Solaris 11 is still closed source (and Oracle is careless with words)

September 2, 2012

In a comment on my original entry on Solaris 11 being closed source, a commentator pointed out what looked like source code for Solaris 11 on Oracle's site, here. Flush with optimism, I eagerly downloaded the two large zip files, unpacked them, and dove in to take a look at things like the Solaris 11 version of ZFS.

I will spare you the bother of doing this and skip to the punchline. The Oracle web page carefully says that it is for 'source code for open source software components'. What they really mean, at least for Solaris, is third party open source software. The zipfiles contain nothing more than the source code for things like Perl, Python, all of the Gnome desktop code, and so on. There is no Solaris kernel source, no DTrace, no anything that belongs to Oracle itself.

If you want to, you can argue that Oracle's omission of the crucial words 'third party' from the description of stuff on this web page is technically not misleading. After all, Solaris was never open source; what was open source was OpenSolaris, which was close to but not identical to Solaris itself, and there is no mention of OpenSolaris on that web page. It is mere optimism for people to see 'open source software components' and 'Solaris' on the same page and jump to the unwarranted conclusion that Oracle is including updated OpenSolaris code that corresponds to Solaris 11.

In practice, this page is quite misleading. I think that most people seeing it are likely to make the same assumption that my commentator made, that the 'Solaris 11' stuff actually includes real Solaris 11 or OpenSolaris source code. I have no idea if Oracle was deliberately misleading when they wrote the text for this web page, or if it just happened by accident and because the people doing it didn't care enough to think about how outside people would read the text. Either case would be perfectly typical of Oracle and their attitude towards the open source world.

Really, it doesn't matter which is true. We still don't have any OpenSolaris or Solaris code update; it is still closed source.

(If you want to slice things finely you can argue that this page's omission of 'third party' in its description plus the omission of OpenSolaris source code is a clear message that Oracle no longer considers Solaris to be open source. While I expect that the conclusion is right, I don't think this page's text had that much thought and care put into it. I also suspect that Oracle is avoiding saying anything definite about Solaris' closed source status; to put it one way, there isn't much upside to Oracle making a definite statement about it.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2012-09-02 05:59:40:

What a lot of fuss about nothing. Solaris has been a collection of open and closed source components for nearly 30 years at this point, and Sun (now Oracle) have always released the code for the open source bits. Nothing to see here.

From at 2012-09-04 13:26:26:

Let's stop beating this horse dead. Point taken. Does it matter anymore? Well, it does for longtime Sun customers. I'm interested to hear what direction you're moving in since it doesn't seem to be oracle.

By cks at 2012-09-04 14:59:04:

Right now we haven't really considered our future direction; the current default plan is to run our existing Solaris fileserver infrastructure until that's not tenable any more. Right now the breakdown point would probably be sufficiently many hardware failures that we didn't have enough machines licensed for Solaris any more and that seems likely to be years away.

(If we had to move today, we would probably wind up on FreeBSD + ZFS; I don't think any other solution is as mature and clearly usable.)

Written on 02 September 2012.
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Last modified: Sun Sep 2 00:35:14 2012
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