Nobody Killed OpenSolaris — Stop the FUD!

Posted in: Technical Track

Update 04-Aug-10: I’m happy to see The Illumos Project announcement.

Update 17-Aug-10: So Oracle seems to drop OpenSolaris project. Let’s see if Illumos pulls it off.

I’m tired reading all over the internet — Oracle taking back OpenSolaris, Open Solaris May Die
?, Solaris Is Dead, Save Open Solaris, Oracle taking back OpenSolaris.

I’m so sick of it!

I see that some don’t even know the difference between OpenSolaris and commercial Oracle Solaris (former Sun Solaris 10)!

Wake up people! Oracle did make commercial Solaris 10… eh… commercial, that is. They (well, Sun but Oracle paid big $$ for it) have invested lots into Solaris IP and they have full rights to actually charge money for it and they probably should. Struggling Sun made commercial Solaris free to use in desperation to maintain their rapidly shrinking market share. Oracle doesn’t need that – they are not desperate. You’ve made the right decision Oracle – keep Solaris commercial and use these funds to continue developing this great operating system (or whatever makes business sense).

Having said all this, what does it have to do with OpenSolaris? Nothing!

OpenSolaris was and is free. I have just quickly skimmed through the licensing (Binary License and CDDL) and there are no caveats that I can see like 90 days limitation or whatsoever. All the OpenSolaris goodies are still available to everyone for free.

Whining starts that Oracle will not contribute to OpenSolaris anymore. Come on people! Couldn’t you just appreciate what’s been done already and what a great product OpenSolaris is? If you forgot what open-source is about, it’s about community contributions and not about a single vendor giving away its IP so that everyone around can scream how great open-source movement is what great products it produces. If one vendor pulls out and community can’t sustain product development, then the product cannot live its normal open-source life.

Get over it! Want a high quality software with great support without any fuss? Pay $$. Want a high quality free open-source software? Make it happen!

Update 13-Jul-10: I’m keeping an eye on the OpenSolaris community news and it’s been so far discouraging..

Interested in working with Alex? Schedule a tech call.

About the Author

What does it take to be chief technology officer at a company of technology experts? Experience. Imagination. Passion. Alex Gorbachev has all three. He’s played a key role in taking the company global, having set up Pythian’s Asia Pacific operations. Today, the CTO office is an incubator of new services and technologies – a mini-startup inside Pythian. Most recently, Alex built a Big Data Engineering services team and established a Data Science practice. Highly sought after for his deep expertise and interest in emerging trends, Alex routinely speaks at industry events as a member of the OakTable.

34 Comments. Leave new

Well said!… Right on.

Some people won’t even care to read what they are talking about before commenting… they don’t even know the difference between Solaris and OpenSolaris and there they are talking as if they did…


“and they have full rights to actually charge money for it and they probably should. Struggling Sun made commercial Solaris free to use in desperation to maintain their rapidly shrinking market share. Oracle doesn’t need that – they are not desperate. You’ve made the right decision Oracle – keep Solaris commercial and use these funds to continue developing this great operating system (or whatever makes business sense).”

Oracle made the worst possible decision they could possibly make: they made barrier to entry so high, that most IT departments won’t bother!

Who will bother? Customers with existing installations, that’s who! But those are shrinking by the hour!

What these big corporations do not understand is that demographics have changed. IT is now dominated by generation Y, which does not have patience for such corporate games: they’ll just go to something more convenient, like CentOS or FreeBSD or whatever is hip and easy to use these days.

Sun failed miserably at making Solaris available to everyone because the corporation:

– treated the “small guy” the same way they would treat a client with a fat wallet or a purchase order in hand;

– wanted to stuff their databases with the small guy’s information – needless just to try out Solaris

– REFUSED to make DIRT CHEAP sparc and i86pc hardware BY THE METRIC TON, to go along with that Solaris 10 adoption.

In other words: Sun did not adapt to the changed market demographics. And they failed to recognize that the demographics have changed.

Consequently: Oracle owns them now.

Alex Gorbachev
April 7, 2010 8:06 pm

@UX-admin: I don’t want to sidetrack too much into judging Oracle’s business decisions — not in this blog post, at least. I totally agree that Sun has a track record of making really bad business decisions but I think Oracle has a record of making good (or better) decisions. Your conclusions based on your own perspective and while you might be right, it’s a subset of a bigger picture and a bigger strategy – again Sun tried to get Solaris in masses and fail. Why should Oracle keep trying that?
Interesting observation on barriers for adoption but I would question that. Maybe I’ll do another blog post on that. :)

Thanks for reading and providing your feedback.


great words my friend. tired too of people talking abaut open source movement without even knowing that they should try to contribute. Once you built a small application, at least, you can understand why someone should pay for using it. I’ve been learning some java this days and I’m thinking what app could I try to make for free, making open solaris more usefull. Unfortuanally I’m not that smart to make an autocad clone, what I think is a very usefull app. (maybe should I try a calculator first?? jaja) Regards..


Check out the OpenSolaris hg logs and see who has contributing all these years to OpenSolaris. It can’t survive without Oracle contributing to it.

Alex Gorbachev
April 7, 2010 8:17 pm

@Stathis: Just to reiterate what I already said – if OpenSolaris can’t survive without Oracle/Sun, then community isn’t ready to accept responsibility for the product. Perhaps, the product shouldn’t exist as an open-source project?


Sure it can survive without oracle’s contributions. It will become another linuxified line of unstable, buggy code. Take a look at open indiana now; look at the ‘fixes’ such as ‘kernel no longer panics if…’ when did Solaris kernel panic? I’m not a Solaris admin, but i RARELY heard of one crashing, and never frequently enough to gain attention of my R&D group.

Alex Gorbachev
November 8, 2010 3:29 pm

@arthur m:

Well, I would personally expand your comment to the *most* of free complex open-source products (with rare rare exceptions). In the end, support if how folks are making money on it and if the free unsupported product runs problem-free – would would one pay for support? :)


Great post.


“Why should Oracle keep trying that?”

Because Sun screwed up, and because Oracle has a chance to do it right where Sun REFUSED.

Oracle could actually offer support to small guys for $380 per year, and charge big $$$ for the datacenter.

And Oracle could in fact afford to give away Solaris 10 for free and charge AFFORDABLE RATES for support. There is no need for these 90 day trial games.

Lastly, and this is the most important point, Oracle can actually pull off producing DIRT CHEAP sparc and i86pc hardware by the metric ton!!!

Alex Gorbachev
April 8, 2010 10:15 am


I understand your perspective but be mindful and try to get into Oracle’s business shoes – maybe they don’t want to provide Solaris to small guys for $380 per year. They already offer “Enterprise DYI” system support for less than that.

And I will keep trying to stay away discussing hardware strategies here. :)

Thanks for your comments again.


“then community isn’t ready to accept responsibility for the product.”


You have Juergen Keil and Masayuki Murayama ripping and tearing through the kernel and core dumps, but they are few and far between!!!

Solaris needs a whole new caliber of a community member, a PROFESSIONAL SYSTEM/KERNEL ENGINEER willing to work on Operating systems in his/her spare time.

Most people in that “community” can barely turn the computer on and run some Linux, they’re USERS, CONSUMERS, not SYSTEM/KERNEL ENGINEERS. One can not just “hack stuff” into Solaris, because the consequences are far reaching and DIRE.

Solaris can not be worked on like people work on Linux, where everybody just hacks stuff in at their whim and has no clue what consequences that will have (latest case in point: cron in CentOS 5.3 starts before NIS, and therefore busts, because some yahoo who did that doesn’t even know what NIS is).

Alex Gorbachev
April 8, 2010 10:26 am

I hear the voice of a UNIX die-hard. :)

Look, nothing to disagree with.

Maybe that’s why you can’t compare quality of the commercial Solaris and free Linux? You get what you pay for.

There is place for Linux and there is place for Solaris. In some situations, open-source products are a good fit and there are plenty of cases when proprietary products deliver better value overall.

I just hope you don’t imply that there is no talented kernel engineers amongst Linux developers. It’s not enough to put “PROFESSIONAL SYSTEM/KERNEL ENGINEERS” and you get the best ever high quality OS. There much more in it.

Thanks for stopping by.


hey UX-Admin, what in the world does ordering of services in startup scripts by a particular distribution have to do with quality of Linux, which is just a kernel? that’s trivial to change, you can make the rc scripts start in any order you want. Or even as some distros do kick it BSD style and replace the whole sys-V-ish pile with a script or two.

The reason why Linux has already crushed Solaris (sorry you missed it) is that there is no longer any compelling reason to use Solaris. One can pontificate about the “very fined grained multithreading” and “scaling”, but the truth is the major app that drove Solaris in the marketplace, the Oracle DBMS, can do just as well in a clustered situation for much less money than a single SMP system. And Solaris can’t scale down to a cell phone or up to a supercomputer with thousands of processors like Linux can, Solaris “scaling” has to do with one particular kind of scaling that is less relevant in the business world (and at large end IBM zSeries or S390 would go much huger anyway).

One could talk of dtrace, but its features are already going into the open source kernels, and of course for decades even more complicated kernels than Solaris’ have been written without such a thing. the old school “print statement” equivalent sufficing instead.

ZFS, already in the open source BSD and for Linux the main benefits (from user’s perspective) can be down in various ways (volume management, resizing, pools, replication, snapshots, etc.), even solely in hardware of SAN.

Linux has heavyweight contributors from big companies, IBM and HP and Intel. So well paid expert engineers are represented, no lack of them as you imagine. No single corporate entity making an artificial community as is the case with OpenSolaris (which also isn’t even Open as parts are binary blobs with no source available). Poor Sun, too little too late, they should have started opensolaris a decade ago instead of FUDing Linux (especially during start of SCO’s baseless and absurd lawsuit when instead Sun chose to pay SCO millions under the ruse of needing “drivers”). But without large mind share of users and developers, both absolutely necessary, it’s a niche project without even the minimum number of drivers to run on half the x86 hardware out there. Another trial balloon sent up by Sun that flopped.

But Sun has always been about the “trial balloon”, floating expensive ideas and suddenly cutting them off leaving customers stranded. Remember Cobalt? x86 in the 90s? Solaris source code program circa 2000? Even Java qualifies as a weird trial balloon, wildly successful for everyone except Sun who could never monetize it (another one of the reasons Sun Microsystem failed).

And note Oracle’s latest product direction for Solaris right out of the gate, attempt at squeezing more support money (equalling many times what at least half the customers are paying now), during a bad recession. Nice going, Oracle, that will scare even more delayed projects right into the arms of GNU/Linux on x86 clusters.

And if anyone is wondering, yes I was a Sun fanboy, and am certified Sun systems engineer who works for VAR of many big iron vendors. Sad to watch Sun over last 12 years, augering themselves into the ground.


“There is place for Linux and there is place for Solaris. In some situations, open-source products are a good fit and there are plenty of cases when proprietary products deliver better value overall.”

Unfortunately, you are correct, but you are also right about the wrong thing.

It shouldn’t be that way at all: Solaris is designed to scale, both UP as well as DOWN. Solaris could have CRUSHED Linux if only what I described above was done.

I don’t want to see Linux succeed, and I’m not implying, I’m asserting, based on empirical evidence in Linux, that people who work on Linux are completely clueless.

Talent does not equal INSIGHT, or KNOWLEDGE, or EXPERIENCE, or all those things combined.

Alex Gorbachev
April 8, 2010 1:00 pm

I have to disagree on “people who work on Linux are completely clueless” and there are things that are implemented better in Linux but again, this goes beyond this post. I propose to round up that topic as it becomes personally offensive to some. Thanks.

I wouldn’t underestimate Linux but I argue that Oracle’s true strategy on Solaris vs Linux are not known in public domain. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind dominate OS market with the product that they control (and that’s not Linux) — whether it’s feasible or not is another question.


The real problem is the best advances on Solaris never will be in opensolaris thats all , thats the central change

Alex Gorbachev
April 10, 2010 7:37 pm

@Carlos: I’d refer to my last paragraph. Thanks for your feedback.


Hi Alex

Good article. But they key thing in the change of licensing which you fail to mention is

a) no-support for Non Oracle/Sun hardware
b) you cannot get a license for OS without a support contract

Oracle just want customers who use other H/W to go to hell, even if they willing to pay for the license?

Alex Gorbachev
April 13, 2010 1:06 pm

@SunLover: not sure what Sun hardware has to do with OpenSolaris. It’s the first time I hear that Oracle won’t support commercial Solaris on non-Oracle hardware (x86 platform I suppose). It might be my ignorance – could you provide the reference? Thanks.


Well, the only official document on anything related to support is

That specifically mentions support only for Oracle/Sun hardware. Of course you could say that is hardware-systems-support document. But the question where is the OS only support document.

BTW, I don’t think it is x86 vs SPARC issue. It is more the ability to

a) run Sun Solaris 10 on non Oracle H/W
b) be able to get support for Solaris 10/Open Solaris on non Oracle H/W

Also previously there was an option to purchase support for OpenSolaris from Sun directly. That of course had just the requirement that the system should be in the HCL (bigadmin) list

Alex Gorbachev
April 16, 2010 7:38 am

Interesting. I wasn’t aware that there was commercial support option available for OpenSolaris (how popular was it?).
So my comment to Mark might be mistaken.


Good article. One question, though. Regarding…
“OpenSolaris was and is free. I have just quickly skimmed through the licensing (Binary License and CDDL) and there are no caveats that I can see like 90 days limitation or whatsoever. All the OpenSolaris goodies are still available to everyone for free.”

To me, if an OS does not provide all patches for free, it cannot be considered a free OS. I have no problem with paid OS subscriptions where appropriate. But isn’t it true that one can only get the OpenSolaris patches with a support contract, and further that the contract might not even still be available? (Oracle reps can’t even seem to answer that one for me…)

Please elaborate. I would *love* to hear I’m wrong, as I am a huge fan of OpenSolaris’ potential as a server OS.

Alex Gorbachev
April 16, 2010 7:04 am

@Mark: OpenSolaris is *not* commercial Solaris. There has never been commercial patches and commercial support for OpenSolaris (looks like there was commercial support based on SunLover’s comment) and all patches have been released under the same licenses as OpenSolaris itslef.

To the best of my limited knowledge, many features have appeared in OpenSolaris before introducing in commercial Solaris when they considered stable enough.

I think you Mark confused it with commercial Solaris which is what you might want to adopt as a server OS.


Thanks Alex, but I understand the difference between the two. Here’s where my question originates from:

“Sun provides contractual support on the OpenSolaris OS for up to five years from the product’s first General Availability (GA) date as described. OpenSolaris Package Updates are released approximately every 6 months. OpenSolaris Subscriptions entitle customers during the term of the Customer’s Subscription contract to receive support on their current version of OpenSolaris, as well as receive individual Package Updates and OpenSolaris Support Repository Package Updates when made commercially available by Sun. Sun may require a Customer to download and install Package Updates or OpenSolaris OS Updates that have been released since Customer’s previous installation of OpenSolaris, particularly when fixes have already been made available in later releases.”

That from

Thanks again,


@Mark, read the tail end of that page (in short that page is obsolete)

“Oracle is reviewing the Sun product roadmap and will provide guidance to customers in accordance with Oracle’s standard product communication policies. Any resulting features and timing of release of such features as determined by Oracle’s review of roadmaps, are at the sole discretion of Oracle. All product roadmap information, whether communicated by Sun Microsystems or by Oracle, does not represent a commitment to deliver any material, code, or functionality, and should not be relied upon in making purchasing decisions. It is intended for information purposes only, and may not be incorporated into any contract.”

Alex Gorbachev
April 18, 2010 7:25 am

Thanks. Indeed, looks like the commercial support was available since May 2008. Interesting if this program was profit generating at Sun. I’m sure Oracle would shut this program down if it identified as non-profit generating. And that should be the right thing to do for the business.

Christo Kutrovsky
April 19, 2010 3:36 pm


Opensolaris is still free and you can still get updates for free from the online repositories.

I don’t think that’s changing

Links for 9 Mar 2010 - 21 Apr 2010 :: Col’s Tech Stuff
April 21, 2010 3:00 pm

[…] Nobody Killed OpenSolaris — Stop the FUD! – Nice to see someone outside of Sun/Oracle is actually seeing sense. […]

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April 23, 2010 8:26 am

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Alex Gorbachev
August 4, 2010 11:05 am

I’m happy to see The Illumos Project announcement.

Alex Gorbachev
August 16, 2010 4:22 pm

I was about to update with the link to the leaked Oracle info — thanks for doing that for me.
I still believe that if Oracle was the only driving force of OpenSolaris and community hadn’t mature enough to take it over then OpenSolaris project didn’t deserve to exist as open-source. Regardless of how good of a product it is.


Seam’s to me that a lot more people use solaris than I thought. If they are going to charge then why not make the switch to Microsoft. It is much better perhaps a little more money but that is the reason most would have left windows for another free operating system or at least one that was cheaper and with admin costs and support it would seem that windows is not only better but cheaper.


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