Sun Promises Regular Open Source Solaris Updates

Sun Microsystems Inc. plans on releasing a new version of its open source OpenSolaris operating system every six months, one of which will serve as the basis for the next version of its Solaris Unix operating system, said a company executive.

It's yet undecided which of the open source versions will be the foundation of the next mainstream Solaris release, but that will nonetheless grant enterprise customers using Solaris "incredible transparency into the future of what the next version of Solaris will be," said Dan Roberts, director of Solaris, OpenSolaris and database marketing with Sun.

Although Sun released the first fully-supported version of the OpenSolaris operating system on Monday, it will still continue to offer future versions of Solaris to serve those enterprise customers seeking a more stable platform for mission-critical application deployments, said Roberts.

"We see it as one platform, two releases," he said during a press roundtable at the JavaOne conference. Solaris is the stable platform with long-term support for long-term mission-critical application deployment, while the open source version is the fast-evolving, innovative operating system that reaches out to developers and computer science students who want to learn about the technology.

The open source release happens three years after Sun announced it would open source its operating system.

The release is "really a major milestone" and the community around the project is growing, said Sun's vice-president of data center software, Jim McHugh. The release has good features, he said, and "has a lot of familiarity that people expect in open source software."

Among the features, said Roberts, is the capability to "experiment a lot more freely" when developing applications. For instance, snapshots are made with every update so that developers can "roll-back" to a stable version when experimenting "whether it's an hour ago, a week ago, a month ago."

And with experimentation, comes adoption, said Roberts.

Actually, the company isn't worried about building mindshare around OpenSolaris, he said, given the huge amount of downloads and online chats taking place in the OpenSolaris community, as well as the fact that the technology is available on peer-to-peer file sharing sites like BitTorrent.

Despite that, Sun isn't relying solely on community interest to drive adoption. The company is "investing heavily" in campus programs to further drive that interest among the "student, developer and user base around the world," said Roberts.

Independent software vendors (ISVs), like EMC among others, who build tools to run on Solaris will need to do little modification for compatibility with OpenSolaris as they'll work "in most cases", said Roberts. "We're not breaking into the core compatibility."

And, given that ISVs have particular policies around operating system version support, Roberts said those companies will have to consider their customers' business -- whether it's a company rapidly moving to the Web 2.0 space, a startup considering the platform, or a company in the storage space that is moving slowly. "Different ISVs will have to work to see if [offering support] makes sense to them."

Roberts added that it's not Sun's intent to make ISV's lives difficult with the open source release.

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