back to article Is Solaris really a bright choice for developers?

So, you're tired of Windows and thinking of trying Linux. There are lots of good distros, RedHat or Novell have all the enterprise cred you might need. And there's a support community too, it's a no brainer.... Well, that's all true enough – but why not try Solaris - in its OpenSolaris form - too? It's just as available, at …


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  1. David Norfolk


    One reader wrote in with another alternative: NexentaOS is a GNU-based open source operating system built on top of the OpenSolaris kernel and runtime and using Ubuntu to glue things together.

    Take a look at

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ultimate Develper Environment with Solaris

    Nice article. I would think the natural development environment would be an Intel Mac, and then run Solaris in VMware's Fusion Beta.

    That way you get Solaris to play with, develop stable c/c++ apps, or Java, while you can do your email, surfing and media playing on the Mac.

    Need Windows? Boot up another VM with WinXP and see how your Solaris developed Java code or web app runs on Windows.

    Same for different Linux distros.

    The Mac doesn't have Solaris' cred or extreme reliability, but it also has Java and Bash and most of all that. And it has decent user programs.

    But you can do your dev. on the Mac or Solaris in a VM, test in VMs and then roll it out to an expensively reliable server machine later on.

    Anyone interested in Linux should definitely check out Solaris, especially for those types of apps which don't need KDE/Gnome.

  3. alex dekker

    FUD alert

    "CDDL delivers blanket patent immunity, without some of the possible gotchas of the GPL (you shouldn't find yourself obligated to give your IP away to all and sundry, for example)."

    Giving all of one's IP away isn't a gotcha of the GPL, either.

  4. David Norfolk


    I've been taken to task about my thow-away remark about possible (I emphasise) "gotchas" in the GPL - by people that would like it thrown away. Well, fair enough - I think that some of the concerns I alluded to are overstated (and possibly have been exploited by over-interested parties - see

    But the fact remains that there are concerns, that parts of some versions of the GPL have not always been clear and unambiguous and that, even now, there are concerns about the wording of GPL v3 (alluded to here:

    No developer wants to get involved with IP lawyers - but sometimes they have to (it's a continuing concern of the JCP, for example). Open Source Software is not License Free Software and the IP questions around it aren't trivial. Which is really to say that I don't want to add a detailed critique of the GPL to an article on Solaris. Which uses CDDL.

  5. Charles Johnson

    Debian user registers interest

    I've definitely been thinking of trying Solaris out for running LAMP/LAPP (ZFS was a big draw for me) but being ignorant of its package management implementation i'm more likely to stick with Debian(-based) as i know and like it. What's more, i suspect ZFS could be going Debian's way at some point...

  6. Mike Wright

    Solaris - no service plan - NO PATCHES

    I think it's only fair that you point out that Sun have recently changed their patching policy and you now have to buy a service plan to get patches for Solaris. That's a major disincentive compared to Linux.

    Also, while Linux has come on in leaps and bounds, Solaris is still stuck in 90s. Bourne shell anyone? Yuck. At least they dumped that ugly clunky CDE after more than a decade to move to Gnome.

    As for scalabilty, I would agree that Solaris scales better when running 8 CPUs and above, but then you are advocating Solaris x86 and you are talking about some pretty exotic hardware if you are running more than 2 CPUs on an x86 box.

  7. Paul Floyd

    Some Corrections

    I don't think Mike Wright has much experience with Solaris, to be honest. For free you can get the OS and critical and securty patches, and any such patches that are dependencies. You have to pay for the rest. With Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SuSE Enterprise Linux you pay for the OS and annual support. If you want compare it to an all-free Linux like Fedora Core, then you should compare it to Solaris Express. That's free and has updates roughly every month (though no patches of any kind).

    sh as the only shell? Of course not. Personally I use ksh, but all of the shells are there. sh may be limited, but it's not as buggy as bash. Since Sun puts a lot of emphasis on compatibilty, there is no way that they will ever replace the Bourne shell with a symlink to bash.

    From what I've seen, it's not just on high end hardware that Solaris gives Linux a run for its, err, money.

  8. David Norfolk


    A reader has suggested Blastwave as a good source of Solaris freeware:

    Or, on good ol' Wikipedia:

  9. Hetz Ben Hamo

    Not ready yet

    Yes, Solaris is great on big machines, specially if they have a SPARC processor inside. It really kicks ass there..

    But lets install Solaris 10 or OpenSolaris on my Thinkpad T42.. what do we got... OMG - it's CDE! That ugly thing from the days where we had Windows 3.x! but wait.. we have GNOME now! Do you love KDE? do you? well, good luck getting latest KDE on SPARC, there's version 3.5.1, but the latest official KDE 3.5.5 is not available, just wait till someone will port the bug fixes to Solaris..

    Next - how about some 3D? Oh damn, your shiny expensive graphics card is supported like Trident 8900 PCI Card (or in simple words: great 2D, crappy 3D performance), so all those dazzling new 3D window managers cannot really run even on my humble Radeon 9600, nor NVidia's 5xxx,6xxx or later cards.. no sir..

    Audio: Having a new Creative sound card? good luck with that card, cause you ain't gonna get any 5.1 or 7.1 sound if you (god forbid) decided to watch some DVD..

    Patching the OS: oh boy those headaches that Sun has given me with those patches numbers and crappy updates methods. It really makes you wonder if someone at Sun hasn't ever seen either UP2Date, Yast, Yum or APT which makes the living of any admin WAY easier than maintaining a Sun server..

    I could go on and on, how any ANCIENT Red Hat Enterprise 3 beats the crap out of Solaris when it comes to applications, device support, community, compatibility is WAY ahead of any solaris including the latest and greatest Open Solaris.

    As I said at the beginning - it's great on the big servers, it sucks on workstations and Laptops, so I prefer to stick with Linux until someone at Sun would really wake up.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hetz doesn't have much (Solaris-) experience plus is not a developer

    ... as a quick look into qemu's devel archive proves.

    Then, Solaris 10 ?

    Which one, 03/05, Update1, Update2 or Update3 (11/2006) ??

    You should use the latest freely available SolarisExpressCommunityRelease (SXCR), which is SUNW's OpenSolaris distro and which is basically Solaris11 Beta: (free registration).

    Plus, SXCR uses Xorg 6.9 (and from January 29th on Xorg 7.2 !!).

    It now uses exactly the same X11 infrastructure, as linux does. Soundblaster drivers are available here: and will soon be shipped with Solaris.

    Almost anything of what Hetz has written shows, that he doesn't exactly know what he's talking about.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hetz: Solaris 10 is not OpenSolaris based

    Solaris 11 is (code name "Nevada").

    And as for KDE: There is a new Community Project, here:

    It has been established a few days ago.

    Have a look _first_ before posting FUD:

  12. Tom Haynes

    Ready for desktops and notebooks

    I think Hetz Ben Hamo's experiences might be with much earlier versions of Solaris x86 - perhaps from before Sun committed to the x86 platform and OpenSolaris.

    I've used Solaris 10 and Solaris Nevada on my desktops and notebooks. Solaris Nevada has picked up code to drive my Fujitsu P7010D just as fast as Linux. And by the way, Fedora Core 3 would probably not work on my P7010D without upgrades.

    As for applications, I find that I install Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, GIMP 2, and Java on boxes - no matter what OS it is running. For being productive, those cover most of what I need to do. (Under WinXP, I'll throw on PuTTy and I'm pretty much set.) To a lesser extent, you need a pdf viewer and a flash player.

    A really neat tool is available from Sun to let you see if your hardware is supported. You can find it on BigAdmin -

  13. Uwe Dippel

    Some additions to be made ...

    Charles Johnson: That's what I'd like to know how it works out: LAMP on OpenSolaris.

    I am using apt-get on OpenSolaris. Try the link in the first post, if you want to know how. I am using OpenSolaris as Desktop ('Ubuntu') and developing machine, and might migrate my production boxes later.

    Hetz Ben Hamo: You're pretty much talking out of your sleeve. I am running OpenSolaris with the blob NVIDIA-driver. And I watch DVDs. (Though, honestly, my requirements w.r.t. sound are simple stereo; so I don't know about the 5.1 and above on Solaris.) And I use apt on OpenSolaris. See above.

    My desktop is 'Ubuntu', by the way.

  14. nigel

    not desktop enough - try ubuntu

    I've tried using solaris in the office as a desktop for java development, tomcat, evolution, rdesktop etc etc and it is good BUT kept crashing and was was not very user friendly for anyone who is new to unix or linux. I've now moved to ubuntu and

    - package / software repository is way better, synaptic rocks!

    - community and wikis out there very extensive - solaris forums are few and shabby

    - Most applications you want are already there and configured, e.g., on solaris I hunted for hours looking for rdesktop and installing it was such a pain ( had to get gcc, compile OpenSSl etc etc )

    - in short, ubuntu just works ...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Future of Solaris

    Solaris has only just gone open source. Untill then, Solaris on x86 had quite an uncertain future. First it was cancelled, then resurected... Why write or work on an O/S that had such an uncertain future when you could work on something with more of a future (Debian/Redhat/SuSE/*BSD)

    However, the BIG problem Solaris has is drivers. Sure, there are drivers for Sun hardware, but if you want to run it on anything else other than Sun hardware, you are likely be out of luck.

    Also, Solaris was written (IMHO) as a server O/S. Sure, you could run it on Sun workstations, but it's strengths were (& are) on the headless server, with uptimes measured in years.

    For a server (especally a SPARC based machine) Solaris is not a bad choice. For a desktop, look elsewhere.

  16. Nick

    Solaris, not that easy...

    Read this on how to install KDE on Solaris:

    and compare to - let's say -

    apt-get install kde

    A lot of things are possible now-a-days with Solaris that were in the realm of Linux and *BSDs till not so long ago.

    If you're a developer and you want to have a GUI set up fast, to enable you to use an IDE as an intermediate step in some development project - then you don't want to get distracted and going on a tangent just to achieve that.

    Also, hardware support - while not stellar in Linux / BSDs, is far better than OpenSolaris. With OpenSolaris one would have to pick and chose the hardware components to build a development / desktop machine that would run satisfactory. Same was true for Linux 5 years ago. Now, Linux can be installed on whatever white box happens to lay in a corner of your basement.

    We are not talking about server performance here. Even though to achieve that one needs Sparc hardware, which is expensive. For a lot of jobs the price / performance ratio and maintenance is better on Linux or BSD on Intel / AMD.

    Several times we had to roll back patches on Solaris, because of hardware incompatibilities. The worse was when we had a patch cluster tested for a while and then failing in Production with apparently identical hardware (same V880). The only difference proved to be the hard-drive manufacturer (Fujitsu vs. Seagate). A firmware update (after long hours spent to find the issue and going back and forth on the phone with the Sun rep.) solved the problem and we could bring the OS back up again... Lucky we had a clustered environment ;-)

  17. Martin Bochnig

    Blastwave's "pkg-get" makes life easier, also in terms of KDE3

    The site is - admittedly - a bit outdated.

    Here you go:

    Just issue: "/opt/csw/bin/pkg-get -i kdebase_gcc"

    (or take "apt-get" if you run Nextenda OpenSolaris)

    Still too complicated?

    There will also be a MRTXkde3 pkgadd- (and rpm-) packkage starting this summer (on, providing similar install-functionality.


  18. DarkPhoenix

    Why Always A Competition?

    Everywhere I look, it's "How OpenSolaris can crush Linux" or "What Linux has to do to fend off BSD/Solaris threats" or some such. I get the strange feeling the writers of those stories have forgotten that open source does not work like the commercial market. There doesn't have to be any X vs. Y BS here. Since Linux, *BSD and Solaris (and Hurd, and Darwin) basically all run the same sorts of programs on top, I fail to see why they have to be considered "enemies". I thought the concept of a monoculture was bad?

    What we have here are 5 different kernels, with similar compatible services on top. Ultimately, it's more choice for the user, and I think that is a good thing.

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