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OpenSolaris Turns One

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One year ago this week Sun officially opened the doors to its OpenSolaris open source operating system effort. At the time, there were questions as to whether there would in fact be a community that would grow around OpenSolaris, whether it would actually get used, and how its technologies may or may not be adopted by others.
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Like any toddler, OpenSolaris is walking, not running, into its second year.

“The ramp-up time has been amazing to be perfectly honest,” Chris Ratcliffe director of marketing for System Software at Sun told “In the year since we’ve gone live it’s just been phenomenal to see the number of people that have signed up.”

The Open Solaris initiative was formally launched in January 2005. The first code drop and “opening” of the project occurred on June 14, 2005. From June 14, 2005 to June 13, 2006 Sun claims the OpenSolaris community has garnered more than14,000 members of which 1,500 are actually Sun employees.

In the same period there have been more than 33,000 downloads of OpenSolaris source code. That figure, however, is likely to be inaccurate since it is difficult to properly track P2P client (such as BitTorrent) download and mirror site downloads with a high degree of accuracy.

A key to success for any open source project is code contributions from the community.  OpenSolaris has fared reasonably well here, too. In the last 365 days Sun claims it has had 170 code contributions from the community of which 111 have been integrated into OpenSolaris.

That said, contributions by the community back into OpenSolaris represents one of the largest challenges that the project faces according to Ratcliffe. The problem is that contributions back into the community are handled by a buddy system.

“So if you want to contribute back into the community as a contributor you have to work or partner with a Sun engineer,” Ratcliffe explained. “What we’re working on at the moment is to automate that process so that users don’t have to partner with a Sun engineer and we can still get the code through all appropriate code review cycles.”

The code review process according to Ratcliffe is critical to ensuring code quality and compatibility. Code contributions are an area that Sun is hoping to see larger contributions in overall for OpenSolaris.

“We expect to see a lot more activity where we’re not just looking at contributions of relatively small bits of code or bug fixes but also the larger projects that start to come in,” Ratcliffe said.

One such example that caught Ratcliffe by surprise was an effort by the community to port OpenSolaris to IBM’s POWER architecture. OpenSolaris has also spawned no less than three derivative open source distributions: SchilliX, BeleniX, and Nexanta. In the case of Nexanta, the OpenSolaris kernel is added to a Debian GNU/Linux core derived from the Ubuntu Linux project.

“Personally I couldn’t have imagined it a year ago,” Ratcliffe said of Solaris being used at the core of a Linux distribution. “Nexanta is a really interesting example of a company that has seen a requirement and they are just going and addressing that requirement and that’s what we want to see go and happen.”

Other key OpenSolaris bits are starting to find their way into other OS’s as well. The DTrace, diagnostic tool, which enables a systems admin to trace point in the kernel and collect data without the need to shut down a system, is a key part of Sun’s Solaris 10. There is now a port of Dtrace that is being developed by FreeBSD developers for the FreeBSD operating system.

This article was originally published on

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