Finally a decision on Solaris

We must say this about Oracle and its moves (or lack thereof) with OpenSolaris, it finally ended all of the second-guessing, wondering and handwringing of Solaris-or-Linux, OpenSolaris-or-not, Unix-or-Linux that characterized the OS story at Sun Microsystems when it rolled out the open source version of Solaris in 2005.

Now that Oracle has largely ended support for OpenSolaris, many Solaris users and customers that continued to be on the fence about the OS will finally be making their decision to either stay with Solaris or move over to Linux. Unix migration to Linux has always been a mainstay for enterprise Linux adoption, and while the low-hanging fruit is becoming more sparse, there is still plenty of Unix migration to Linux to come. We have seen cases in Linux communities where the most significant Unix in their world is OpenSolaris, and while we hear similar things regarding Solaris and its continued market presence, there is no question OpenSolaris — a fully open source OS with available binaries — was a much better fit for the growing ranks of Linux-savvy developers and administrators.

Given we have our questions about Oracle’s understanding and appreciation of open source software, particularly less tangible community aspects, we wonder whether the company may be underestimating the value OpenSolaris had been bringing Solaris, which it fully intends to support. In fact, Solaris is in many ways Oracle’s most direct and familiar route to the accompanying hardware business at Sun. Yet Oracle does not seem to think that a healthy, updated OpenSolaris, which was made available in binary form by Sun as we covered in 2008, provides anything for the licensed Solaris OS. However, consider why Sun went ahead with an open source version of Solaris: the open source version’s reason for being was the fact that Solaris was losing users, and perhaps more important losing develpoers, to that open source OS, Linux. Take away the open source version, and all of those things that are attractive about OpenSolaris — flexibility, freedom from licensing and vendor lock-in — become exclusive to Linux. We expect Solaris use and market share to hold steady, but we also think the end of Oracle’s support for OpenSolaris may represent a turning point for many Solaris customers that have been contemplating a move to Linux. Since it is open source, there is also another non-Solaris option emerging in a fork of OpenSolaris from Illumos Foundation called OpenIndiana.

Again, there will continue to be those that choose or are more tied to Solaris, whether by applications, by hardware or by choice, but without OpenSolaris standing between these customers and the ongoing preference for Linux, particularly in cloud computing as we cover in our special report, Seeding the Clouds, Oracle may be walking away from some customers as it walks away from OpenSolaris.

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