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OpenIndiana: The New Open Alternative to Oracle Solaris

09.15.2010
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In the wake of Oracle's canning of the OpenSolaris project, the recently formed Illumos Foundation is making huge strides to fork as much code as possible into a new partner project along with the Illumos OS/net derivative.  The new project, announced this week, is called OpenIndiana after the "Indiana" codename for the original OpenSolaris distribution.  The project will be led by Solaris-lover Alisdair Lumsden.  

OpenIndiana is being called a "fork and continuation" of OpenSolaris that will become a free alternative to Oracle's Solaris and Solaris Express.  It will also be developed with an open development model and community participation.  This development ecosystem is no longer a part of Oracle's distribution.  

                               
Currently, OpenIndiana includes the kernel behind Solaris and OpenSolaris, plus some core network features.  This set of open source code was called OS/Net at Sun.  It includes components such as the Sun Freeware Collection, the XNV X Window System, the Java Desktop System (JDS), the IPS packaging system, and the Caiman installer.  OpenIndiana is missing a few features in OS/Net such as the xVM Xen Hypervisor (dom0 support) and Linux branded zones.  The project currently supports x86 architectures, but SPARC support is a future goal on the roadmap.

While Illumos is a complete fork, OpenIndian hopes to remain binary compatible with Solaris so that they can benefit from the sneak peeks that developers get in the Express versions of Solaris.  Changes it makes to OS/Net will not break compatibility with Solaris 10 and 11 so that OpenIndiana can act as a free drop in replacement for OpenSolaris.  Oracle has also promised to release the Solaris 11 code after the software is released for production use.  At least this is more than HP-UX, AIX, Mac, or Windows users will ever see.

90% of OpenIndiana is open source, and once it is fully based on the Illumos kernel, it should become fully open.  Currently, OpenIndiana is still using the binaries from the last build of the "Nevada" code base, which is same code from the Solaris 11 pre-release.  The current distribution also includes closed-source drivers.  OpenIndiana has taken the approach of allowing binary drivers, unlike Debian.  Lumsden says that OpenIndiana development will be comparable to the development model for CentOS, which is based on RHEL.



More information can be found on the project's FAQ page.  You can download OpenIndiana here and learn how to get involved here.