OpenSolaris is the result of Project Indiana, Sun's yearlong effort to ready the community-based software for commercial deployment. The software has been available to the community for some time but is only now considered stable and ready for commercial release.
OpenSolaris key features
A key advance in the software is the addition of the Zettabyte File System (ZFS) as its default file system. ZFS is a continuously running backup system that enables developers to revert to previous versions of an OS that is being customized, which prevents the loss of work in progress. Solaris 10 includes ZFS, but this is the first time the ZFS has been incorporated into an operating system as the default file system.
"ZFS was one of the most requested features," said Charles Boyle, Solaris marketing director. "Having it as a default makes it a lot more accessible and puts it in the hands of everyone running the operating system."
Second, OpenSolaris includes an image packaging system that enables users to download only the packages or components for the features they actually need, which makes it easy to configure in the face of specific data center requirements.
Third, OpenSolaris includes Dynamic Tracing (DTrace), which enables users to observe the production system in operation and speeds their ability to find and correct bottlenecks in real time.
And finally, the new operating system includes Solaris Containers for Linux, which enable administrators to build applications for large-scale, virtual deployment. Solaris Containers use zones, which act as completely isolated virtual servers within a single operating system, each running a different application.
Sun also offers open source community members another key benefit: access to the key players who developed the source code, Boyle said. This direct access to leaders and the code itself will provide users with greater understanding as they modify the software to create a competitive differentiator, he said.
"With access to these sources, data center people will be able to more quickly understand, troubleshoot and optimize their systems," Boyle added.Sun also revealed that OpenSolaris can be used on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud for computing on-demand and storage.
Sun spokesman Daniel Berthiaume added that OpenSolaris is interoperable with both Linux and Windows operating systems as a guest and a host. Berthiaume noted that DTrace and the rollback functions of ZFS in particular might attract Linux users and undo the defection of Solaris 10 users to the lower-cost Linux platform.
Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at Denver, Colo.-based RedMonk, said Sun's decision to offer support services for the open source software makes this a significant release.
As for which new OpenSolaris features are most compelling, O'Grady said that will likely vary based on company priorities. "The key driver will vary from customer to customer," he said.
Sun's support services, which will begin on May 13 for OpenSolaris, will be priced at $49 per incident or $249 for a year of unlimited assistance. It can be downloaded from OpenSolaris Web site.