What Illumos is and is not

What Illumos is and is not

Summary: Illumos is a redneck fork, a fork whose family tree doesn't branch.

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When I wrote disparagingly of Illumos yesterday, I got some well-deserved pushback.

So it may be useful to discuss what Illumos is, and is not.

Illumos is a fork of Open Solaris, but it's a fork of a special type.

A normal fork takes today's code and goes off in a new direction with it. Gradually the forked program and the root diverge.

Illumos isn't going to be like that. It will expand on and support what Oracle offers under the CDDL as "OpenSolaris," but if Oracle did a complete rewrite over the next few years, rendering what Illumos does in the meantime irrelevant, then Illumos will adapt to the new version.

It's more of a redneck fork, a fork whose family tree doesn't branch.

Nexenta is doing all this to push NexentaStor, which depends on some OpenSolaris capabilities. It's working with two other OpenSolaris distros, BeleniX and Schilli. It's a semi-independent operation, a software archipelago.

Illumos is sort of a cut-out for disgruntled Solaris customers who don't want to do business directly with Oracle but still depend on capabilities of the old OpenSolaris for their business models. As Nextenta does.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it doesn't make OpenSolaris truly open. Contributions to Illumos are subject to being cut off at the knees by the next Oracle release. Illumos will play no part in the Oracle development roadmap.

If you like that and need that, Illumos offers a welcome home for you. But if you like and need true open source software, to which you can contribute and have an equal relationship with, look elsewhere.

Topics: Oracle, Operating Systems

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6 comments
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  • Love the redneck call Its awesome

    Well as much as i loved Open-solaris Its DEAD .... If illumos dont check for the foot they will have it right in there behind .

    From there BSD remain the only true unix out ..... PC-bsd is good , sadly oracle have just shot a nice project in the head .....
    Quebec-french
    • RE: What Illumos is and is not

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      musdahi
  • A fork is a fork!

    Well this is probably true of illumos itself. But what's important is that it's a fork which makes makes the worlds most sophisticated server OS able to be built by anyone, independent of Sun/Oracle. Who knows, some other Solaris fanatics may start up a distro of their own with their 'true' fork. Only driver development to hold them back. As they say, something good comes out of everything bad.
    euan@...
  • illumos... a spork?

    I would say that the description still does not describe the nature of the project. It is more of a "spork". Since oracle has closed the development of solaris and only release the source after the final release, illumos will be the outlet for the community to contribute and oracle is free to pull in such changes (which requires illumos to stay permissive and CCDL..."spooning" with the official release). The only big hurdle now is the dependency of the closed sun studio compiler. Hopefully someone will start a "Illvmos" project with the permissive llvm/clang as syystem compiler.
    staalmannen
  • Openindiana

    Where does this sit in the scheme of things?
    The Management consultant
  • some truth in there, but do not fully agree

    you say: ... if you like and need true open source software ... look elsewhere.<br><br>The question here is: what is "true open source". If you want to point out that open source in Unix systems has a long tradition but open sourcing of the whole system was unfortunately always stopped on half way by some company, then we have to say: only GPL will guarantee 100% open source systems. Like with Linux. But are enterprise linux products still 100% open source ? No ! <br><br>But does this really matter ? Are open source components in a partially closed source system less open source than the same components in a 100% open source system ?<br><br>Hundrets of open source GPL tools have originally been developed on Solaris before they were ported to Linux.<br>Were they less open source then ?<br><br>From the point of view of an open source application developer or even open source device driver developer it is sometimes undesirable to work on a 100% open source but instable system, where basic system calls are buggy and were there is little to no support. <br><br>Sure, from the point of view of a kernel developer fixing kernel bugs and enhancing the kernel is a main interest. Illumos for a big part is a kernel project, so we really have to ask, if it would make sense to develop Solaris kernel enhancements, if there would be no guaranteed reflux of potentially even more enhanced derivatives of these which are later developed by Oracle (if any) . <br><br>Now, Illumos exactly states this: to adapt always to whatever Oracle will develop, and this will be true open source again.<br>So, it is not a question that Illumos is a true open source project. But it is a remaining question if an open source project should accept a company like Oracle as a director.<br><br>Let's try to find some positive aspect here:<br>Half-community / half-commercial evolution of software has always been slow but has produced software of the best usability and reliability.<br><br>E.g. Solaris, Java, Glassfish, Netbeans: all very successfull free and open source products which are miles ahead of competition, and directed by Sun.<br><br>Now Oracle, while they feel no need to emphasize community effort and to motivate community, have to prove that they can <br>at least do it the "Apple-way". If they are able to contribute to Solaris, Java, Glassfish, Netbeans in the way Apple's contributed to Darwin, CUPS, multi media and computer graphics, we will have to expect very well usable high quality software in the future. <br><br>So, if we take it like: Illumos promises that usability and quality will find it's way back into Illumos (and thus Illumos-based Solaris distributions) we can say this community/commerce duality makes sense. <br><br>Supported enterprise servers need to run Oracle Solaris.<br>Developer's workstations can run 100% compatible Illumos-based distributions for free which increases acceptance and evolution of the system. May it live and prosper.
    illumos4ever