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Sun sets on Solaris Express Community Edition

It's OpenSolaris from here on out

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Despite the public-relations muzzle on employees at Sun Microsystems these days, the OpenSolaris project has announced that it will discontinue the Solaris Express Community Edition distro of the Solaris Unix variant.

According to the posting on the OpenSolaris site, Sun will stop spinning Solaris Express Community Edition "by the end of the October timeframe," which is New American for "by Halloween," or Old American for the date "October 30," the last Friday of the month. Sun also decided that the proper abbreviation for this software was SXCE.

Anyway, the plan is to start kicking out SXCE distros every two weeks, with the latest goodies from the "Nevada" development project inside Sun, which eventually gets merged into OpenSolaris to become Solaris 11, being rolled into the distro just like always.

Sun will package-up Unix SVR4 images with the SXCE distro, but will begin packaging-up the distro using its newer Image Packaging System (IPS) packages alongside SVR4 images, and by the fall SXCE will only be available in the IPS format.

The reason why Sun's techies have broken radio silence is that Solaris Express is one of the tools that developers have used since 2003 and the days of Solaris 9 to get a sneak peek at upcoming Solaris features. And the very developers that Sun - and soon Oracle - is trying to court with Solaris, Java, and other key software need to know that the software they might be using is coming to the end of the line.

So what is the difference between SXCE and OpenSolaris? SXCE has some closed source features that Sun licensed many years ago but does not have the right to open source and distribute as part of OpenSolaris. And like Solaris 10, SXCE is only distributed in binary form for Sparc and x86/x64 machines.

Sun has not been able to kill off SXCE until now for one good reason: the OpenSolaris "Project Indiana" complete and installable distribution, which debuted in May 2008 with the OpenSolaris 2008.05 release, did not support Sparc platforms. In fact, it wasn't until OpenSolaris 2009.06 came out on June 1 that Sparc iron could install binary versions of the OpenSolaris distro.

OpenSolaris can now run on Sun or Fujitsu boxes using UltraSparc-II, UltraSparc-III, UltraSparc-IV, and Sparc T series chips. (Fujitsu's Sparc64 family of processors was not mentioned as being supported with OpenSolaris 2009.06 back in June. Go figure. No one at Sun answers questions these days.)

As El Reg previously reported, Sun is not expected to put another OpenSolaris rev into the field until early 2010. However, customers who want to compile their own version of the latest-greatest code can use the OpenSolaris repository and IPS to spin one up any old time their little hearts desire. This future OpenSolaris release is expected to be grabbed by Sun - er, Oracle - and hardened and certified on iron and with middleware, database, and application stacks and become the next commercially supported version of Solaris.

Back in April, just after Oracle made its $5.6bn bid to acquire the company and the PR muzzle went on, the word from sources inside Sun was that Solaris Next (can we stop messing around and just call it Solaris 11, please?) was due around the middle of 2010. Who knows what the plan is now, or what it will be once Oracle comes in with its clipboards, red pens, and stopwatches axe. ®

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