Let's make it official: Solaris 11 is closed source

January 19, 2012

You may remember back in August 2010 when there was a leaked Oracle memo that said, among other things:

We will distribute updates to approved CDDL or other open source-licensed code following full releases of our enterprise Solaris operating system. [...]

At the time I noted that 'full releases' might be construed to be 'Solaris 11' instead of the next 'Solaris 10 update X' release and was unhappy about it. That was then. Now it's been a couple of months since Solaris 11 was officially released to the world and, well:

; cd onnv-gate
; hg incoming
comparing with [...]
searching for changes
no changes found
; hg log | fgrep date | sed 1q
date: Wed Aug 18 15:52:48 2010 -0600

I think it's safe to conclude that there will be no further updates to public (Open)Solaris source code from Oracle, ever. Solaris is now a closed source, 'source-not-available' operating system once again (and probably stronger than it ever was; it used to be sort of possible for universities to get Solaris source code, but I doubt that's on the table from Oracle).

(I'm sure that almost everyone concluded this some time ago. Sometimes I remain hopeful even in the face of all but certain disappointment.)

This matters a lot for us; our ZFS spares system and parts of our ZFS status monitoring system are built around information obtained from undocumented internal library interfaces because there is no other alternative. It seems extremely unlikely that we will ever upgrade to any future version of Oracle Solaris. Lack of (Open)Solaris kernel code also significantly reduces the usefulness of DTrace, one of the theoretical signature Solaris features.

(It is vaguely possible that some version of Solaris will sometime expose public interfaces for the information we need, but frankly I really doubt it. All evidence to date suggests that it is strongly against the engineering culture of ZFS; they had five years to do it and steadfastly didn't. I will skip any number of angry remarks.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2012-01-19 07:00:33:

What do you think about SmartOS?

By cks at 2012-01-19 12:19:33:

We haven't looked at any of the Illumos-derived distributions yet, so I don't have any opinions on them. I don't have any problems with them in theory, but (as Linux distributions have demonstrated) the practice can be hard.

From at 2012-01-20 09:13:22:

It's definitely worth investigating illumos-derived distributions. SmartOS is purpose-built for multi-tenant cloud hosting and is seeing very active maintenance as it forms the core OS of Joyent's hosting product. OpenIndiana (OI) is currently "in development," but it's at least as useful as OpenSolaris was and largely identical from a user point of view. Work is underway in the next month or two to hopefully get a "stable" OI release train out with some much-needed security fixes for packages and an updated release of illumos (i.e. the kernel/core OS). There are several other illumos-based distributions as well.

Members of the ZFS Working Group are actively working on the issue of a thinner, more functional replacement for libzfs (the private interfaces I assume you're using now). If you have particular requirements then it might be good to have a look through this blog, maybe watch the linked video of the recent talk about "libzfs2," and possibly get involved! http://blog.delphix.com/matt/2012/01/17/the-future-of-libzfs/

If you have questions, please come and visit us on Freenode (#illumos) or get on the mailing lists: https://www.illumos.org/projects/site/wiki/Mailing_Lists

We feel the future is bright and illumos is a truly open ecosystem worth betting on.

-- Joshua M. Clulow (LeftWing) <josh@sysmgr.org>

From at 2012-08-15 14:36:06:

Solaris 11 source code is available here:


I believe what Oracle said was that they would no longer develop Solaris in the open but that the source code would be still be released for public display sometime after the official release. So I believe calling it 'closed source' is a bit harsh.

By cks at 2012-08-15 16:49:54:

I can't find Solaris kernel source or source for things like libzfs or the 'zpool' command in the two Oracle Solaris 11 11/11 source zip files available through that page. It appears that what Oracle has released contains only an extremely stripped down version of parts of the core Solaris codebase (plus various other additional user-level open source packages).

(ZFS is far from the only thing missing. There is no dtrace, no zone* commands, not even, say, a 'wall' command, something that would be harmless for Oracle to release.)

In fact the more I look at this, the more it looks like the only thing it contains is source for third party open source software. If I'm missing something here, please point it out.

Written on 19 January 2012.
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