Sun Officially Opens Solaris

In a bid to recover lost market share, Sun Microsystems today officially released Solaris as open-source software.

Sun hopes to compete more effectively against rivals Red Hat, IBM and Microsoft with its open-source strategy that shares code from its once popular Unix version. With Linux and Microsoft battling for mind share, Unix has lost some of its allure in the fray.

As of today, Sun is beginning to fight fire with fire. The company will post more than 5 million lines of source code at the OpenSolaris Web site. The revelation will include kernel and networking code. Additional components, including installation and some administration tools, will be added later.

“There are many ways for developers to immediately start contributing to the project, such as testing code, fixing bugs, documenting processes, and suggesting RFEs [requests for enhancements],” said Jim Grisanzio, OpenSolaris community manager.

Building Community

The OpenSolaris community includes a new source browser, build tools, documentation, a community portal, mailing lists and blogs. Grisanzio said developers can follow technical conversations among Solaris engineers and the community on the long-term co-development model.

Sun is also collaborating with the OpenSolaris Community Advisory board on the overall governance proposal, which Grisanzio said will be debated, iterated, and ratified in the open right on

Nearly 150 OpenSolaris Pilot Program participants from around the world have been working with Sun for nine months on the project. Grisanzio said this group has detailed knowledge of the code and tools and are available to help educate new community members through the discussion list.

Sun Shines Again

Steve O’Grady of research firm Red Monk told LinuxInsider that OpenSolaris helps Sun compete with its various rivals. Sun’s long-standing affinity with Fortune 500 companies should help boost community membership in the short-term, he said.

“Despite the significant inroads that Linux has made in its business over the years, Solaris is still very strong in a number of different constituencies,” O’Grady said. “What will be interesting to see is how far down the spectrum and how far out [of] the spectrum Solaris can attract contributors.”

Analysts said one immediate challenge Sun faces with its new community is an out-of-the-gate comparison with an established Linux community.

“Comparing the Linux and Sun communities is not the way to look at this because you are comparing essentially a brand new open-source community to one that’s been around for quite a few years and has a substantial following,” O’Grady said.

Is Linux Worried?

With the sudden buzz around OpenSolaris, are executives with Linux-focused companies getting a little nervous? Despite the positive analyst reaction, industry watchers don’t see Sun’s latest competitive move as a major threat to the Penguin overall.

“Solaris and Linux are good at different things right now,” O’Grady said. “Solaris is very good at scaling and debugging and it’s attractive from a reliability perspective. Linux is great from a scale-up perspective, and certainly as you go further down the stack and get into device support Linux is quite a bit out in front. But there is room for both of them to compete.”

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