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OpenSolaris Alive and Well at Oracle

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Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems initially left unclear the future of a number of open source technologies developed by Sun. One of those technologies is Sun’s OpenSolaris project, which is the open source effort through which the next generation of Solaris technologies are developed and tested.

During Oracle’s (NASDAQ: ORCL) Sun strategy event at the end of January, Oracle outlined its general plans for Solaris, though executives there barely mentioned OpenSolaris itself — leaving some in the community worried about its status. That situation has now changed, with an Oracle executive explaining to OpenSolaris users and contributors that they have little to worry about.

“Oracle will continue to make OpenSolaris available as open source, and Oracle will continue to actively support and participate in the community,” Dan Roberts, director of Solaris product management at Oracle, said during an OpenSolaris IRC meeting on Friday. “Oracle is investing more in Solaris than Sun did prior to the acquisition, and will continue to contribute technologies to OpenSolaris, as Oracle already does for many other open source projects.”

In response to a question from, Roberts said that OpenSolaris end users and contributors will find things mostly unchanged as a result of the Oracle acquisition.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said at then end of January that Solaris would become Oracle’s enterprise operating system for SPARC-based systems and for clusters. Oracle also backs Linux with support programs and Oracle’s own Enterprise Linux, which is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Roberts similarly provided OpenSolaris’s community on Friday with a few more details on where it will be heading.

“Oracle will also continue to deliver OpenSolaris releases, including the upcoming OpenSolaris 2010.03 release,” Roberts said.

While OpenSolaris is updated regularly for developers, milestone releases intended for a wider audience come less frequently. The last major OpenSolaris milestone release was the 2009.06 release that came out in June 2009.

The OpenSolaris 2009.06 release was strongly backed by Sun when it debuted, with Sun providing commercial support for up to five years for the release. Roberts noted that Oracle is committed to supporting its customers, though future commercial support options for OpenSolaris might be more limited.

“Oracle will ensure customers running OpenSolaris have an option for support on Oracle Sun Systems where it’s required, though given the very little sales here, this will not be something we expect many customers to deploy going forward,” Roberts said. “Solaris is our focus, on both SPARC and x86.”

However, Roberts was unable to provide technical specifics on the future direction of Solaris itself.

“Oracle handles roadmaps very differently than Sun did for regulartory reasons, so futures for Solaris are not something I can speak to specifically,” Roberts said. “It’s a change we’re still getting use to, though hopefully many of the public statements are very clear that Solaris is our now No. 1 enterprise OS and we will increase investment. We won’t be able to talk about specific features, but the future is very bright.”

One key change that may be taking place within OpenSolaris is future of OpenSolaris technologies as open source, which Roberts indicated may be adjusted under Oracle’s leadership — with not all technologies now being developed as open source.

“There may be some things we choose not to open source going forward, similar to how MySQL manages certain value-add[s] at the top of the stack,” Roberts said. “It’s important to understand the plan now is to deliver value again out of our IP investment, while at the same time measuring that with continuing to deliver OpenSolaris in the open.”

“This will be a balancing act, one that we’ll get right sometimes, but may not always.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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