OpenIndiana Gives Solaris Users a Free, Open Alternative

Oracle may have dealt a blow last month to businesses relying on the free OpenSolaris operating system, but a new contender has recently emerged that's designed to be a fully compatible drop-in alternative.

OpenIndiana is a new distribution of OpenSolaris that's "built by the community, for the community," in the words of the project sponsors.

The Unix-like free software is designed to continue the OpenSolaris legacy and aims to be binary- and package-compatible with both Solaris 11 and Solaris 11 Express, the packages Oracle has chosen to focus on instead.

The software's first build, available for immediate download, is suitable primarily for testing purposes, but a production-ready stable branch with security updates and bug fixes is expected soon.

Tracking Solaris Over Time

Solaris, of course, was originally designed by Sun Microsystems. Shortly after Oracle bought Sun early this year, it became clear that the new owner was not interested in continuing the free, open source OpenSolaris project; rather, it aimed to focus on paid versions of Solaris instead.

A leaked memo confirmed that intention in mid-August, and later that month the OpenSolaris Governing Board passed a motion to dissolve itself.

In the meantime, the Illumos project emerged, vowing to create an OpenSolaris variant that's fully open. OpenIndiana is a member of the Illumos Foundation.

OpenIndiana will combine the Illumos core with additional software that Oracle still develops in the open. As a result, it will track Solaris much the way the CentOS project tracks Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but using Illumos and adding improvements along the way.

Since the current base of code is not yet fully open, OpenIndiana still contains some closed source code. Eventually, however, those components will be replaced with open source versions.

Enterprise Server Features

As a clone of OpenSolaris, OpenIndiana is suitable for use on both servers and desktops. OpenSolaris is particularly well-known for its enterprise server features, however--including the ZFS filesystem, DTrace system introspection, Crossbow networking stack, SMF service management, and FMA fault management. OpenIndiana aims to continue making improvements in that vein, such as via a minimal/server install option in the Caiman installer.

Live DVD and USB versions of the development release of OpenIndiana are available from the project's download site, and IPS repositories can be used to update an existing installation from OpenSolaris to OpenIndiana.

Businesses concerned with rising costs and vendor limitations on paid platforms such as Solaris should consider OpenIndiana for a free, fully open alternative.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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