Nexenta GNU Solaris project will have much impact, at least in the near term, given that the Linux and Solaris communities are separate to a considerable degree.

Haff also doesn't think that Nexenta represents a threat to Sun's own open source OpenSolaris effort, but in fact may well be a good thing.

"Indeed, far from being a negative to Solaris, I view any broader community interest in OpenSolaris as only a positive for Sun," Haff told internetnews.com. "After all, it's about community, rather than control."

In fact, Sun Microsystems also thinks that the GNU/Solaris effort to combine Solaris and Debian is a good thing for the OpenSolaris community.

"We're thrilled to hear about this marriage of the the OpenSolaris technology with the Debian-based Ubuntu technology," Claire Giordano, product marketing manager for OpenSolaris, told internetnews.com. "One of the reasons we open sourced the Solaris operating system is to create a platform for innovation. We want to enable students, entrepreneurs, developers, academics and partners alike to use the OpenSolaris technology in novel ways, to spur innovation and create opportunities."

Giordano added that Sun expects to see other compelling derived works in the future. "CDDL was designed to encourage this type of participation in the OpenSolaris community."