Is Solaris really a bright choice for developers?
All the best operating systems come on USB...
So, you're tired of Windows and thinking of trying Linux. There are lots of good distros, RedHat or Novell have all the enterprise cred you might need. And there's a support community too, it's a no brainer....
There's also plenty of enterprise cred available, with the option to move on to Solaris 10 proper, with its proven scalability and resilience (probably rather better than Linux can manage, in practice), and you don't even have to run on Sun hardware any more. And it has a pretty cool KDE desktop now.
Of course, we actually have the arrival of Linux to thank for all this, but OpenSolaris now seems to be a valid alternative for developers (so, too, is Mac OS X perhaps). And Jim Craig, Sun Microsystems Software marketing manager, seems genuinely enthusiastic about capturing developers' hearts and minds – he would be, of course, but he does seem to realise that the barriers probably aren't as much to do with the technology as to do with cultural issues, unfamiliarity, and the perceived lack of recreational and lifestyle toys for Solaris developers (possibly less true than it was – check out the freeware here; and note that RealPlayer is now available on Solaris).
So, why wouldn't you use OpenSolaris as your developer desktop, perhaps to work up "proofs of concept" in your own time - to sell to your CIO and thus help to develop your career. I'd be interested in reader feedback as to why any people thinking of Linux aren't also thinking of OpenSolaris. Or perhaps they are...
One possible issue I thought of was the Open Source license Sun uses – the CDDL (pronounced "Cuddle" - ugh – perhaps that's the reason. But this license doesn't look too bad – although you should always read Open Source licenses yourself; and make sure you understand all their implications. CDDL delivers blanket patent immunity, without some of the possible gotchas of the GPL (you shouldn't find yourself obligated to give your IP away to all and sundry, for example).
Is the availability of applications an issue? Well, I'm not sure Solaris has the same support for cameras and photography, say, as Windows has (you'll note here that Novell is finding it necessary to help bring PhotoShop to Linux); but there are some 4,000 plus software titles from more than 2,000 vendors here.
Or perhaps you think that Solaris will be too big and Enterprise-heavy? Well, according to a front page article in The Times of India, Anil Gulecha (a third year computer science student at JSS Academy, Bangalore) has put a "Live USB" bootable version of Solaris on a 1GB memory stick. He started from Moinak Ghosh's version of OpenSolaris, BeleniX, on Live CD. Ghosh is a Sun engineer (see his Random Bit Bucket here, where you'll find an interesting piece on getting Vista and Solaris to coexist). BeliniX promises to get you test-driving OpenSolaris from CD (no hard disk installation necessary, although it is possible) in under two minutes (Live USB is faster than Live CD) and claims to include all its features.
Sun is certainly trying hard with Solaris. Here is the latest news:
- Sun has come up with a Support Subscriptionfor open source Solaris 10 that's about half the price (it claims) of equivalent Red Hat Linux support. Options range from developer-focused $49/incident plans to a custom Solaris Everywhere site plan. And support is integrated across x86, x64 and SPARC platforms.
- There's a new lifecycle management platform known as Sun Connection - this lets you provision Red Hat and Suse systems as well as Solaris.
- There's a restructured reseller program targeting Linux replacement on x86 – which offers resellers "one of the highest OS margins" available – Sun is obviously serious about promoting wider use of Solaris, although it remains to be seen whether the Linux community is convinced.
- Sun, of course, offers a range of migration programs which encourage people to migrate from UNIX versions sold by a wide range of other companies, in order to achieve "long term peace of mind with Sun" - a rather partisan turn of phrase, perhaps.
At a technical level, Sun has announced updates addressing security, virtualisation and, of course, performance here.
Solaris Trusted Extensions, which introduce labelled security (meaning each protected resource has a sensitivity label consisting of a hierarchical level and a set of non-hierarchical categories, which is used to determine access in conjunction with mandatory access control policies) to a wider market, can help protect data and applications; while Secure by Default Networking enhances security overall. Sun is very proud of its security certifications here.
Sun has also announced improvements to its business continuity and disaster recovery platform, Solaris Cluster, which supports Sun's virtualisation technology. Its most interesting technology in this area, perhaps, is the open source Xen Hypervisor (the OpenSolaris Xen community is here). A Hypervisor is a control program which manages different virtualised operating systems on a physical platform – an idea originally popularised long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, in IBM's VM/370 mainframe operating system (which presumably, then, got something right back then).
The features of Solaris 10 are listed here. It seems to be well worth looking at if you are thinking of acquiring a free version of UNIX/LINUX. ®