Oracle signals an end to OpenSolaris

The company will no longer release binaries for Sun's open-source OS

Oracle appeared to confirm this week what many in the computer industry already suspected: The OpenSolaris project is dead.

Oracle laid out its Solaris strategy in an internal memo that was leaked to the OpenSolaris mailing list on Friday. It says Oracle's efforts are focused on a commercial Solaris release that will help expand the sale of its servers and other products.

"All of Oracle's efforts on binary distributions of Solaris technology will be focused on Solaris 11," the memo states. "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."

Solaris 11 is the next major update to the Solaris operating system, which Oracle has said will be released next year.

Oracle will release a free developer edition of Solaris 11 later this year, called Solaris 11 Express, which will come with an optional support plan, the memo says. It hopes to persuade companies using OpenSolaris today to switch to Solaris 11 Express, and presumably to Solaris 11 in the future.

A spokesman for Oracle said the company declined to comment.

Doubts had already surfaced about Oracle's commitment to OpenSolaris, an open-source version of the Solaris OS that Sun released in a bid to attract more developers -- and eventually, it hoped, more paying customers -- to its products.

Last month The OpenSolaris Governing Board threatened to disband unless Oracle appointed a liaison to discuss its future plans for the OS.

Not surprisingly, developers who contributed to the project were dismayed at the latest development.

"This is a terrible send-off 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 Steven Stallion, a software engineer in Atlanta who contributed to the project, in his blog.

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

Explaining its strategy, Oracle says in the memo that it "can't do everything. The limiting factor is our engineering bandwidth measured in people and time. So we have to ensure our top priority is driving delivery of the #1 Enterprise Operating System, Solaris 11, to grow our systems business."

It also implied that OpenSolaris compromised its competitive position. "We want the adoption of our technology and intellectual property to accelerate our overall goals, yet not permit competitors to derive business advantage (or FUD) from our innovations before we do," it wrote.

The company will "continue to grow a vibrant developer and system administrator community for Solaris" and contribute code to projects like Apache and Perl, it said. Solaris code already released under Sun's open-source CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License) will keep the same license, it said.

It's the second example this week of how Oracle's strategy differs markedly from that of Sun, and also the second time that Oracle has miffed the open-source community.

On Thursday Oracle said it had filed a lawsuit against Google, charging that its open-source Android phone software violated Oracle patents and copyrights related to Java, another technology it inherited from Sun.

That move also drew the ire of some open-source advocates. Software developer and political lobbyist Florian Mueller called it "an assertion of patents against free and open source software."

Google called it a "baseless attack" against "the open source Java community" and vowed to fight Oracle's claims.

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James Niccolai

IDG News Service
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