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Solaris, OpenSolaris, and the Oracle wall of secrecy

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Sometimes, Google's search engine does a better job of telling us about IT vendors than the vendors' own public relations and marketing machines, which are often there mostly to deflect questions rather than answer them. So it is with the next commercial and development iterations of Oracle's Solaris Unix operating system.

The crawling fingers of Google have found a Sun presentation given sometime this year (there is no date on the document, but it looks to be post-acquisition in late January). The short Solaris roadmap document, which you can see here, was created by Harry Foxwell, a consultant in Oracle's Public Sector unit, on March 18 and is currently sitting on a server at the University of Delaware's Electrical and Computer Engineering department. (Well, probably not for long).

In that document, Foxwell reiterates what Oracle's top brass was saying back at the end of January, which is the last time any official communications came out of Oracle regarding either Solaris, the hardened, commercial-grade Unix, or OpenSolaris, the development version of the platform not really intended for data center production. Back then, a day after Oracle closed its $7.4bn acquisition of Sun, Larry Ellison, Oracle's co-founder and chief executive officer, heaped praise on Solaris while still talking up Linux, but no one said anything about plans for Solaris 11 (which was due around the middle of 2010, according to Sun's plan from 2009) or for OpenSolaris.

This freaked out Solaris shops enough that Dan Roberts, a director of product management at Oracle who is responsible for OpenSolaris and Solaris as he was for a few years at Sun, had to reassure the Solaris community that Oracle was not going to kill off the open source project underpinning Solaris. At the time, Roberts said the next release would be OpenSolaris 2010.03, which was originally due in February but which apparently came out in March (the draft of the release notes can be found here, but the current release notes page on OpenSolaris says that 2009.06 is the current release.

No one from OpenSolaris or Oracle contacted El Reg to say that OpenSolaris 2010.03 had been released. If the software really is available, this is not exactly smart PR. It looks like OpenSolaris 2010.03 might have been announced on May 12 if you look at the "Project Indiana" download files, though it is still called the March 2010 update. Then again, Oracle was moving Sun's stuff onto its data centers from April through June, and this might reflect when the OpenSolaris files moved.

Anyway, according to the presentation put together by Foxwell, the next OpenSolaris release was supposed to come out in the first half of calendar 2010 and the name had not yet been decided. The update was to be based on build 134 of OpenSolaris and to include enhancements to the installer and packaging of programs as well as for networking and virtualization (the integrated Xen hypervisor, now supporting the Open Virtualization Format for virtual machine images).

BordeauxTechnology Group, which has created a commercialized version of the WINE runtime for Windows applications on non-Windows platforms, had ported its Bordeaux 2.0.2 to OpenSolaris for the 2009.06 release and was prepping for the 2010.03 release. Ditto for the Fluendo DVD player, which is being brought over to the open source Unix variant's 2010.03 release. Sun is apparently porting Intel's LatencyTop system latency measuring tool to OpenSolaris and is working on a tickless kernel too, like Linux already has. Tickless kernels reduce system latency on jobs that are more real-time in nature.

The next OpenSolaris release was only going to be available as a download, not as a CD distro, according to Foxwell's presentation – presumably in an effort to cut costs.

Now that we have cleared up the OpenSolaris situation – well, not really – that begs the next question: What ever happened to Solaris 11? In April 2009, when Solaris 10 5/09 was launched, the expectation was to get a new rev of Solaris – called alternatively Solaris Next or Solaris 11 depending on who you were talking to – out the door in the middle of 2010. Well, April 2009 was a long, long time ago. And two Solaris 10 updates ago too: 5/09 and 10/09. And a lot has changed at Sun since it has been absorbed into Oracle.

When Foxwell put together his presentation, he was telling people that the next update of Solaris 10, which he called Update 9, would come out in calendar year 2010 and that the update would focus on "new platform support," meaning new Intel chips presumably, as well as integration and optimization of Oracle products. Solaris 10 Update 9 would also have performance improvements in the networking and storage stacks and have tweaks for reliability as relating to mission-critical workloads.

And perhaps it is also telling that in an article posted on the Oracle website and extracted from the July/August 2010 issue of Oracle Magazine, that Ed Screven, who bears the title of chief corporate architect, never once mentioned Solaris or OpenSolaris.

None of Oracle's actions (or inaction) could be construed as being proactive about telling the 50,000-strong Solaris customer base – from which Oracle is trying to extract $2bn in profits – what is going on with the platform. ®

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