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OpenSolaris:

A free software, CDDL licensed operating system which forms the base of later versions of the Solaris Operating Environment created by Sun Microsystems and available for both the x86 and SPARC platforms


History:

In 2004, Sun Microsystems under the new leadership of Jonathan Schwartz began a 9 month pilot project with 18 non-Sun employees, which later swelled to 145 external participants, to test the viability of an open source version of it's flagship operating system, Solaris 10.


As a show of good faith in early 2005 the source code to the Solaris Dynamic Tracing Framework was released to the public under the CDDL license, created as a modified version of the Mozilla Public License for the project.

An interim community governance board was installed in mid-2005 consisting of 5 members, two of which installed by Sun, two by the pilot community, and one by the free software community. Two months later the project was considered "open", and the majority of the core operating system code was released for public consumption under the terms of the CDDL.


Since that time, the community has swelled to over 57,000 registered members at OpenSolaris.org, compromising dozens of projects and communities not directly considered subsets of the core OS code.


Technology:


OpenSolaris, like it's predecessor Solaris 10, is a SysV UNIX operating system, and the only open source example of such. It conforms to numerous standards including POSIX, UNIX'03 / SUSv3, and with the C compiler installed, ISO/IEC 9899:1999 Programming Languages - C.

Because of it's SysV heritage, migrants from more BSD-like operating systems and GNU operating systems may find some of the idiosyncrasies unfamiliar. For example, the GNU long options ( --option ) will not work with most of the system utilities such as ls(1)

OpenSolaris (and Solaris10) include such features as:

  • The Zettabyte File System (ZFS): a novel filesystem which includes a volume management framework previously only available in significantly more expensive products by EMC and Veritas, checksummed data and metadata allowing the filesystem to detect and automatically repair bad data, on-disk compression ( greatly increasing I/O speed in low-CPU usage situations )


  • DTrace: a dynamic tracing framework allowing developers and system administrators to "tap-in" to a running process in order to examine and debug inefficiencies


  • Fault Management Daemon and the Service Mangement Facility: both parts of Solaris' predictive self-healing framework, allowing the system to detect and auto-repair some issues. Bad hardware ( an ECC ram stick with a faulty chip, for example ) will throw errors caught and interpreted by FMD, which will take appropriate actions, from noting the issue in a log file, to off-lining the faulty piece of hardware.

    SMF performs a similar task for software services, such as detecting and restarting failed systems services, and replaces the traditional SysV Init common in GNU/Linux installations


Organization:

OpenSolaris is not a complete operating system per se, it is rather a collection of code intended to form the basis of a distribution. It is parallel to GNU/Linux in this way, in as far as it is a kernel and some userspace code.

The currently accepted reference distribution is Sun's pre-beta of what will likely become Solaris 11, known as Solaris Express: Community Edition, however, many other distributions are currently available including MarTux, SchilliX, Nexenta (Solaris kernel + GNU userspace), and BeleniX, as well as the currently in progress Indiana distribution chaired by Ian Murdock of Debian fame, which is touted as being the next official reference distro.

OpenSolaris is split up in to software meta-packages known as "consolidations". These include the Packaging/Tools consolidation, in which one will find all the tools necessary to build SysV packages, the X11 consolidation in which one will find the X servers and various support libraries, JDS ( GNOME ), the default windowing environment, and the core system consolidation, known as "ON", which is short for OS/Networking, as well as many others.



Criticism:

The OpenSolaris project has taken some heat over several issues.

One such issue oft-repeated is that of the chosen license, as CDDL is based off the Mozilla license which does allow limited inclusion in non-open source software ( assuming the files licensed under CDDL remain free & under the CDDL ), and is therefore not compatible with the GNU GPL, which precludes the use of OpenSolaris code in the Linux kernel.

Another issue slowing adoption is that of packaging, as OpenSolaris currently has no accepted method of network package installation such as yum or apt. However, one of the stated goals of the Indiana project is to remedy this, and current users can rely on an apt-like system provided by the Blastwave community known as "pkg-get".

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