Article

OpenSolaris 2008.11 update woos Linux users

Pam Derringer, Contributor
OpenSolaris 2008.11, which is the first upgrade of OpenSolaris since its formal product launch in May 2008, is an effort to modernize OpenSolaris and make it more familiar to Linux users, with Linux-like paths and commands, according to Tim Cramer, Sun's director

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of core OpenSolaris engineering.

By adding the GNU set of utilities in the default path, Linux users will be able to exploit common Linux commands like sudo and top, thereby "improv[ing] the familiarity of OpenSolaris for Linux users," said a Sun spokesperson. "Prior to this, while we did have the same types of commands, they usually had a different set of options associated with them."

For more on Solaris and Sun:
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It's not that OpenSolaris didn't support this kind of functionality before; it's just that it had a different name, the spokesperson explained. "The equivalents with OpenSolaris have always been available in the form of pfexec and prstat, but no one was able to find them because they were more familiar with sudo and top."

Luring Linux users over to Solaris
According to industry analysts, the inclusion of these Linux-like commands in to OpenSolaris 2008.11 is deliberate.

Gordon Haff, a principal IT adviser at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc., said Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems Inc. is trying to woo developers from the Linux community and, in turn, to increase the Solaris-based application ecosystem with this release rather than trying to boost production deployments in data centers.

"This release is more about making [the OS] more accessible for non-Solaris gurus than it is about beefing up features of the product." Haff said.

This release is more about making [the OS] more accessible for non-Solaris gurus than it is about beefing up features of the product.
Gordon Haff,
principal IT adviserIlluminata Inc.

Richard Jones, the vice president of Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, agreed.

Whether Sun will succeed is where observers part ways. Haff said OpenSolaris is achieving Sun's objectives by coaxing those who had defected to Linux platform to return to the Sun fold.

Jones said, however, that Sun's moves to create an open source product and grow a developer community were on target but arrive too late.

"It's the right thing to do … but the party is already finished," Jones said. "Sun might be able to stem the tide from Solaris to Linux [by continuing to improve OpenSolaris]. But their grandiose plan of replacing Linux isn't going to happen. They are attracting more developers, but not from Linux."

In a video interview with Redmonk analyst Steven Coté , Cramer said that Sun is trying to innovate as quickly as possible, grow its developer community and add key hardware partnerships.

Beyond GNU
One of OpenSolaris 2008.11's key innovations is a distro constructor that creates a customizable bootable image that can be deployed via USB key, Cramer said. OpenSolaris 2008 also has an automated installer for deployment and provisioning, he added. Both features have been introduced in this version as technology previews and in May 2009 will be fully supported in the next OpenSolaris version, he said.

A third new feature, according to Charles Boyle, the director of Solaris product marketing, is its Common Multiprotocol SCSI Target (Comstar) storage framework, which converts any x86-based server into a storage machine that can plug into any storage area network without expensive, proprietary hardware. Comstar currently supports the Fibre Channel storage network protocol and will add iSCSI and other protocols in the future, he said.

"Instead of having to buy a big box, companies can build their own open architecture and add features to it over time and avoid vendor lock-in … and a big up-front investment," Boyle said.

Haff said that Comstar is a cheap entry-point for "roll-your-own storage", which also targets the developer market. But for a full deployment, most companies would want the more sophisticated user interface and vendor support that come with Sun's commercial product, he said.

Finally, OpenSolaris 2008.11 includes a Time Slider feature for reverting a server to a previous state (before a problem-plagued installation, for example). In addition, OpenSolaris 2008 is the first OS to be optimized for Intel's new Nehalem-architected multicore chips due out next year, Boyle said. (OpenSolaris 2008 also runs on the currently available chips.)

"OpenSolaris is not a panacea for Sun's considerable woes," Haff said. "But clearly, it has made Solaris more relevant again and has given companies a reason to engage or re-engage with Sun that wouldn't otherwise have done so."

Pam Derringer is a contributor to SearchEnterpriseLinux.com. Check out our Enterprise Linux Log.


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