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Sun's OpenSolaris to Shine Through Amazon's Cloud

Sun's OpenSolaris to Shine Through Amazon's Cloud

Sun Microsystems is heavily courting developers with its OpenSolaris operating system, officially released to the wild on Monday. Touting new features that improve ease of use, the company is positioning the Unix OS as a competitor to Linux in the enterprise. The system can run on Amazon's EC2 cloud compute grid.

By Chris Maxcer
05/05/08 11:39 AM PT

Sun Microsystems and the OpenSolaris community it created a few years ago have officially released the Unix-based OpenSolaris operating system into the wild. The two organizations shared the news at the CommunityOne Developer Conference Monday in San Francisco.

OpenSolaris is based on Sun's Solaris kernel, but it has since been transformed into a more open and developer-friendly OS.

"OpenSolaris is a massive advancement for OS development and deployment," noted Stephen Lau, an OpenSolaris Governing Board member. "It combines the strong foundation of Solaris technologies and tools with modern desktop features and applications developed by open source communities such as Gnome, Mozilla and the Free Software Foundation.

"OpenSolaris provides an ideal environment for students, developers and early adopters looking to learn and gain experience with innovative technologies like ZFS, Zones and Dtrace," he continued, "and yes, it uses Bash by default."

Pressure on Linux?

With the release of OpenSolaris -- and the new OpenSolaris.com Web site that's geared more for those who want to utilize OpenSolaris rather than contribute to it -- the key question for Linux aficionados is how OpenSolaris might play out in competition. Who is OpenSolaris really for, anyway?

"OpenSolaris is first and foremost for developers. It could also appeal to cutting-edge HPC and Web 2.0 customers, but that's secondary," Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor for Illuminata, told LinuxInsider.

"In typical enterprises, Solaris will be the production platform. As for Linux, I see the OpenSolaris push as not so much replacing Linux as pre-empting it in new growth opportunities," he added.

The OpenSolaris group has added features to make installing and using its much easier -- and more like installing and using Linux and the LAMP stack for development. For instance, Sun said its LiveCD installation and the new network-based OpenSolaris Image Packaging System (IPS) are designed to simplify and speed installation and integration with third-party applications.

OpenSolaris IPS increases installation speed and accuracy by providing better control of applications and dependencies, and offers easy-to-use system management, the company noted.

The OpenSolaris OS is also the first operating system to feature ZFS as its default file system, protecting work with instant roll-back and continual check-summing capabilities, which should let users test out new ideas. Plus, Sun said its Dynamic Tracing (DTrace) feature provides safe, pervasive observability of production systems to accelerate application development and optimization of the AMP/MARS stack.

From Amazon's Cloud

In addition to the general release, Amazon and the OpenSolaris community have set up the OpenSolaris OS to run from Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). Through the OpenSolaris-Amazon collaboration, customers will have access to Sun's open source software, MySQL premium technical support and key OpenSolaris features such as ZFS and DTrace.

The idea is to let developers, enterprises, startups and students have enhanced options and support for rapid development and fast Web deployment on a Web-scale compute infrastructure, Sun said, with capacity-on-demand.

"Running OpenSolaris on EC2 should prove handy to get people who wouldn't spend time installing it on their own to try it out," Michael Coté, an industry analyst for RedMonk, told LinuxInsider.

"There are some great subsystems and features in OpenSolaris that I'd wager people will check out if there's almost no hassle to play around with them. If Sun gets the barriers to entry for that 'playing around' low enough -- by getting OpenSolaris running on EC2 and other cloud grids -- people can mess around with SFS, DTrace and other things in OpenSolaris," he explained.

"Like all Unixes, just getting an install to play -- no matter how minor the hassle -- is enough to make people just stick with Linux, which is generally available everywhere, for example, wherever you host your Web site," he added.

Sun's Open World

"The other, more general thing that got my attention is a broader attitude about Sun wanting to engage with and be inclusive of open source worlds outside of the Sun sphere of influence -- things like including PHP in NetBeans and other open source partnerships," Coté said.

"Sun has always talked about being part of the wider open source world, but the feeling I get from conversations I've had with them recently is that they want to actually go out there and be involved in more of the overall community -- for example, bundling other open source products [and] getting committers on other open source products, " he observed.

"To be very specific, what I mean here is engaging with other commercial open source interests," Coté explained, noting that Sun has already been working with "nonprofit" groups like Apache and, more recently, Eclipse.


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