back to article Dark times for OmniOS – an Oracle-free open-source Solaris project

Development of OmniOS – an Oracle-free open-source variant of Solaris – is being killed after five years of work. Active development of OmniOS by OmniTI is being suspended, we're told, with its current beta being the final release. OmniOS is a distribution of Illumos, which is derived from OpenSolaris, Sun's open-source flavor …

  1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. asdf Silver badge

    getting old I suppose.

    The worst part of the proper UNIXs disappearing is the kids today seem to think Linux is POSIX (not that they really even know what that means seeing as you drop them into /bin/ksh and they panic). POSIX to them is whatever the latest RHEL/Fedora dictates (money talks and companies are often penny wise and pound foolish). When really Linux has largely become Windows lite designed for laptops primarily. Who cares about stability when you can just throw more commodity hardware at the problem?

    1. Lusty

      Re: getting old I suppose.

      I thought Linux dropped POSIX compliance before Windows did. Have I imagined that?

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Re: getting old I suppose.

        I'm not sure it ever had it, at least not completely.

        Windows only ever had the thinnest of POSIX veneers so that the US DoD could buy it. I don't think there was ever any serious attempt to actually use it for running POSIX based software on top of Windows. And of course we ended up with Windows for Warships, a response to the cost of doing large scale POSIX developments.

        Now even Windows programmers are becoming scarcer. It's all Javascript these days. No one is going to write a fire control system or a radar processor in Javascript...

        1. LHGFLICOD

          Re: getting old I suppose.

          No one who uses a fire control system or radar or who relies on one to keep them alive wants one written in Javascript. The moron who makes the decision on what to commission/purchase may not know the difference.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Javascript:

            Getting It Wrong Since 19100

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: getting old I suppose.

          No one is going to write a fire control system or a radar processor in Javascript...

          LOL, famous last words, says he thinking of the 1992 London Ambulance Service Computer Aided Dispatch System Failure, where among many things, the choice of an inappropriate software platform and use of developers with little real experience or understanding of critical real-time systems development contributed to the failure...

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: getting old I suppose.

            > London Ambulance Service Computer Aided Dispatch System Failure,

            VB6 and Foxpro are perfectly good environments for a safety critical system.

            Anyway it worked on my machine, and the for-dummies book was on sale

        3. asdf Silver badge

          Re: getting old I suppose.

          >Windows only ever had the thinnest of POSIX veneers so that the US DoD could buy it.

          Ironically Red Hat did as much as anyone to make Windows somewhat POSIX (though only slightly) these days with cygwin as a 3rd party add on. It is quite a bit better than any of Microsoft's official Unix services or whatever.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      @asdf

      Well, have to agree with you regarding Linux and POSIX. However, it's not the end yet. Although you can't officially call it Unix (mostly due to licensing issues) I stil think its fair to say that the BSD variants remain in a position which places them very close to that of a true Unix environment. Most definitely closer than your average Linux distribution (<cough>, systemd, <cough>).

      And when looking at my personal favorite, which happens to be FreeBSD, I think it becomes more obvious why a project as this has little chances (personal opinion though). You see: several things which made Solaris great have slowly but steadily also found their way into FreeBSD. ZFS? These days I can even boot from a ZFS filesystem. DTrace? Full support available in the kernel. Zones? Well, it's not fully comparable to Solaris' zones but FreeBSD's jails do provide a very solid way to implement virtualization.

      If you then look at the OS history then I think it's fair to say that FreeBSD has a larger one in comparison to OmniOS, and it's roots are already fully tied into open source. Even more important: there's no company involved with the FreeBSD project which also rules out possible double agendas (think about commercial interests).

      I'm sad to see Solaris fade away like this though, it's always been my favorite Unix operating system both professionally and personally, but yeah... We got Oracle to thank for that one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @asdf

        We got Oracle to thank for that one.

        Oh, I think Jonathan Schwartz deserves most of the 'credit' for that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @asdf

        +1 for FreeBSD.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. asdf Silver badge

          Re: @asdf

          >+1 for FreeBSD.

          So much better than its bastard child Junos OS anyway. That one is hot garbage.

      3. asdf Silver badge

        Re: @asdf

        > I stil think its fair to say that the BSD variants remain in a position which places them very close to that of a true Unix environment.

        Yeah too bad with Red Hat successfully getting more and more FOSS dependent on the Linux kernel (thus Windows lite) there is going to be real stagnation that way as well eventually. Agree that I love me some BSD especially OpenBSD. I have a soft spot for any *nix that doesn't come with bash by default.

      4. abufrejoval

        ZFS, Dtrace and much better containers on Linux

        First time Linus published his stuff, I laughed: I worked at a research lab and had full UNIX souce code as well as a far superior micro-kernel OS (similar to L4) in my hands. I also had a 80486 running both pre-SCO Unixware and 386BSD (I had even run Microport Unix on a 80286). And I had SunOS running on a Sparcstation 1. Couldn't see me using Linux for years, especially after reading the task switch source code, which used the horrible Intel task state segments.

        I guess for Linux the GPL made quite a difference some time later.

        While I continued to evaluate all those BSD and Solaris variants for x86 during those decades, I finally gave up BSD and Solaris when everything I wanted had arrived at Linux: ZFS is as good as it will be outside Oracle on Linux, Dtrace I thankfully do not need and systemd to me is mostly something Solaris inspired.

        The biggest difference, however is containers, more specifically OpenVZ containers. Those have been so much better, more mature, manageable and given a degree of flexible control, that VMs couldn't ever achieve, while I could still use or combine them with VMs if I wanted to. These days OpenVZ gives me a unified API and CLI to run containers, even nested ones with Docker as well as KVM VMs, while I can still run VirtualBox or VMware Workstation as type 2 hypervisors.

        Have a look and dry your tears: https://openvz.org/Virtuozzo

        Been running it for a decade with PCI-DSS compliance on hundreds of servers and never looked back to paying for an operating system.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: ZFS, Dtrace and much better containers on Linux

          >Been running it for a decade with PCI-DSS compliance on hundreds of servers and never looked back to paying for an operating system.

          Woot to commodity hardware the only type you will soon be able to buy. Part of the advantage in the past to paying for an UNIX/VMS/etc OS is you are also usually buying RAS hardware carefully certified by the entity responsible for said OS. Like I said never seen an kernel panic ever on HP-UX. The world's moved on though. You will run RHEL and like it buddy.

          1. YuckFou

            Re: ZFS, Dtrace and much better containers on Linux

            This is older than Linux. It goes back at least to when it was OS2 vs Windows and Windows crashed often and OS2 tried to use that as a selling point and Microsoft responded that yeah, Windows crashes sometimes but it's good enough and just look how pretty it is!

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: getting old I suppose.

      >The worst part of the proper UNIXs disappearing is the kids today seem to think Linux is POSIX

      Even worse, is that some (young?) El Reg readers think that 'nix is some form of derogatory reference to Linux and not the 101 varieties of UNIX, as has happened recently...

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: getting old I suppose.

        >some form of derogatory reference to Linux and not the 101 varieties of UNIX

        What's pretty amazing is that since circa 2000 or so about the only ones I have seen kernel panic not due to hardware failure are Linux and Darwin. Worked with a good number of those over the years too.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: getting old I suppose.

      "not that they really even know what that means seeing as you drop them into /bin/ksh and they panic"

      For real panic try dropping them into csh.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: getting old I suppose.

        A good sample /etc/passwd entry

        millennialNoob:x:123:123:Enjoy your shell freshout:/home/millennialNoob:/usr/bin/ed

  3. Tom 64
    Coffee/keyboard

    Color me surprised

    Its an obscure fork of a fork of an OS that never had much market share to begin with.

    Hardware support probably isn't near to what Linux has even for servers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Color me surprised

      Hardware support in illumos is pretty good, largely because of consolidation in hardware leading to much less component diversity compared to years gone by. No, it doesn't run on all the obscure bits of fetid garbage, but would you want to use those anyway?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Terminator

      Never had much market share?

      In the 1980s, SunOS (later rebranded Solaris) was the leading playground for innovation. The birthplace of all the fundamentals of the 'net as we know it today!

      I believe it was Sun attempting to ape Microsoft and package itself for the Suits (corresponding with Solaris 2 at the beginning of the '90s) that kickstarted the rise of Linux. Sun's old (1980s) C compiler was total crap, but served at least to bootstrap a gcc install[1]. When they unbundled that, everyone who had been doing interesting things was suddenly beholden to their PHBs, and had to justify installing a supported compiler. So we had to look elsewhere, and that was the nascent Linux community.

      [1] By the grey hairs in my beard, I remember that. Leave gcc building overnight. In the morning, look at where it crashed out, fix it. Restart the build over the next night. Repeat until gcc is usable, albeit with vast amounts of gaffer tape. Then use gcc itself to build a proper gcc, with a much more manageable number of improvised hacks.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Color me surprised

      >Its an obscure fork of a fork of an OS that never had much market share to begin with.

      Yes, z/OS has bugger all market share, however IBM still manages to make a sh*t load of money out of it. Sun had a significant marketshare in sectors of the Unix marketplace.

      I think the problem OmniOs gave itself was a combination of Oracle and it's desire to be a 'Community' edition. The businesses that were buying Solaris wanted the level of support and investment that only comes from a big company like Oracle. OmniOs's 'community' edition just didn't fit the bill, just as many businesses will be running RedHat Linux or similar and paying for support rather than use community distributions and try and support it themselves.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "Its an obscure fork of a fork of an OS that never had much market share to begin with."

    Which pretty much sums it up.

    I guess the question would be what stuff was missing from the last Open Solaris release that people really wanted and far away are they from supply those things?

  5. Baldrickk Silver badge

    Fêted

    My new word of the day.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Fêted

      Bet you can't wait for tomorrow's new word: Cockwomble.

      That's Cockwomble.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was designed to fail

    Solaris is fantastic on SPARC but an absolute pile of dog shit when you try put it on top of equally mediocre x86 hardware and market share of x86 version clearly reflected it, there's simply no reasons why would anyone choose Solaris x86 over alternatives. Open source dog shit is still a dog shit. Solaris 9 for x86 was never ever released long before Sun bite the dust, that says a lot about demand for it. ZFS ? Maybe. Dtrace ? There's one for Linux if you need it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It was designed to fail

      Solaris 9 for x86 was never ever released long before Sun bite the dust

      Sorry? x86 support started with Solaris 2.3, and is still there in Solaris 11. I ran Solaris 9 on x86 for years, still run S10 and S11 on it.

    2. John Riddoch

      Re: It was designed to fail

      Sun had an odd relationship with x86 - they dropped it briefly, but then reinstated it after customers complained. Solaris 10 eventually started with fuller support for x86 from the word go, but by that time Linux had largely won the market share. Oracle also tried to limit Solaris x86 support to Oracle hardware which didn't go down well either.

      Frankly, I believe that if Sun had embraced x86 properly 10+ years ago they'd have done far better and probably stalled Linux adoption, but they were too busy trying to focus on making money from SPARC (which was struggling to stay competitive against POWER).

      1. Jay 2

        Re: It was designed to fail

        Agreed. I recall running Solaris 7 (I think) on x86 and it was OK (not fantastic or anything). But sometime after that the x86 offering went away and came back a year or so later with a slightly different name and some associated Sun x86 hardware.

        At this point I noted that Sun had at least two big problems. One was that people who were burnt on them withdrawing Solaris on x86 for whatever reason would think twice. The other was that their own x86 hardware was a lot more expensive than other 1/2U offerings from other manufacturers. And (at the time) on the horizon was something called Linux...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It was designed to fail

          "I recall running Solaris 7 (I think) on x86 and it was OK (not fantastic or anything). But sometime after that the x86 offering went away and came back a year or so later with a slightly different name and some associated Sun x86 hardware"

          I ran Solaris 8 x86 edition. Even had the official Sun media folder - was pretty happy with it performance on the cruddy little Pentium box I had at the time.

          I concur with a previous commentard that it was Solaris 9 which dropped x86 support - I have definitely run Solaris 10 on x86 and also I think x64. There were some bizarre changes happening at Sun around that time - would be interested to know from the ex-Sun product dev above what the inside story was!

          For an enlightening history of Illumos, there is a fantastic presentation from a guy at Joyent somewhere on the 'net, who originally came from Sun. Illumos is a great OS, and I hope has a long future.

          1. keithpeter
            Pint

            Re: It was designed to fail

            "For an enlightening history of Illumos, there is a fantastic presentation from a guy at Joyent somewhere on the 'net, who originally came from Sun. Illumos is a great OS, and I hope has a long future."

            @AC

            Isn't illuminos the kernel?

            @All knowledgeable about Solaris

            Is there a currently available illuminos based OS for trying? Had a play with Oracle Solaris 11 on a thinkpad - sort of Gnome 2/2008-ish but it has to be said most things worked.

            Pint: to anyone being 'let go' as a result of this development

      2. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: It was designed to fail

        I much agree but the + in (10+ years ago) is almost 10 too. Oracle stated its support for Linux in 98, and bought Sun in 2010. We used Sun for software development among other *nix* systems for more than 10 years but never had a single Sun customer and it was expensive. The only odd thing with Sun Solaris was that if you switched off the console the whole system shutdown. (the Lego Sun hardware)

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: It was designed to fail

          The only odd thing with Sun Solaris was that if you switched off the console the whole system shutdown.

          That was because switching off a terminal was equivalent to sending a <BREAK> on the console serial port, and the default config for <BREAK> caused the system to drop to a boot prompt. It didn't shutdown, just halted, you could usually just type "go" to continue. Lots of workarounds for what was basically operator error, but the default was eventually changed, probably to limit the support calls.

          1. Lars Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: It was designed to fail

            @ Phil O'Sophical

            Thanks for that information, I thought it was something like that, did not want to write "tilted". Annoying because it was always unclear who did it and why. For some reason silly stuff like that stays in your memory.

            A similarly silly "shutdown" I remember is when we as a team were sold to an other company, software and all. In my room I had a PC and a SCO Unix tower on the floor, used by me and some other people. And then I had some minor hardware related problem and decided to find out about the technical department in that company (a large one). In comes a young girl, points to the Unix box, and I nodded. She then switches it off just like that.

            I look at her rather perplexed and tell her that it's not the way to shutdown Unix and that there are a few more users and some databases running too. She says, sorry I thought it was Windows. Silly memories indeed.

            PS. How long will people have religious feelings about the different shells and flavours of *nix", not to mention languages. They are tools, invented by us, like our Gods. I used what ever I was payed to use but at home it's Linux.

        2. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: It was designed to fail

          The only odd thing with Sun Solaris was that if you switched off the console the whole system shutdown. (the Lego Sun hardware)

          Not quite. More a case of lego terminal that sends break when you turn it off.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It was designed to fail

      Hardly a surprise in comments on the web, but another post that's ignorant of the facts and unfamiliar with the subject matter.

      Sun temporarily suspended Solaris 9 for x86, but reinstated it due to customer demand.

      At least with Solaris on x86 you have a decent OS on top of your dubious hardware.

      And actually, illumos is a world-class system. Anybody not using ZFS clearly doesn't care about their data. Zones is virtualization done right. There's network virtualization, SMF, FMA, Dtrace, KVM, LX emulation.

      Those things have benefited other platfoms too. FreeBSD have directly inherited ZFS and Dtrace; Linux has spent years ripping off features from Solaris and illumos. It makes you wonder where they'll go once there are no more features from Solaris to plunder?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It was designed to fail

        another post that's ignorant of the facts and unfamiliar with the subject matter.

        Sun temporarily suspended Solaris 9 for x86, but reinstated it due to customer demand.

        Oh, I was intimately familar with it, as a Sun product developer, and it wasn't that simple when seen from the inside. The press didn't exactly distinguish beween fact & rumour, as usual.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It was designed to fail

        LX emulation is currently OmniOS or SmartOS only, right? SmartOS isn't a drop-in replacement for OmniOS so the options for people using that are limited.

      3. Lars Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: It was designed to fail

        "Linux has spent years ripping off features from Solaris and illumos". If there is still something worth copying from Solaris or any other OS then it will be copied. That is how every industry works and should work. With copying I also mean "learning from". More people are today involved in developing Linux than in any other *nix* system. In the top500 super computer list you find only about 10 other *nix* systems, the rest is Linux.

    4. Paul Floyd

      Re: It was designed to fail

      You are seriously misinformed. If you wind your clock back to 2005 then the picture is very much different. Back then, Linux was pretty much only 32bit, and the 64bit version was not yet fit for purpose. Sun, by that time had a lot of experience of 64bit Solaris on SPARCV9. So when Solaris 10 came out, the 64bit amd64 version was probably the best OS for the platform. Remember, Intel was still sailing towards the iceberg on the Itanic, and AMD was trying to steal a march with Opteron. AMD stumbled with Barcelona and Bulldozer, Intel struck back with em64t, Sun failed to get much traction for Solaris amd64 even on its own hardware, OpenSolaris was too little, too late and the rest is history

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad day

    This is a real shame for the illumos community.

    We switched from Solaris on SPARC hardware to OmniOS on x86 a few years ago because it was, for us, a natural successor to Solaris, commercially supported and with all the same cool features we came to know and love. (Dtrace, ZFS, Crossbow, SMF, containers to name a few).

    Add to that the support for KVM and, more recently, Linux-emulated (lx) zones and it's going to be hard to find a replacement we're happy with.

    OpenIndiana is still an option if some of the OmniOS innovations can be back-ported.

    1. PlinkerTind

      Smart OS

      Have you looked into Smart OS? It is Illumos kernel and KVM and targeting the cloud. Bryan Cantrill is there, I think? Or? Several Solaris devs have joined SmartOS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Smart OS

        We've looked at SmartOS. It's a virtualisation platform which runs in memory - not a drop-in replacement for OmniOS unfortunately.

  8. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    I never knew it existed.

    Damn, why do I never find out about things like this in time?

    See, now I want to start playing with it, to bring back my Sun days (while probably squandering a few Sundays, tinkering... I'll get me coat)

    1. ptribble

      Re: I never knew it existed.

      There are a number of illumos distributions, of a range of styles and potential uses.

      If you're all nostalgic, I maintain Tribblix, which has a rather retro feel to it.

      1. keithpeter
        Pint

        Re: I never knew it existed.

        "Log in as jack, and you can get a very ancient desktop (twm) using startx."

        Suits me Sir, downloading now with a view to trying it out. I use xfce4 normally so quite like the idea of the Kitchen-Sink

  9. captain_solo

    "Commercial Linux"

    If we didn't have "cloud" to deal with that would be one of the biggest marketing jokes in the IT world.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What did he expect?

    > Treat did not go into specifics as to what went wrong. He did note, however, that the majority of the

    > community was employing OmniOS resolutely for storage and not the high-scale web platform it

    > seems he wanted.

    I expect a mature and trustworthy ZFS implementation is probably the most attractive reason to use this.

  11. ST Silver badge
    FAIL

    same death as OpenSolaris?

    It looks like OmniOS died for the same exact reason that OpenSolaris never really took off. From the OP:

    However, even with the success we have had, there is one area we have failed to make progress on, which is the goal of making OmniOS community operated. There are many factors why this hasn't happened, but ultimately in five years of both ups and downs within OmniTI, I am left to conclude that if we are ever to change the nature of OmniOS, we need to take a radical approach.

    And that is exactly what happened to OpenSolaris: it never became a self-sustaining, collaborative open development project. From the outset, OpenSolaris was a Sun marketing exercise, under Sun's complete and freakish control, and remained so throughout its existence.

    Sun management together with Solaris engineering never gave up total and complete control of the project. Neither of them had any real intention of doing so to begin with, for ideological reasons. Both were convinced that Solaris was the best thing invented since sliced bread, and nothing will ever change that.

    OpenSolaris' CDDL license was incompatible with the GPL. Consequence: say goodbye to all the useful hardware drivers that Solaris Intel badly needed, but were now inaccessible because of licensing conflicts. Concerned OpenSolaris community shareholder-citizens were advising Sun about not releasing Solaris source code under GPL. In their view, GPL licensed software would somehow dilute shareholder value. Take a look at RedHat and let us know how that worked out.

    Never mind that, by that time, Linux was already vastly and fundamentally better than Solaris in many ways. Solaris was already fading into death by abandonment because of stagnation and staleness.

    It took Sun more than two years to create an openly accessible source code respository and SCM for OpenSolaris. Which was, for all practical purposes, read-only. A real open source project can set up a source code repo in less than a week.

    The "open collaboration" that Sun pretended to wax about with OpenSolaris consisted of little more than pointless - and often idiotic - email discussions on several mailing lists.

    Free and Open Source development is a very cruel and unforgiving endeavor. Either one does it right, or one dies.

    In the end, it doesn't matter. Solaris is now a niche and dying platform, of interest only to Oracle - if that. Where exactly is the interest in an obscure fork of a dead platform.

    1. Lars Silver badge

      Re: same death as OpenSolaris?

      Spot on ST.

  12. Mark Solaris

    As the maintainer of the Solaris Package Archive http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/packages/solaris/sparc/ I've been blessed to use every single Solaris version on SPARC and x86. I find that it's harder to get businesses to run Solaris as 1) Oracle pricing sucks and 2) the free versions don't have a support infrastructure worth a damn so managers can't justify the risk.

    It's a shame to see OmniOS disappear, I can't say I've run it myself, I don't have the infrastructure to set up the labs.

    BTW if anyone wants to donate machine access I then can continue to build newer packages etc. I'm serious. Currently my hardware access is limited and not stable enough to warrant investing the time to set up 10 and 11 LDOMs/Zones and 8 and 9 guest Zones etc. ta++

  13. oetiker
    Go

    OmniOS community edition

    Yesterday we have published the first release of OmniOS community edition. Read all about it on www.omniosce.org.

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