R.I.P. OpenSolaris

July 16, 2010 12:42 PM EDT
Goodbye, OpenSolaris. It's been fun knowing you. Unfortunately for you, it's become all too clear that your new parent company, Oracle, doesn't want a thing to do with you.

I predicted that Oracle, which is a Linux company, was going to let OpenSolaris die from neglect, but most people disagreed with me. Folks insisted that Solaris was better than Linux and that Oracle would never let OpenSolaris die.

Sorry, folks. I may not be right a lot of the time, but I was right on this one. By April of this year, the OpenSolaris Governing Board had seen the handwriting on the wall. Or, to be more exact, they saw that Oracle wasn't even giving them the time of day.

Now, since Oracle has continued to ignore them, some members the OpenSolaris Governing Board (OGB) are demanding that Oracle at least appoint a liaison to OpenSolaris' leadership by Aug. 16, or they'll disband the board.

I bet that "threat" has Oracle shaking in its boots. Oracle wants nothing more than OpenSolaris to vanish from the landscape. According to the OGB's minutes, Jeb Dasteel, Oracle Senior VP and Chief Customer Officer, who never showed up for meeting, is reputed to have indicated that "The bottom line is that Oracle don't have any information to pass on and that they'd like us to wait a couple of months before we make any moves to disband."

I would have just killed the organization then and there myself — an option that was considered. Instead, the OGB has decided, rather forlornly, to give Oracle more time to ignore them before pulling the plug. As Simon Phipps, formerly Sun's Chief Open Source Officer and member of the OGB, points out: "It became obvious to the OGB quite some time ago that Oracle is not interested in the sort of OpenSolaris open source community that the [OpenSolaris] Charter envisages."

Exactly. It's over. OpenSolaris' only real future is as a fork, which would not be easy to pull off. Still, with enough interest from developers it could be done.

I've always had serious doubts about OpenSolaris' future. By the time the "supported" version appeared in 2008, Linux wasn't just established; it was already chasing Solaris, OpenSolaris' commercial big brother, out of server rooms. And that was with Sun's support.

Looking ahead, I doubt very much that OpenSolaris could be anything than it is already: a niche operating system. Yes, I know the arguments for why OpenSolaris is better than Linux. I also know the market hasn't cared. In addition, for every OpenSolaris developer, they're probably two dozen Linux developers. On the commercial front, Red Hat and IBM have just launched a new campaign to get people to move to Linux from OpenSolaris and Solaris entitled, "Where will you be when the Sun burns out?" Ouch!

OpenSolaris' future was bleak even if Oracle had cared to support it. Without Oracle, the question for the OpenSolaris community now is where they will go next. I fear it will drop from being a niche operating system to first being an operating system just for hobbyists and then to the computer graveyard with the likes of OS/2. That's a pity, since there really were great ideas in it and top-notch developers working on it. But, I see nothing else for it. Do you?