What OpenSolaris's death probably means for us

August 16, 2010

For those of you who haven't heard, OpenSolaris is dead; see the leaked internal memo for details (via here, here, here, or even Slashdot). In a way, I can't say that I'm too surprised, but I am rather unhappy.

We don't run OpenSolaris in production so in one sense we aren't directly affected. But there are at least two areas where this is likely to hurt us, possibly quite badly. The big one is what is happening with OpenSolaris source code. To quote the memo, with the emphasis mine:

We will distribute updates to approved CDDL or other open source-licensed code following full releases of our enterprise Solaris operating system. [...] . We will no longer distribute source code for the entirety of the Solaris operating system in real-time while it is developed, on a nightly basis.

At this point it is not clear whether 'Solaris X update Y' will be considered a full release or not. If it is not, well, the last full release of Solaris was Solaris 10 at the start of 2005, which didn't even have ZFS, and the next one is theoretically due sometime in 2011. This would make OpenSolaris source code completely useless for trying to investigate Solaris's behavior, which we have had to do periodically, especially when there are problems. Given our bad support experiences, being unable to take a good shot at diagnosing things ourselves is a serious problem.

(This is especially serious because libzfs is an undocumented interface and official commands like zpool are unsuitable for a number of the things we do here. We have a number of internal tools and systems that could not have been built without access to relatively current ZFS code and which are in fact rapidly going to get less useful as the ZFS interfaces change but we can't find out about the changes because the source code is no longer accessible.)

The other area is the loss of OpenSolaris binary builds. I care about this because these builds used to be the best and in fact only real way of getting access to ZFS debugging and repair tools; the ability to do any number of things to problematic pools appeared first in builds, often well in advance of its availability in official Solaris patches. We once came quite close to temporarily importing production pools into an OpenSolaris scratch environment in order to fix them up, and there are plausible future cases where we'd need to do this. We've now lost access to this emergency fix mechanism; instead, our only recourse is the tender mercies of Sun Oracle support.


Comments on this page:

From 207.61.230.154 at 2010-08-16 10:53:43:

This is terrible, terrible news. Very sad for the O/S landscape.

Written on 16 August 2010.
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Last modified: Mon Aug 16 00:08:32 2010
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