Why Is OpenSolaris Gathering Dust on a Shelf at Oracle?

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People outside of IT seldom think of Oracle as a Linux company, but it is. Not only does Oracle encourage its customers to use its own house-brand clone of RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux), Oracle Unbreakable Linux, Oracle has long used Linux internally both on its servers and on some of its desktops. So, what does a Linux company like Oracle wants to do with its newly purchased Sun's open-source operating system, OpenSolaris? The answer appears to be: "Nothing."

Sun, Oracle and third-party sources are telling me that OpenSolaris developers are afraid that they'll be either moved over to working on Linux or let go once the Sun/Oracle merger is completed. Other Sun open-source managers have expressed concern that their jobs may disappear once Oracle has acquired Sun.

This can't come as much of a surprise. Edward Screven, Oracle's Chief Corporate Architect, said last year, ""Oracle definitely runs on Linux. We have very few servers in our infrastructure that are not Linux; that support, you know, internal IT systems, very few. And even the ones that continue to exist are on a plan to be phased out. So we definitely run our business on Linux. In fact, I mean, our entire IT infrastructure is Linux, our entire development infrastructure as well. So, you know, our development platform is Oracle Enterprise Linux. Our test platform is Oracle Enterprise Linux."

He's not just talking a good open-source game. Oracle has had thousands of Linux developers at work since the 1990s, and Wim Coekaerts, Oracle's VP of Linux Engineering, is a major Linux developer. Indeed, Oracle is one of the top companies contributing to the Linux kernel.

The hand-writing is on the wall. OpenSolaris is on its way out.

Ellison, Oracle's God-king CEO, may have talked Solaris up when he announced the Oracle/Sun deal, but look closer at his proclamation and everything else Oracle has been saying since then. It's the already deployed Solaris distributions, not its open-source twin, OpenSolaris, that gets the praise. OpenSolaris isn't even an after-thought.

I can't imagine that Oracle will announce that it's actually killing OpenSolaris off. What I'm very much afraid I see happening is that Oracle is going to let OpenSolaris-and other non-core to Oracle Sun projects like MySQL and VirtualBox--wither and die on the vine without corporate support. Their staffers will be either reassigned or laid-off.

I really, really hope I'm wrong. I know a lot of people in these departments, and while we haven't always seen eye to eye, I think they're some of Sun's best and brightest people. Unfortunately, in this economy, simply being great at your job is often no longer enough to draw a paycheck.

MySQL, VirtualBox, and other Sun open-source programs will survive with or without Oracle's support. Indeed, the MySQL fork, MariaDB, is already seen by many developers being the true, main branch of MySQL. But OpenSolaris? I have a bad feeling it's on its way to being, at best, a mere niche operating system that will never have a chance to show its virtues to a mass audience.

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