After Oracle, OpenSolaris rises again

Oracle tried to kill it, but the former Sun project has emerged from the ashes, nurtured by a crowd of innovative startups

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But this didn't kill the community. Today, multiple initiatives continue to develop the code formerly known as OpenSolaris, enhancing it and building businesses around it. The cloud hosting company Joyent has created an operating system called SmartOS as the basis for its virtualization and storage environment. Networked storage vendor Nexenta has created NexentaStor, an open source, ZFS-based storage appliance operating system at the heart of its OpenStorage vision. OmniTI, an IT services and consulting company, has created a complete operating system called OmniOS, a delivery vehicle for DTrace and ZFS for Web stack solutions.

These initiatives are based on the operating system components sustained in the Illumos project, a fully open fork of what was OpenSolaris and now maintained by many of the same engineers whose creativity reanimated Solaris 10. Each of the special-purpose projects based in it contribute engineering talent to fix problems and innovate into Illumos. The result is a collaborative approach to open source that allows virtualization, cloud, and storage technologies to be created and sold without the need to pay "taxes" to a proprietary vendor.

Two key Solaris technologies are also showing up in other operating systems. ZFS is an extremely capable file system that allows disk resources to be flexibly virtualized into a pool, then used for highly fault-tolerant storage. It was ported to the BSD family of open source operating systems back in the days of Sun Microsystems and is still actively maintained, providing all the capabilities BTRFS aspires to deliver to Linux in the future. Meanwhile, DTrace is a performance analysis and troubleshooting tool included by default with various operating systems, including Solaris, Mac OS X, and FreeBSD; a Linux port is in development. It's actively promoted by its original developers, who work at some of the companies mentioned above rather than at Oracle.

While the highly hyped OpenSolaris name is no more, the innovation it represented lives on in many businesses. The use of an OSI-approved open source license for OpenSolaris meant that, when a fork in the road appeared, the community was free to take it and build its own entrepreneurial future. This is what software freedom is all about: ensuring every community participant ultimately controls their own destiny rather relying on the goodwill of a vendor to determine it for them.

This article, "After Oracle, OpenSolaris rises again," was originally published at Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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