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OpenSolaris fans in a tizzy over 'Project Copy Linux'

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Sun Microsystems has moved one mailing list posting closer to explaining how it plans to mimic the Linux distribution model with OpenSolaris.

Developer Glynn Foster, seen here molesting a beer, has described Sun's so-called "Project Indiana" in mostly coherent detail. Sun plans to back a more elaborate delivery mechanism for OpenSolaris that would result in a full-blown binary distribution of the OS. Customers and developers would then see regular releases of this OS in a similar fashion to what you get with, say, Ubuntu and Fedora today.

"This project proposes to create an OpenSolaris binary distribution with a long term goal of increasing the userbase and growing mindshare in the volume market by providing easy access to the technology created within the OpenSolaris community," Foster wrote, on the OpenSolaris mailing list. "A 6 monthly time based release schedule will focus energies in producing a single CD install, and putting OpenSolaris on a path to being a distribution as well as a source base."

Another poster clarifies the project even more. Brian Gupta writes:

This project proposes to develop and release weekly distributions that would be used by OpenSolaris as their reference platform to develop on.

This is similar to the role Solaris Express Community Edition plays now, But would be sustained and maintained by the OpenSolaris community, rather than Sun. The problem with SXCS is that it is not OpenSolaris, but rather a commercial operating system built by Sun.

One of the serious issues with this approach, is that developing OpenSolaris code on a Solaris distribution does not provide any technical guarantees that the resulting code in unencumbered.

The motivation behind this proposal is to change the development environment as it exists today, to put all distributions on equal footing. If the development platform is unencumbered there is a fair amount of certainty that the resulting code will be as well.

Until recently Solaris and OpenSolaris were controlled by the same organization, Sun Microsystems. Recently OpenSolaris became an independent organization, with it's own governing structures and Constitution.

After this independence OpenSolaris did not start producing their own reference distribution, instead continuing to rely on Sun's Solaris Express Community Edition weekly releases.

It sounds like the OpenSolaris crew will focus first on setting up a proper process for creating a single version of OpenSolaris that can be shipped out to interested users rather than requiring them to cobble all the bits together. Then, the developers will get back to crafting new features for their OS which can be picked up by a wider audience, just as you see with today with Fedora and Ubuntu.

When it comes to Linux, Sun has looked a lot like a vendor struggling to take its meds.

The Solaris vendor spent the early part of this century mocking Linux. Next, it forced then CEO Scott McNealy to don a penguin suit and waddle around in front of analysts, extolling the virtues of Sun's own flavor of Linux. Then, Sun scrapped its own Linux in favor of selling Red Hat, while also mocking Red Hat.

Now we find Sun trying to imitate part of the development model pushed by Canonical and Red Hat. Even though Sun likes to hold tight control over the Solaris proper releases, you can imagine the vendor picking up valuable bits and pieces created by the OpenSolaris developer community, just like the Linux vendors do with the work produced by their developer armies.

Sun executives have puffed up Project Indiana by hinting at it over the past weeks, but we're not sure about all the fuss. After all, Solaris x86 and OpenSolaris were designed to keep developer interest in Solaris high from day one and with the hopes that some outsider contributions, namely device drivers, could make their way back into Solaris proper.

Now we're meant to be excited because Sun plans to initiate an actual process around all this and slap OpenSolaris on a USB drive?

And while Sun's management loves Project Indiana, the OpenSolaris community appears nonplussed at best.

The majority of responses to Foster's vague outline center on how the governing body of OpenSolaris will manage such a project, whether it's necessary in the first place and why on earth Sun's management promised such an effort to the press before the OpenSolaris crowd discussed the matter. ®

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