back to article Sun: OpenSolaris 'pretty freaking amazing'

While the top brass at Sun Microsystems might seem to be clueless about the company sometimes, there are plenty of people who know where the bread gets buttered - or doesn't. They know that Solaris and the servers that run it are what really matter at Sun. And that means Sun's OpenSolaris project and its related Solaris …


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  1. Pete Silver badge

    one simple test for popular acceptance

    No matter what the geeks think, it's no use in a domestic environment until I can plug my USB webcam in and just have it work

    No messing about with download this, recompile that, search for another driver .. .oops, it's the wrong version - or only works on x86. Simply plug in and see my face on the screen.

    Until an O/S can do this (and exhibit a similar level of seamless integration for scanners and printers), it's not ready for the average user.

    p.s. my first Sun experience: a 3/50 workstation, must've been around 1986 - been using them commercially ever since)

  2. J

    April and October and the world...

    "This will get Sun better in phase with school and vacation schedules around the world."

    OK, you guys have got the money and all that but... Speak only for your "northern-hemispheric" world. School and vacation schedules are completely different in the Southern lands. Well, at least in South America it is, but I suspect the same for other countries.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Some Questions

    1.) How do you merge a closed and open source software project that huge? Maybe we're about to learn how to and how not to :)

    2.) How you keep a curtain on an open source code release such that it needs to be lifted later?

    3.) Solaris already has packaging tools. I guess they are releasing a distribution method? Or is this a Solaris Configuration Management tool?

    Links would be fantastic!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    OpenSolaris saving Sun

    I hear Schwartz was a big obstacle to opening Solaris. Between that and the stupid ticker (NO ONE USES JAVA ANYMORE!!!), it's no wonder Sun's still alive.

  5. Doctor T
    Thumb Up

    just port apt to opensolaris

    i'm convinced that most of the success of debian (and now ubuntu) is due to the apt-get/aptitude package management utilities.

    for someone to simply type 'apt-get install some_application' makes your OS trivial to set up with the software you want/need.

    if they do this with opensolaris, i'll start converting my systems at work en-mass. solaris at it's core is pretty bulletproof, and though linux is stable and all, i really don't need 90% of the stuff that's in the kernel (modules i know, but still)

    an x64 version of solaris that has all the GNU stuff, and 'apt-get install whatever' would be enough for me to start pushing it hard for servers at work.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Do your homework

    JAVA has actually made a lot of money for Sun....

    For example, how much do you think Sun gets for each mobile phone that ships with a JAVA engine on board?

    Another example of El Reg hacks not doing the job properly.

  7. Ed

    I joined...

    I joined the Open Solaris thing as it got me a free t-shirt. Which I have somewhere...

    I've never remotely thought about writing anything for it...

    Giving out freebies somewhat skews such statistics...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    yawn - is anyone besides existing Solaris shops interested?

    So they're going to copy the Linux model - why? - just to be hip ?


    1. The only people that are likely to benefit are existing Solaris shops who'll now be able to pick up free licenses for Development and Test servers. The average hobbyist isn't going to be interested as it's pitched at servers and not desktops.

    2. Sun can claim to be just as "Open" as IBM et al in competitive situations

    3. Solaris can benefit from the huge number of community developers


    1. Solaris developers efforts now diluted and split between two products.

    2. Developers waste their time writing wifi drivers instead of innovating and developing

    enterprise class functionality that the paying customers actually want.

    3. Solaris can benefit from the huge number of community developers

  9. Gerry
    IT Angle


    What do they use then? Ruby? DotNet? Try building enterprise IT systems with these. I'm don't know why I bother responding to this sort of bait. And why shouldn't Sun fly the Java flag? It is present on most Windows, GNU/Linux, Mac installations. The JVM, that is, for those who assume Java is nothing more than a language.

  10. Tony Reeves
    Thumb Up

    It Just Works

    "No matter what the geeks think, it's no use in a domestic environment until I can plug my USB webcam in and just have it work"

    Bought a new Acer laptop recently, installed Solaris Nevada b96 (latest release then). Everything on the Acer just works, including the web cam. Better result than XP or Vista, that both require vendor supplied drivers.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Stable? Secure?

    Whats the longest uptime on a properly patched Solaris 10,11 or OpenSolaris server? This stuff is making Microsoft look good.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Schwartz and opensolaris

    Hey fellow anonymous dude, Schwartz was one of the biggest proponents of open sourcing solaris. Since he was head of Sun's software division at the time this went into motion, and is now the, what is it, oh yeah -> CEO <-, I think it's safe to say that if he was agin it, it wouldn't be happening at all. Nice try, though!

  13. douglas dooley

    Re: 1,000

    Again, another piece of useful data from El reg, first i hear from a commenter in the T2 story that Sun could have had Red Hat Linux support to the tune of $100M/yr., and turned it down, now there is a reference in this story that Sun employs 1,000 engineers on openSolaris,

    my god, lets see, how about $50,000/yr in salaries and stuff = $50M right there,

    i think we could come up with some creative ways to find another $50M to pay Red Hat, or even get those openSolaris engineers to work on supporting Linux instead...

    does anyone even do analysis at Sun anymore?...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Re: Do your homework

    Sun must not make much money from Java, since they open sourced it in 2007. Not sure if this is the common practice, but those phones could surely be using a free JRE build on OpenJDK.

    Paris, since no source is more open (at least on film and at parties!).

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wun hunnert'n fiddy thayowsind

    150k in the community? Translation: 150,000 people registered at so they could download a preview iso or troll the solaris forums.

    So far as I can see, the biggest thing the opensolaris community has produced are smug zealots predicting the death of Linux prematurely, based on the fact that opensolaris is "reeel yoooonicks" and has LOLOMG! DTRACE!!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    pkg = apt-get on OpenSolaris

    "if they do this with opensolaris, i'll start converting my systems at work en-mass."

    It's there in the newer dev versions here:

    e.g. you just type "pkg install ss-dev" to install Sun Studio. I'm running build 97 on my laptop and it's been 100% stable.

  17. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Some Answers

    1) Technique for handling big merges: avoid if at all possible. Sun should not need to do a big merge. They simply needed a patch acceptance policy like: "Accepting a patch for the open version requires someone implement the same functionality in the closed version promptly if appropriate".

    2) Caging free software: last time I checked, Sun's license was open source, not free software. If you contribute, Sun have the right to keep your contribution, modify it in secret and charge others for using it.

    3) No idea. I did not like Sun's licenses. I got tired of reading new versions of the same license whenever Sun announced that they had dealt with the free software community's objections to their license.

  18. Geoff Mackenzie


    What a bizarre statement.

  19. Max Lange

    Recycled Text Alert?

    I'm sure I've read large bits of this article before, in El Reg. Maybe T.P. Morgan should reconsider the use of that handy autotext feature. Watch out Mr Morgan, it gets boring by the third time.

    Mine's the one with the old printed copies of Register articles in the pockets.

  20. Paul Johnston


    Solaris has had the ability to get software for ages, see

    Now they also have the new

    Been using it for some time (used Solaris x86 many years ago) and it is nice but IMHO very much still work in progress

    Look at but do beware the differences between Open Solaris 2008 and Solaris Express Community Edition are quite large.

    Still lovely tools to play with like zfs zones DTrace etc

  21. Simon Breden
    Thumb Up

    A Home Fileserver using ZFS

    And one of the best things about OpenSolaris is ZFS -- the revolutionary file system that allows you to build virtually limitless data storage pools cheaply and simply, and gives end-to-end data integrity to guard against data loss:

  22. Morten Bjoernsvik

    I see only one reason for using solaris

    ZFS on the X4500, 48 1TByte sata drives on a merlin 8port sata-controller wonderfully managed like a high end hardware raid(expensive), just in software. Currently this is probably the cheapest NAS/SAN of this size you can get.

    If linux had ZFS we would have seen a flood of 16/32/48 ports cheap sata controllers comming out. It would really hurt EMC/HP/IBM storage sales.

    Are there any other benefits? Fellow El-Regs please enlighten me.

    Just port ZFS to linux and ditch entire Solaris, would save 90% of the Software R&D budget and put SUNW (JAVA) into solid black figures.

    I'll get my coat which is the one left over from the last SPARC designer that left SUN.

  23. Scott

    "OpenSolaris 2008.11 is on track for November this year"

    Well, it'd better be - or else they'll have to call it something different! This is why date-based version numbers (a la Ubuntu) are a Bad Idea - hostages to fortune!

  24. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Pretty freaking rubbish

    I bet OpenSolaris still looks like it's stuck in the 1990s. I bet using it requires a working knowledge of Unix to do anything basic.

    If you want a Unix based OS to do anything productive on then OSX is the one. If you want a Unix based OS to learn Unix then any of the BSDs will do. Some of the Linux distros are a balance between the two, but Linux differs somewhat.

    It all boils down to if you own a computer to run software and get things done or own a computer to spend all your time editing config files in /etc. I got fed up with Windows and it's rubbish timing stability when running MIDI software, I got fed up with compiling kernels.

    OpenSolaris is probably 5 years behind Linux in terms of ease of use. Linux is about 5 or more years behind OSX in terms of ease of use.

  25. Francis Fish

    I get by with Ubuntu

    Most hosting companies give you Windows or Ubuntu Server now. I never see Solaris. I used to use it years ago and it was fine, but can't see what the benefits are.

    It's probably got a better engineered kernel, but I don't care.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I see only one reason for using solaris




    Solaris also has 'pkg' now, equivalent of the Debian 'apt' package management tool.

    I'm sure there are more reasons, but others may know more.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insightful comment...not

    "I bet OpenSolaris still looks like it's stuck in the 1990s. I bet using it requires a working knowledge of Unix to do anything basic."

    I stopped reading after that. Your opinions are worthless if you haven't even tried the things you're opining about.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You'll care

    "It's probably got a better engineered kernel, but I don't care."

    You'll care when their Windows or Ubuntu servers get pwned, or require downtime to restore from a backup.

  29. Tim Bradshaw Silver badge

    "No use in a domestic environment"

    The real question to ask is: if people spent the time and effort to make OpenSolaris (or any other OS, free or commercial) work absolutely seamlessly with all the multifarious combinations of hardware that occur in desktops and laptops, what would the expected market share of such an OS on deltops/laptops be?

    The answer, once you fight your way through the propaganda and idiot geek politics is: almost none. Windows has won, with OS X running a distant second (and notably avoiding the hardware nightmare by the standard approach of being bound to specific hardware), and Linux somewhere behind that.

    So, you can spend a huge amount of time (which, remember, means a huge amount of money, even if people contribute the money themselves rather than a company having to fund it) - and I mean a *huge* amount of time - and get exactly what?

    Wouldn't it be more interesting to concentrate on a battle you can win? For instance, making the thing into a killer server OS. There's a lot less random crap hardware variation in your average rackable machine than there is on desktops & laptops, and (Open)Solaris already *is* a killer server OS.

    The really disturbing thing, to me, is that many of the OS developers do seem to be spending a lot of time adding features which are useful only on desktops & laptops, presumably because they run OpenSolaris on their personal machines. All that effort is wasted, because to quite a good approximation they will be the only people who ever run it on their personal machines.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Sun bashing

    Looks like Sun bashing is currently trendy here at el reg.

    Still, many Linux guys I know, are getting more and more interested in OpenSolaris, after demoing them the 2008.05 release. Most of them have never touched a real UNIX before and think Linux is the Alpha and Omega.

    The same thing can be said about Sun Hardware, which is IMHO superior to what e.g. IBM, HP and Dell can deliver.

    I was at a HP shop a couple of months ago and showed them a X4600. The customer had wet eyes when seeing this beauty of a beast. And he had wet eyes, when I left him alone with his ugly HP boxes.

    The problem Sun has are not technical, it is about getting the world to know about their products. There is not a single other company around that invents as much as Sun and shares it for free.

    No, Matt Bryant, don't mention that ink company.

  31. Kevin Hutchinson

    How Java makes money

    I didn't understand how Java made money for Sun until I tried to install a Linux software package on a Solaris box the other day. Would it install? No way mate! It needed libglibc-2 or something I couldn't be arsed to spend 2 days linking. Now, consider Java software - it runs on everything. Lucky for Sun with its esoteric op/sys huh? Maybe Java's ubiquity might save Solaris?

  32. Anonymous Coward

    maximum 8 character username

    I installed it on virtualbox just to have a look - and found it hard to believe that it support only usernames that are <= 8 characters long!

    Even though virtualbox is a sun product, i had no sound support and a maximum screen width of 1024.

    Not impressed.

  33. Jesse

    RE: Stable? Secure?

    As is usually the case, it depends on how much you want to pay and what kind of risks you are willing to take.

    A typical low end server, like perhaps a webserver, will have you running until your root disk mirror has lost enough disks, then you would want to schedule shutting down to replace any when convenient depending on what risks you would like to take and how many mirrors you have. You might have 4 disks in the mirror so you could run until two fail.

    Or you could buy the extra array (This scales all the way up to clustering) and would not have to shut down ever except for the inevitable kernel patch(es) that require single user mode to install.

    You could forgo the patch sets, but -might- be at risk. If your OS is hardened correctly you wouldn't have to patch but once a year though and not worry about being hacked depending on what apps you are supporting. It would be really wise for instance to patch Samba often if you have important data that hackerx shouldn't be getting to.

    So the answer is, Solaris will run from either how long it takes your 1 internal disk to fail all the way up to never because you have enough cluster nodes and good sysadmins.

    If it weren't for patch sets, there would be systems running here longer than my 5 years at this current job.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    apt aptitude

    To quote a previous comment:

    > i'm convinced that most of the success of debian (and now ubuntu) is due to the

    > apt-get/aptitude package management utilities.

    > if they do this with opensolaris, i'll start converting my systems at work en-mass. solaris at it's

    That's exactly what they've done with Open Solaris

    Hope you enjoy your mas conversion ;)



    Pity you can't reply to comments....

  35. Marios Margaritis
    Thumb Up

    Already on my check list

    I switched all my machines away from M$ 5 months ago to Ubuntu, only my server still running SBS2003. And after a quick check of Open Solaris I am very positive that I will switch, at least my server to it, in the near future.

    The lack of expandable ZFS arrays is the only problem I am considering as important, but its not an impossible problem to overcome, everything else worked without a problem.

    However I am a small shop, bigger installations have more things to think about.

    Congrats to Sun for a great effort.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Glad to see no-one has a clue

    It seems lots of people in this forum haven't used solaris recently. It is by far and away the most stable of the mainstream platforms. Uptimes of years are really common, even for systems that are constantly being patched and with some pretty intense (and sometimes unstable) apps going on. Solaris has better 64 bit than other platforms, allows huge memory (try getting above 16Mb on Linux to perform properly), has ZFS which has no peer, and has far better development tools than other platforms. Have people seen how often gdb crashes when trying to debug something, often taking the app down as well. DBX and Sun Studio are outstanding tools, far better than the rubbish on Linux..

  37. Tim Jones
    Thumb Up


    openSolaris, ZFS, Ubuntu userland (with apt-get), check out

  38. John Ball

    ZFS is a Joke.

    It's just a poor imitation of ext3. Just face it, no one uses Solaris anymore, and DTrace and ZFS are just little trinkets for geeks with too much time on their hands.

  39. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Glad to see no-one has a clue

    Whilst not disagreeing with the thrust of your post (since I haven't used Solaris either) I would pick you up on...

    "It is by far and away the most stable of the mainstream platforms. Uptimes of years are really common..."

    Most of us don't *know* the uptime of our chosen OS. Windows users have to reboot each month or so and Ubuntites get either a kernel patch or a full upgrade two or three times a year. We voluntarily reboot our machines at these times and frankly don't get too annoyed about it because in between times the OS has been rock solid. (Sigh! Yes, you read that right. A Windows box *can* last a month without crashing.)


    "try getting above 16Mb on Linux to perform properly"

    You mean Gb, natch, but again you are preaching to a very small minority. As far as I'm aware, no-one I actually know (to speak to, rather than heard about) has that much RAM on their system, or even a motherboard that can take it. I certainly don't know anyone who would benefit from it.

    Maybe no-one *needs* to have a clue. Maybe Solaris is just for server farms.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    3189 days uptime

    SPARC ultra 60 with SunOS 5.5.1 and still going strong.

    That's one of the reasons we use Sun.

    OpenSolaris lets us play more, use it at home, install on PC kit.

    Oh, the other reason is that it's what our vendors write for, the ones that don't insist on HPUX that is.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    @John Ball re: ZFS is a joke

    You sound like a prejudiced Linux fanboy who likes to speak ill of things he's never tried, because *nothing* can be better than your beloved Linux.

    Try OpenSolaris with ZFS, you might like it. You can run Linux in a Solaris Zone anyway, so you can still enjoy your Linux, but still be able to take advantage of the FAR superior technology within ZFS.

    ext3 ;-)

    When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail...

  42. Simon Breden

    @Marios Margaritis

    You can expand your ZFS storage pools by adding additional vdevs: mirrors, RAIDZ1, RAIDZ2 etc.

    What you can't currently do is expand an existing RAIDZ vdev, although I believe they plan to implement this at some point.

    However, assuming you have sufficient alternative capacity available (add more disks and make a new pool temporarily, or in another pool on the network), you can always recreate your existing vdev with more disks, and therefore you achieve the goal of 'expanding' your vdev.

    See here:

    The alien because ZFS is out of this world :)

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Most companies I've worked for mission critical systems use Sun/Solaris where it counts. The advantage is rock solid stability - uptime. These systems are almost never be public facing and are almost always levels deep into the network infrastructure, never seeing the light of day.

    OpenSolaris is obviously a belated effort to promote an excellent OS at the webapp/web farm tier, the only way to do this is IMHO is to woo the Linux fanboys with PC hardware support and quick-deploy package management.

    There is a lot of ignorance on display here as to the capabilities and advantages of zfs, containers or zones, and ldoms, not to mention Sun hardware itself. I would imagine more than half taking a position on Linux/Solaris don't fully understand the pros and cons of either OS.

    I for one would take a zone over pissing about building a chroot any day, and ldoms are just plain sexy, bringing features of what was only really previously available on mid to high end servers down to entry level. Hurrah! There's also the up and coming crossbow technology...

    The IPS package management system is obviously one way to attract lazy, ignorant or overworked Linux admins and Linux home user crowd. Any admin worth his salt would always want to compile software destined for a server system from source, that way you know exactly what is on your servers (which is the advantage of solaris on sun kit imho).

    Still, IPS will be handy for setting up some sandpit test box under your desk somewhere.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    pkg > apt?

    Aside from all of the apt capabilities, pkg will allow multiple instances of a package to be installed on the same machine. Good if you want to install multiple versions of an application or want several copies configured differently, or run as multiple users, or...?

  45. Paul Harper

    Good information on OpenSolaris

    To get a better idea of what OpenSolaris is about I would recommend reading this blog:

    It has lots of information on how to use OpenSolaris as a development system and on servers.

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