Reading the Oracle tea leaves for Solaris

February 25, 2010

(Disclaimer: I am currently feeling pessimistic about both the future of Solaris and our future with Solaris.)

The big news lately is the combination of the fact that Oracle is now charging even for security patches to Solaris and rumors that Oracle will entirely end OpenSolaris support. So, what do these tea leaves suggest to me about the future of Solaris and OpenSolaris?

My initial reaction is that the move to charging for Solaris 10 security patches effectively means the end of the free version of Solaris 10 as a useful operating system to install for general use (sadly, some people will be persuaded that they don't actually need security patches; they're wrong). Any free version of Solaris 10 is now basically a sampler, much like Oracle has done with a personal use version of their database, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Solaris license was revised to reflect that in a while.

More generally, I don't believe that Oracle has suddenly decided to get into the operating system business, and I see these events as support for this view. Unlike Sun, I expect that Oracle sees Solaris as necessary and potentially useful infrastructure for their other products, not as an end to itself (especially not as a profitable end, because it hasn't been). Solaris can be justified as an independent entity and expense only so long as it pays its own way, and the same is true of OpenSolaris.

My guess is that commercial support for OpenSolaris can't ever pay its own way (especially on the very limited and mostly useless terms that Sun offered before) due to a very small potential market, so I rather expect that it is not long for this world and that Oracle will not sell support for further official versions of OpenSolaris.

(Commercial support for Solaris is safe so long as Oracle uses it as a base for their own products.)

Will OpenSolaris itself continue to exist? I don't know. There are costs to operate and to have now-Oracle people deal with the OpenSolaris community; the question is how much benefit Oracle derives from the community, especially given that Oracle isn't in the operating system business as such. My impression is that outside contributions to OpenSolaris have been low, but I could be off-base.

Comments on this page:

From at 2010-02-25 14:56:47:

The rumors about OpenSolaris support ending are wrong. It's just a standard End of Service for those releases; the guy misread and /. jumped on it because it's /.

As for Solaris 10 and the patch fiasco, I agree with you completely. Oracle didn't even announce it; they just went and did it. For shops who think they can get away without security patches: Sorry, dudes, but you're wrong. You need to keep up-to-date, and now you can't.

It totally screws small and medium businesses who have been using Solaris happily for free. My shop has been buying Sun hardware to assuage the guilt factor somewhat, but there are rumors that Oracle is going to axe the entry and mid-range x86 hardware lines, focusing on SPARC and high-end x86 appliances.

I'm waiting on support contract costs from our VAR, but it I'm pretty pessimistic as well. I've spent the last two years migrating from Linux and building our Solaris infrastructure. To say it's been a depressing few weeks for work stuff is an understatement.

So yeah. Interesting times for Solaris admins. Looking for platforms to jump to and I really can't see any that aren't going to make me hate my job. Fun stuff. -- bda

By cks at 2010-02-25 17:36:27:

In looking at the OpenSolaris situation, you're right; I thought that Oracle had added a relatively strong note to the OpenSolaris support web page, but now that I look more carefully it's a standard one that they're adding all over Sun's website. The actual support terms seem to be unchanged from the last time I looked at them (which means that they remain more or less useless in practice).

I'm very fond of the entry level Sun x86 hardware and I'll really miss it if it goes (they have the best remote management ILOM stuff that I've seen). But I don't know if it really makes any money, or even if the market is one that Oracle wants to be in. (Besides, Sun seems to have discontinued the X2200 anyways with no clear replacement even in the current Sun product line.)

From at 2010-02-25 23:12:32:

I can't speak of any details because I'm under NDA, but Sun definitely has something on the roadmap to fill that low-end 1U server hole, and it's both powerful and dense. Sun is a much bigger player than they look in the HPC market (Sun is, to my knowledge, the only company developing the nuts and bolts of their own InfiniBand switches), and I can't see Oracle opting not to capitalize on this market, since I think high-performance computing is going to explode in a lot of industries over the next year or two.


From at 2010-02-26 03:07:00:

Guys.. your talking about Oracle. This is the company that threw a fit because Redhat would not reduce it's support costs and released 'Unbreakable Linux' to prove the point that anybody could take Redhat's business away from it... and failed.

Even in regards to selling licenses for Oracle databases on Linux they failed to create a strong market for themselves. Even when they are offering cheaper support for their Redhat clone they are not really that attractive to most people.

I mean good luck with Oracle as your only option for your OS vendor and support and all that. I hope it works out for you and your organization.

But if I was you'd I'd learn how to use Debian Linux. Just in case. Debian Stable is quite a nice server platform and if all you ever used was RPM-based systems then it will come as a pleasent surprise. Of course your stuck with CentOS and Redhat if your applications require it.

Pro Tip: Debian installation manual and other documentation is actually useful.

Pro Tip 2: Debian specific modifications to applications and services are generally documented in /usr/share/doc/<packagename>/ You will want to pay attention to what is said in that directory whenever deploying any service or anything else.

From at 2010-02-26 11:35:39:

@ I was a Debian admin for ten years (amongst other Linux distros, and the BSDs). Give the benefit of the doubt in that I may not be a complete idiot when I say Solaris offers stability and features you will not find in Linux, regardless of its distribution.

It's a frustrating time to be a Solaris admin. Lots of uncertainty. It'd just be nice if Oracle would say what the deal is, one way or the other.

If the low-end boxes aren't falling off the map, I'll be curious to see what comes next. The X2270 and X4170 are both excellent machines for their respective niches.

From at 2010-02-26 12:45:01:

Me again. Same guy as the 24.x just different ip address.

shrug Linux has lots of features and stability that Solaris does not have. It goes both ways. Well as far as I can tell Solaris has Dtrace and ZFS, which Linux does not have. Containers/Zones and that sort of thing Linux has had for ages in one form or another.

But, of course, stick with what works for you. I would not encourage anybody to switch to Linux or Solaris or visa versa if they got something that works well for their purposes. If somebody gave me a bunch of Solaris stuff to admin I'd be perfectly happy.

Just pointing out that the main thing that Linux has right now that Solaris does not is a wide range of hardware support, support from many multiple hardware vendors, and support from many muptiple sources. So it's nice to play things safe when you get a chance and be prepared. I would not trust Oracle at all, but I would not act on anything to do anything foolish till I knew what their long terms plans are.

From at 2010-02-26 15:55:47:

Well, we're talking about it now, in #opensolaris-meeting on freenode.

Log here:

Brief takeaway: Solaris is not dying. OpenSolaris is not dying. x86 support is not going away.


Written on 25 February 2010.
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