Update: Release Of OpenSolaris Opens Door For Sun Partners


Sun revealed Tuesday that OpenSolaris is now generally available from its opensolaris.org Web site. Observers said OpenSolaris, for instance, will allow Sun partners to bid on projects that require open-source software, participate in the Windows- and Linux-dominated appliance market and make Sun's enterprise Java stack more attractive to clients. OpenSolaris, too, will enable developers and partners to get faster fixes for software glitches and conduct better application development and testing, solution providers said.

Some partners noted, though, that many of the drivers included with OpenSolaris won't be open-source. Claire Giordano, marketing manager for OpenSolaris at Sun, Santa Clara, Calif., said nearly all of the millions of lines of Solaris code are available under Sun's OSI-approved open-source license, except for third-party drivers.

But not all of Solaris is open yet. What was made available on Tuesday includes the core kernel, libraries and commands. Within the next three months, Sun promised to make available additional OS networking functionality including crypro code and Sun storage drivers. Within 12 months, Sun will release its Installer and Solaris administration tools.

Some customers may not use OpenSolaris in a production setting because they need technical support and indemnification from Sun, according to partners. Yet the availability of Sun's advanced technologies--including Solaris Zones and predictive self-healing as open-source code--gives Sun a technical edge against Red Hat and other Linux distributors as well as a good reason for Sun customers to stay put instead of defecting to Linux.

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Customers can run OpenSolaris in production at no charge if they wish, and get service from a Sun partner, said one unnamed Sun VAR. "You only have to pay Sun if you want their support," said the Sun VAR. "If the customers doesn't want Sun support, I support them."

Christopher Carter, CEO of CCI, a Unix and SAP solution provider in Milwaukee, said Sun has made good moves by offering Solaris under an open-source license and allowing customers to use enterprise Solaris in production at no cost. "Our clients still use enterprise [Solaris] to make sure there are no bugs and will still need to pay for the support," he said, adding that he appreciates the value of using open source "for its development and quality assurance benefits and, with Sun offering its application servers for free, [for] the savings."

"We can now be more aggressive in purchasing our production licenses for clients," Carter said.

OpenSolaris could help Sun stave off Linux's inroads into its business and seed more of its Java enterprise software stack into the market, Sun partners said.

"The value [of Sun software] is in the portal and identity products. So giving away Solaris builds up a community at the grassroots level. It gives Sun more external visibility," said Alex Burdenko, a senior architect at Back Bay Technologies, Needham, Mass. "They're banking on the same community involvement. Linux has too much mind share [to unseat Linux], but Sun is banking on the fact that Solaris has features that Linux doesn't have and is a mature OS." Back Bay hasn't lost any Solaris customers to Linux, but Linux is gobbling up a chunk of business that could be going to OpenSolaris, he added.

Sun's approach to OpenSolaris in some ways is similar to open-source moves by Red Hat, which sponsors the Fedora Linux project and offers a commercially supported enterprise Linux distribution with technical support. Sun's Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL), however, is more like the Mozilla Foundation license than Red Hat's General Public License (GPL). Earlier this month, Red Hat said it would spin off its Fedora project into a foundation, loosening its grip on the project to drum up more interest among the general open-source community.

Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz unveiled the company's plans to make Solaris available under an open-source model last June. After the OSI approved Sun's CDDL early this year, Sun made its DTrace utility--a new feature in Solaris 10--available on opensolaris.org. Tuesday's release of OpenSolaris fulfills Sun's promise that it would make the rest of the code available by the end of the second quarter.

Though Sun partners have little to gain from OpenSolaris, they would benefit if Sun's software stack were released under the CDDL, said Doug Nassaur, president and CEO of True North Technology, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based solution provider.

"The last thing I want is for partners to be changing the way the operating system behaves that is supporting my zones. The whole point of our hybrid utility computing solutions is that we can offer consistent, predictable and repeatable performance and interfaces for pay-for-use Web, application and infrastructure services bundled with compute power," Nassaur said. "If you want to change anything, change the way an app, directory, identity or Web server behaves. At least they are modular and usually written in Java. Open-source Java Enterprise System, and you'll get my attention."

Even though OpenSolaris could entice more developers to Solaris, it doesn't have any hope of unseating Linux as the mainstream open-source platform, said Sam Hiser, principal at Hiser and Adelstein, a Linux and open-source consulting firm in New York. "Solaris was powerful in an earlier context of non-open operating systems," said Hiser, who formerly directed marketing for OpenOffice.org. "All software is moving to free code with services sold around it. If OpenSolaris has a vibrant open-development community around it, then it will do well in the services model. But I don't see the ingredients for an [open-source] bazaar."

Nevertheless, OpenSolaris likely will give Solaris a needed boost in the marketplace, said George Weiss, an analyst at research firm Gartner. "The biggest usefulness of OpenSolaris is the ecosystem community that may develop among OEMs, partners and ISVs who perceive additional market opportunities and want to have the protection of the CDDL," Weiss said. "OpenSolaris gives additional market opportunities, especially to OEMs who prefer CDDL to GPL as a means to safeguard IP."

This story was updated Wednesday morning with more detail on what parts of the operating system have been made available in OpenSolaris.