Feeds

Sun: OpenSolaris 'pretty freaking amazing'

On the road from Indiana to Nevada

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

While the top brass at Sun Microsystems might seem to be clueless about the company sometimes, there are plenty of people who know where the bread gets buttered - or doesn't. They know that Solaris and the servers that run it are what really matter at Sun. And that means Sun's OpenSolaris project and its related Solaris commercial distribution are still the key to success or failure for Sun Microsystems.

The best example I can give for Sun's silliness is the company's decision last August to ditch its SUNW symbol, which showed Sun's heritage as a workstation maker, on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Instead of picking the real symbol of the company, which you could abbreviate SLRS, Sun's president and CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, decided to make his mark (well, one of many) on the company by switching it to JAVA. Like Java ever really made any money for Sun. Lots of good PR since 1995, no doubt. But money? No way.

When we look back a few years from now, we might see that Sun's decision to open source Solaris in early 2005, when Solaris 10 came to market, was a turning point for the company. Not because open sourcing of software fixes a lot of problems, but because Sun stopped trying to use its leverage on legacy applications running on Solaris to peddle inferior Sparc iron and returned to a strategy of embracing x86 (well, x64 by then) servers and letting Solaris live wherever it could.

At the same time, Sun put better entry and midrange Sparc iron into the field, was working to get better high-end iron out with partner Fujitsu, and got to work getting a competitive x64 server portfolio to market. The open sourcing of Solaris through the OpenSolaris project gave Sun a change in momentum, and it gave customers the confidence that Sun was serious about changing and, more importantly, that Solaris could survive even if Sun did not.

Sun is, of course, still around. And the OpenSolaris project is bringing in lots of community members, while at the same time Sun and its collaborators are working to get the next release of Solaris out the door - perhaps by next year. For those of you who don't know, Sun is backing its way into a Linux development model, with a development release and a commercial release, akin to the Fedora and Enterprise Linux or openSUSE and SUSE Enterprise Linux Server splits over at Red Hat and Novell.

150,000 developers strong?

Recently, Sun was touting the fact that more than 150,000 people have joined the OpenSolaris community. This is a pretty big number, particularly since the first release of OpenSolaris, dubbed 2008.05 and developed under the code-name "Project Indiana," only started shipping in May. That number doesn't tell the whole story.

For one thing, it is not a measure of downloads. According to Dan Roberts, director of marketing for Solaris at Sun, the project allows completely anonymous downloads of OpenSolaris and also uses mirrors to distribute the code. OpenSolaris 2008.05 accounted for a couple hundred thousand downloads from the project's systems and maybe half again as many downloads on mirror sites.

"That's pretty freaking amazing for a large-scale operating system," says Roberts, adding "that's well above what we did for Solaris 10 in the first month." Specifically, it is about three times the initial download rate for Solaris 10 back in early 2005. Given a slowdown in downloads that happens every summer, Roberts estimates that a high number of multiple hundreds of thousands of OpenSolaris 2008.05 downloads have been distributed by the project and its mirrors to date, but that figure is probably short of the 1 million mark.

What's more, that 150,000 developer number doesn't tell how many people are really contributing to code day in and day out, so it's not a good number to just throw out there - unless you like to be vague. (As IT vendors often like to be in their press releases).

Let's drill down a bit. Sun has a little more than 1,000 of its own software engineers working on OpenSolaris, which includes the coders hammering away on the Solaris kernel, networking stacks, file systems, and such. This number does not include application stacks that ride atop Solaris or other operating systems, or Sun's compiler teams.

Outside of Sun, Roberts says that there are a few hundred outsiders, including techies from other IT companies (think Intel and AMD and such) who contribute. This is the core development team for Solaris. Now, outside of that, there are several thousand other community members who are very active, working on documentation, internationalization, or sub-communities like storage. And the rest are just the OpenSolaris masses, who file bug fix reports and answer questions on the forums to help fellow users out.

Sun is very happy with these numbers, by the way. "When you build an open source community, you don't plan to have 100,000 people submitting code," Roberts says with a laugh. "And if you did, you would probably want to kill yourself because you wouldn't be able to get anything done."

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

Next page: Time for a merger

More from The Register

next story
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.