SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Four months after he joined Sun Microsystems, Debian Linux distribution creator Ian Murdock discussed his plans to bring Linux-like distribution sensibilities to Sun’s OpenSolaris operating system.
OpenSolaris is an open source project with more than 60,000 participants who get to dig into the code base that makes up Solaris. The problem, as Murdock pointed out, is that it’s distributed as source code, not binary, executable code, and people were put off by the extra steps of compiling and installing the OS.
“Even in open source, the binary platform is the key thing of value,” he told a meeting of journalists and analysts here. “No one runs on top of source code. People run and qualify to binary platforms.”
Murdock, now chief OS platform strategist at Sun
, hinted at the problem last month on his blog. He pointed out that downloading the code and compiling it was less than intuitive, even for programmers.
The solution is called Project Indiana, named for his home state. Project Indiana will combine the distribution model of Linux with OpenSolaris, which will hopefully put the OS in more hands.
The goal of Project Indiana is to reorient Solaris around the Linux packaged distribution model, he said. It will support packaged installs, installation and updates over the network and use Sun’s ZFS file system.
Sun will come up with a new packaging system for this. In its earliest days, Linux was distributed as source code that had to be compiled, just as OpenSolaris is now. When it shifted to distributing packaged binaries, it used the RPM package manager developed by Red Hat. Debian had its own called APT.
The industry then moved to Yum, a vendor-neutral update mechanism not unlike Windows Update in Windows that’s more advanced than RPM. Murdock said Sun will have something beyond Yum. “If RPM is packaging 1 and APT and Yum are packaging 2, this will be packaging 3,” he said.
OpenSolaris is targeted at developers, early adopters, and enthusiasts. It will have a very short release cycles, with new code coming every six months, in contrast to the much longer release cycles for Solaris. Like now, OpenSolaris will be the test bed for Sun to introduce new technologies that might eventually find their way into an official Solaris release.
Tom Kucharvy, senior vice president with Ovum Summit, thought the strategy had merit. “By making it more of a packaged offering, they hope to develop the type of add-on community around it that has developed around Microsoft and around the individual distros of Linux,” he told internetnews.com.
He thinks the goal is use OpenSolaris as a form of an advanced sales team, to introduce the operating system to potential customers and make Solaris on Sun hardware more appealing.
“It provides a much easier means by which companies can experiment with new releases of Sun Solaris. To the extent that it works, it can become a good vehicle for feeding into the formal Solaris release cycle,” said Kucharvy.
Murdock stressed that this is not just another operating system, since there are plenty of those.
“If all we do is bridge the gap by adding a bunch of stuff from random Linux distros to Solaris, then all we’ve done is create another distro. By putting the unique capabilities of Solaris at the forefront, that’s what we do to create something special.”
Project Indiana is under development now, with the first test release planned for the fall. The formal release is set for next spring.