Tuesday saw the launch of the Illumos Project, heralded last week in a message on the OpenSolaris mailing lists. The announcement caused much excitement, with many assuming it was a fork of OpenSolaris or another OpenSolaris distribution.
Illumos is neither. It is in fact a project to create a fully open-source-licensed version of the Solaris operating system and networking consolidation -- the closest Solaris comes to a "kernel project." It's a downstream open source project, happy to contribute upstream but resolutely independent. As such, it is a thoroughly good thing and a breath of fresh air.
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It's a good thing because it unblocks the potential of the OpenSolaris community to have a fully open source free software commons at its heart and creates the possibility of a new operating system that carries forward the legacy of Unix yet is fully independent. The founders have already worked hard to create a bootable version of ON, including rewrites of closed portions of libc and the most critical utilities and drivers. Now the project is launched, they are looking for participants who will work on the lock manager, crypto, labeld, and remaining drivers. As I've written before, open, multiparty communities are the key to the future of open source.
It's a breath of fresh air because after half a year of stonewalling and silence from Oracle from everyone in a position to carry OpenSolaris forward, the conversation in the community had spiraled lower and lower from concern to conjecture to complaint and finally beyond into ad hominem. Indeed, project founder Garrett D'Amore told me he played it quietly up until now as there was too much complaining and not enough getting things done. He wanted there to be actual code available on opening day and not just promises.