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Snuffing Out OpenSolaris Dims Oracle's Light in FOSS Community

By Katherine Noyes
Aug 17, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Just a day after Oracle filed suit against Google for its use of Java in Android, the FOSS community received another blow at the hands of the tech giant in the form of news that it plans to kill the OpenSolaris project.

Snuffing Out OpenSolaris Dims Oracle's Light in FOSS Community

"All of Oracle's efforts on binary distributions of Solaris technology will be focused on Solaris 11," reads an internal e-mail that was leaked on Friday. "We will not release any other binary distributions, such as nightly or bi-weekly builds of Solaris binaries, or an OpenSolaris 2010.05 or later distribution."

Oracle, which inherited OpenSolaris when it acquired Sun Microsystems in January, did not respond by press time to LinuxInsider's request for confirmation and comment. Meanwhile, the news has been met with widespread dismay among fans and contributors to the open source OpenSolaris project.

'A Perversion of the Open Source Spirit'

"This is a terrible sendoff for countless hours of work -- for quality software which will now ship as an Oracle product that we (the original authors) can no longer obtain on an unrestricted basis," wrote OpenSolaris contributor Steven Stallion in a Friday blog post, for example.

"I can only maintain that the software we worked on was for the betterment of all, not for any one company's bottom line," Stallion added. "This is truly a perversion of the open source spirit."

Indeed, "regardless of its motivations and objectives, Oracle certainly didn't time this very well, with its statements in support of Linux and open source at LinuxCon just days before now being called into question, the official end of OpenSolaris and of course, the Java lawsuit," Jay Lyman, open source analyst with the 451 Group, told LinuxInsider.

'Widely Viewed as an Enemy'

"Whether Oracle is seeking a bigger piece of the mobile devices market, a licensing business based on Java, or simply the protection of intellectual property it owns, it is being widely viewed as an enemy of open source software, despite the fact it is targeting a specific company: Google," Lyman explained.

"Despite its previous participation and contribution, Oracle has positioned itself as a foe of open source software in perception, which in itself can have a significant impact on business, relationships and code," he added.

"I also believe the elimination of OpenSolaris could have a negative impact on Solaris adoption, since its reason for being was to mitigate migration from Solaris to Linux," Lyman asserted. "Without that community, open source aspect of Solaris, we may see more migration from Solaris to Linux."

'We've Been Planning for This'

In what may or may not be a coincidence, the news also came hard on the heels of the announcement of Illumos, a project that aims to create a fully open version of OpenSolaris so as to reinvigorate development based on the technology without any dependence on Oracle.

"We've been planning for this contingency for a long time," wrote Evan Powell, CEO of Illumos sponsor Nexenta, in a blog post reacting to the news. "We have the team to continue to support customers and partners and to continue our development.

"We look forward to picking up the appropriate pieces of Solaris when they are made available with Solaris 11 as well," Powell added.

'The Upstream Is Clearly Illumos'

With OpenSolaris apparently on its way out, "now the upstream for us is clearly Illumos," Powell told LinuxInsider. "As we make improvements, we'll contribute them to Illumos, and I think you're going to see a lot of that kind of thing happening."

Illumos has always been "very clear on saying that it will always remain compatible with Solaris," Powell added. "But the fact of matter is that underneath it all, the code will advance differently in the two places."

In light of Oracle's recent moves, at least one commentator has suggested that OpenOffice.org -- which is also sponsored primarily by Oracle -- should now be considered endangered as well, potentially highlighting the need for an independent foundation to ensure its future.

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