Rising from the Ashes: OpenIndiana Continues OpenSolaris Open Source Legacy

Several weeks ago, Oracle declared that it would no longer be releasing code to the open source community as it was developed, as well as cutting off communication with the OpenSolaris Governing Board (and thus, the community). The Illumos project was created to continue the kernel development; in the same arena, OpenIndiana now continues the open source ideals with an open version of OpenSolaris under the Illumos Project banner.

Downloads are already available, although it is not yet recommended for production use.

I find the prospects of OpenIndiana exciting; this project is separate from Oracle, who cannot be relied upon for any support of open source. With a serious community behind it, OpenIndiana could very well be a way for shops to run the very capable Solaris environment without having to succumb to a costly support contract before they can afford it. It also allows individuals to run a version of Solaris with current features, quick bug fixes, and more software.

In spite of the general demise of OpenSolaris as a driving force, the times are exciting for the Solaris-based community.

Native ZFS for Linux Coming (and Other ZFS News)

Two different projects are in full swing developing a native port of the ZFS file system to Linux. Currently, the only available ZFS for Linux is based on FUSE (running file systems in user space, not kernel space). Running with FUSE means a significant penalty in speed.

One ZFS project is being done at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and is driven by Brian Behlendorf; the other project is being done by KQ Infotech. OSNews had a good article about the LLNL project.

Phoronix is reporting that KQ Infotech announced they would be releasing source code in September. Unfortunately, the project apparently only supports 64-bit Linux, and does not support data de-duplication and other newer features.

The writer is also unimpressed by ZFS overall; there is mention of BtrFS as being better. What is truly interesting is that both file systems are now are under the Oracle umbrella – BtrFS since the beginning, and ZFS as part of the Sun acquisition.

On top of this, Oracle and NetApp have resolved the lawsuit over ZFS, removing the clouds that had hung over ZFS.

These are interesting times for ZFS. If you don’t understand what the fuss is all about, Paul Rubens has a quick overview, and Sun’s ZFS team has an excellent slide presentation on ZFS. There are more ZFS resources available from the OpenSolaris ZFS Community.

OpenSolaris is Officially Dead

We saw this coming.

As of 23 August 2010, the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) has stepped down; Ben Rockwood posted the resolution on his blog.

Oracle’s previous email to staff shows that Oracle has no interest in keeping OpenSolaris going, and now there is no one minding the store.

The next step lies with Illumos, the new torch-bearer for open source Solaris. Nexenta, the commercial UNIX based on OpenSolaris and a GNU userland will probably be the first to use Illumos (the project has close ties to Nexenta) – and Belenix may be next, although Belenix development seems to be quite slow (there is no corporate sponsorship and the community seems to be small). Belenix has the tougher problem, as they use a Solaris-based userland.

The Death of OpenSolaris Confirmed

Recently, I posted about the future of OpenSolaris and the lack of response from Oracle.

Oracle still has no official response, and has no word on where OpenSolaris is going. However, a memo to Oracle Engineering was leaked and then posted to the OpenSolaris Discussion mailing list (osol-discuss) and was later confirmed by an Oracle employee to the mailing list.

William Yang has a nice write-up on the memo and its salient points; in short:

  • Oracle will no longer let OpenSolaris track Solaris development.
  • Solaris code will stay under the CDDL license.
  • “OpenSolaris” as a distribution will no longer be released.
  • Code will only be released after Solaris is released.

Also interesting is Oracle’s reasons for closing down OpenSolaris:

  • Not enough man-power.
  • Releases Solaris technology to competitors.
  • Prevents users from using Solaris.

Oracle has never been a popular company; most Oracle DBAs in my experience have never been happy with Oracle’s support or licensing, for example. This contrasts with Sun, which has always had a positive image.

In the area of open source, Oracle has always been a champion of closed source, in contrast with Sun which had been a positive open source champion. As a result of this, we are seeing more and more open source projects by Sun either closed down or changed into closed source: consider the closing of Project Kenai (a SourceForge-like site for open source projects), the fears over the future of MySQL, and the death of OpenSolaris.

The OpenSolaris experience under Oracle has echos in MySQL: Monty Widenius, the founder of MySQL, was quite vocal in his opposition to the Oracle purchase of Sun, and expressed his fear that MySQL would become closed source. Perhaps his experience with SAP and MaxDB had something to do with that – MaxDB had been released under the GPL through 7.6, when it was returned back into SAP and became closed source once again.

About the time that Oracle announced its purchase of Sun, Monty began the GPL-licensed version of MySQL, MariaDB which has taken hold, and the European Union mandated that MySQL shall remain dual-licensed. I wonder if MySQL’s fate would have been similar to OpenSolaris if it had not been for Monty.

It would be interesting to track the other open source projects now under Oracle’s umbrella:

  • Java (and OpenJDK), and its add-ons
  • Glassfish (J2EE)
  • MySQL
  • NetBeans
  • Lustre file system

Oracle’s Plans for OpenSolaris Murkier than Ever

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?

Oracle Continues to Withdraw Sun Support Access

A couple of days ago, Techbert noted that Sun firmware downloads were no longer available from Oracle. This is just one more way that Oracle has been withdrawing from Sun’s traditional open stance.

Oracle already has stated it would not be putting all new technologies into OpenSolaris, and that it would provide support for all Sun servers in the (customer’s) data center or none at all.

The entire character of Sun’s offerings has changed, and for the customer, not for the better.

Is Oracle killing Sun Solaris support?

Recently, Oracle has made several changes in Solaris support that have people wondering if Solaris just got too expensive to run.

The first change was to move to a pay-for-security model which some have already compared to extortion. Patches for Solaris would only be available to paying support customers, leaving others to be insecure and without recourse.

The other change that Oracle has made is to force its paying support customers into an “all or nothing” support model: either all Solaris systems are under a support contract or Oracle will not enter into a support agreement. This means that in any environment that all Solaris systems must be accounted for and under Oracle support.

With this latter change, it may be that this pay-for-security model, while still unseemly, will have less of an effect than previously suggested. It may also convince many smaller businesses to scale back their Solaris installations and to get rid of older machines instead of holding on to them.

At its worst, it may mean that support for software on older Sun machines may wither faster, and that older machines will become obsolete – and useless – faster, increasing “churn” in the data center and (perhaps) making the data center more energy-efficient, while costing companies more and making Oracle more money.

However, one thing Oracle has not done is to clarify the future of OpenSolaris. The community is waiting for a definitive statement from Oracle; even former Sun employees working with OpenSolaris have no signs from Oracle in any direction.

UPDATE: Ben Rockwood over at the Cuddletech blog has excellent coverage, with detailed analysis of the relevant licenses and what it means for Solaris end-users. On the 26th he discusses the “all-or-nothing” support model, and on the 28th he writes about Oracle’s choice to remove the ability to use Solaris for free.

Future of OpenSolaris Under Oracle

Recently there was a big flap over the future of OpenSolaris. Oracle posted the support lifecycle for Solaris and other technologies, and future support for OpenSolaris was missing.

Indeed, customers who talked to their Oracle sales representatives about paid support for OpenSolaris in the enterprise were told that it is currently unavailable.

This combination led some to theorize that OpenSolaris would cease to exist; this is not at all the case, according to Oracle. eWeek went to the source to get a coherent and complete explanation.

Datamation looked at Oracle’s plans for OpenSolaris and found that OpenSolaris will remain viable and active. However, one sad note: Oracle may not open source technologies currently being developed by Sun.

Whither Sun Microsystems?

The recent fourth quarter reports from server manufacturers was dim, and Sun Microsystems was by far the worst (with a 35% loss compared to the same period last year). On top of this, Sun just announced in October (within their 8K filing for the SEC) intentions to lay off 3000 employees in the next 12 months. Infoworld also had a nice piece on this; according to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, the company is losing $100 million each month the European Union regulators put off accepting the merger.

With the Oracle acquisition in progress, there are a lot of questions about the future viability of Sun Microsystems, and of some of its products.

I don’t think people realize just how important the Sun group of products are, and what an impact it would have if most – or even some – of the products were cancelled. Consider this list of Sun products:

Most of the most popular products were mentioned by Oracle in their Sun Acquisition FAQ (PDF), stating that they will increase money spent on each over what Sun spent. These products include: Java, Solaris, SPARC, StarOffice, NetBeans, virtualization products, Glassfish, and MySQL. Other products were not mentioned – such as Lustre, the Modular Data Center, and others.

The list above also does not list the technologies that were spearheaded by Sun – and some still are: ZFS, NFS, NIS (and NIS+), dtrace, containers, and smc.

It would be unfortunate – and materially significant – if Sun were to go under or if any of the majority of their products were to be cancelled. One can only hope this does not happen…

Test Plan Charlie: 41000 Linux Servers on One Box

There was a test done many years ago by David Boyes, an engineer working out of Virginia.  The test was simply to run as many Linux servers on one IBM zSeries mainframe – and to keep adding them until something broke.

The test hit the limit at 41,400 Linux servers – and nothing ever “broke.” This project was widely reported at the time, though it seems to be forgotten now. However, the test caught my fancy. That’s a lot of Linux machines.

As was mentioned, this report was widely reported: Linux Journal had an article on 1 June titled The Penguin and the Dinosaur from Adam Thornton. That same day, Daisy Whitney authored an article, Linux on Big Iron – possibly in Datamation. Scott Courtney (the Technical Editor for Internet.com) wrote S/390: The Linux Dream Machine on 23 February and wrote It’s Official: IBM Announces Linux for the S/390 on 17 May. What really stands out? All of these articles reporting on the S/390 and on Test Plan Charlie occurred nine years ago, in 2000.

Scott Courtney followed his articles up with an interview with David Boyes in 2001.

There is one more thing about David Boyes: following Test Plan Charlie, he went on to create Sine Nomine Associates and showcased OpenSolaris running on the IBM zSeries in November of 2007 – with attendant press releases from IBM. Certainly, David is not one to sit idle – and is a figure to contend with in the IBM zSeries arena. IBM has, since the original announcement nine years ago, pushed Linux on zSeries with vigor.  One irony: Test Plan Charlie was part of a study for an IBM customer that was deciding whether to use their existing S/390 or whether to use a new Sun set up.

There is even an open source IBM mainframe emulator called Hercules, which allows the rest of us to try it out and see what happens – even though you won’t be able to run under z/VM, as that is an IBM product.

Update: there was a nice set of updates about OpenSolaris on zSeries over on DancingDinosaur: Here comes (and goes) the Sun (12 April 2009) and Slow times for OpenSolaris on System z (21 July 2009).

Update: More articles on Test Plan Charlie. In the November 2000 issue of Technical Support, Adam Thornton wrote a nice two-part article (part one and part two) on it. Adam is a major contributor to the Linux on S/390 effort and worked for David Boyes at Rice University.

A good source of information for Linux on S/390 is linuxvm.org.

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