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Sun's 'Project Copy Linux' not a Linux copy

It just feels that way

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OSCON We went to OSCON, hoping to uncover some fresh details on Sun Microsystems' "Project Indiana." We mostly failed in this endeavor.

Sun's operating system chief and Debian author Ian Murdock was at the event, elaborating on Project Indiana. He covered, for the most part, ground we've already been over, which places Indiana as Sun's quasi copy of Red Hat's Fedora project. The core of the new project revolves around Sun's mission to release a fresh, supported version of OpenSolaris every six months.

Traditionally, Sun has pumped out a full-fledged version of its Solaris OS every three or so years. Customers, however, have received early access to new features via a support service and can use those tools at their own risk. Sun also dishes out periodic updates with bundles of new tools, as you'd expect.

Now, Sun wants to give hardcore Solaris fans and developers quicker access to those tools via something resembling more of a proper, complete OS. Sun is still working out the exact nature of its support ambitions, although it's likely to provide support for each version of OpenSolaris for 18 months after its release, according to Murdock. Sun hopes to dish out the first OpenSolaris release under the Project Indiana plan in the Spring of 2008.

Many pundits have said that Sun hopes to make Solaris more "Linux-like" with Project Indiana, although we struggle to see how that's accurate. Sun is really just tweaking the Solaris release cycle in a way it should have done once the company committed to revitalizing Solaris x86 and to upping developer interest in the OS.

"It is not a Linux copy thing," Murdock said. "It's a best of both worlds thing.

"We're adopting a model that moves into a two-tier release cycle where one option will be a fast moving, community version of Solaris for the early adopters. It's meant to make Solaris appeal to a broader audience."

Project Indiana will include a revamped package management system, which should prove popular with developers unaccustomed to Solaris. The OS has some clunky, archaic aspects, and Murdock thinks the new package system will modernize Solaris.

Sun's bold decision to open source Solaris and to pursue Solaris x86 with vigor has resulted in a cadre of Solaris bigots outside of Sun corporate. Beyond the developer, you find added corporate support for the OS with HP, for example, bragging that it sells more servers running Solaris x86 than Sun. HP also offers full support for the OS on its systems.

Few people would claim that Solaris enjoys the same, broad enthusiasm as Linux. Sun, however, seems to be trying its best to improve on the situation. Project Indiana will likely help in these efforts by providing more instant gratification to developers. In addition, it could well give Sun an edge over IBM and HP, who have excluded the broader developer community from being able to help with their versions of Unix.

Murdock refused to say when Solaris 11 – code-named Nevada – will ship. Given past trends, the OS should arrive sometime during 2008, and we're guessing that it will accompany Sun's release of Rock-based servers near the end of the year. Sun recently added support for 2048-thread boxes to the Nevada source code, providing obvious links to the Rock-based systems.

Sun spent months and months hyping Solaris 10 ahead of its release in 2005. The OS included some ground-breaking features such as DTrace and ZFS that Sun continues to flaunt today. The company has been unusually silent about the tools Solaris 11 will bring, making us wonder if OpenSolaris hasn't been a distraction from the core OS. You can see some of the discussed Nevada features here.

What's that smell?

Murdock also refused to talk about Sun's FISHworks project – billed as a NetApp killer.

Sun has put some of its top Solaris engineers in charge of a software/hardware effort meant to create a solid network attached storage (NAS) appliance. The company demoed this project to analysts early this year, although it refuses to give reporters the same honor.

We did track down Adam Leventhal, one of the FISHworks leads and co-authors of DTrace, at OSCON. He revealed that the product should ship early next year and that it includes some special sauce above Solaris for handling storage. When pushed more, he went with -

"Ashlee, I'm not going to talk to you."

Why not just slap us in the face? ®

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