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The controversy around the future of OpenSolaris has been building to a fever pitch these last few weeks, most recently leading to the creation of Illumos, a new open source kernel tree based on the open source portions of OpenSolaris.

Way back in July of 2009, Steven Vaughn-Nichols suggested that OpenSolaris would wither on the vine through deliberate neglect by Oracle – and this seems to be happening (whereas his prediction of the same treatment for MySQL and VirtualBox seems to be misplaced). Then in February of 2010, Ben Rockwood wrote an open letter to Oracle about the future of Solaris and OpenSolaris.

Oracle’s most recent response (during an interview with ServerWatch) has been to state that development on Solaris continues apace, and that Solaris 11 is due out by the end of 2011. Most notable was the lack of any discussion on the future of OpenSolaris.

A few months ago, the OpenSolaris Governing Board – in effect, the people in charge of the details of operating the OpenSolaris community and its resources – are willing to resign en masse if Oracle does not talk to them; Peter Tribble (a member of the OpenSolaris Governing Board) talks about this action in his blog.

I agree with those that say that Oracle can do what it likes, and the threat made by the board is empty – not because of the threat itself, but because it will accomplish nothing, and has no effect on Oracle. If Oracle wants OpenSolaris to go away, it doesn’t matter what the OpenSolaris community thinks. The Governing Board simply has no leverage with Oracle.

No word on how this action will affect Belenix; while Nexenta is basically the OpenSolaris kernel plus a Debian/GNU userland, Belenix is an OpenSolaris kernel plus a mostly Solaris userland. The primary founder of Belenix (Moinak Ghosh) is on the OpenSolaris board; one of the other developers (Sriram Narayanan?) blogged about the board’s action shortly after it was taken in July. Perhaps Belenix would use the Illumos kernel as well?

However, the prospect of OpenSolaris living on in the form of Illumos is promising, and technologies that are part of the open source OpenSolaris will not be lost. Nexenta has already stated its interest in Illumos; this is perhaps because Nexenta relies on OpenSolaris (with its now doubtful future) for its kernel. Thus, it is perhaps no surprise that a Nexenta engineer is the driving force behind Illumos, and neither is it a surprise that Illumos is currently a kernel only.

So now – how long before we see a Debian/Illumos project? Or is that Nexenta now?