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From Indiana to Nevada

The OpenIndiana name refers to the "Indiana" code-name behind the original OpenSolaris distribution, which El Reg lovingly referred to as Project Copy Linux because what Sun was trying to do was emulate the Linux open development process and its goal of getting an operating system on as many devices as possible, with a heavy focus on the desktops used by developers. This is not the goal of OpenIndiana, any more than it is a goal that Oracle has for Solaris 10 or 11.

"The strength of Solaris is on servers, and that is where Solaris 11 is focused and where OpenIndiana is aimed at well. This is where we are going to get the most penetration." Lumsden says that Oracle is going after the top portion of the Solaris market, where customers generally have Sparc machines, but there is the tail end of the market that OpenIndiana will be going after, where the Linux practice of free updates prevails.

OpenIndiana build 147 is currently based on the last release of OpenSolaris to be put out by Oracle, which is about a month old according to Lumsden. That was the last time that the OS/Net core was updated. About 90 per cent of the OpenIndiana code is open, but for certain pieces of the stack, OpenIndiana had to raid the last build of the "Nevada" code base, which is what the production-grade Solaris 11 pre-release was called, and pull out binaries. (This was Nevada build 134). The distribution also includes closed-source drivers. "We are not going to be as anal as some of the other release out there, like Debian, that won’t ship binary drivers," says Lumsden.

For now, OpenIndiana will make use of the Oracle developed OS/Net kernel, but over time Lumsden expects the project to shift to the Illumos kernel and foundation. That won't happen for a while, perhaps after the OpenIndiana code settles down a bit and the Illumos code itself stops changing a lot.

The long term goal is to move beyond a development release based on the Oracle kernel to a stable release based on the Illumos kernel. How long this might take, Lumsden did not venture a guess. What Illumos will be charged with is ensuring that whatever changes it makes to OS/Net do not break compatibility with Solaris 10 and 11. Illumos also has the difficult task of resynchronizing releases after Solaris 11's source code is released by Oracle. (Just as Oracle has to do every time Red Hat updates Enterprise Linux and needs to spin up its clone of Red Hat's product).

The OpenIndiana project is part of the Illumos Foundation, itself a non-profit organization that is backed by Nexenta, one of the creators of an alternative OpenSolaris distribution. As the project formally launched today, OpenIndiana had 25 people contributing, with around 10 of them doing most of the heavy lifting over the past two months as they grabbed the source code and figured out how to make their own builds.

OpenIndiana does not include Sun's variant of the embedded Xen hypervisor, called xVM, that was ditched by Oracle in favor of its own Virtual Ironed Oracle VM. The Illumos project is thinking about whether or not it makes sense to revive this, according to Lumsden. Linux branded zones, which are Solaris containers running on x64 servers that can run compiled Linux code, have also been dropped. Illumos is open to the idea of bring these back as well, if people want to contribute. It is not clear how OpenIndiana will interface with Sun Cluster, Oracle's high availability clustering for general purpose applications, or HA Cluster, its clustering software for telecom applications.

At the moment, OpenIndiana is only available on x64 machines, but Sparc support will come eventually. (Illumos said the same thing about the OS/Net code when that project launched a month ago.) And when the stable releases are out, perhaps some months hence by our guess, the goal will be for them to be binary and package compatible with Solaris 11 and Solaris 11 Express. Regular builds, 100 per cent free (including updates), and 100 per cent open source are the aspirations Lumsden has for OpenIndiana. You can download the first development release here

One last thing, OpenIndiana: Don't forget to change the default country during the install from the US to the UK. You ain't in Silicon Valley any more. ®

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