Your Debian fell into my OpenSolaris!

About three months ago, I wrote about the exciting possibilities of combining Debian and OpenSolaris. To be honest, when I wrote that I assumed that such a Xanadu would be a couple of years off at least -- combining these systems is non-trivial. You can thus imagine my surprise last week when I first heard of the Nexenta project. If you haven't heard, this project is doing exactly what Jeff, Adam, Mike and I were wishing for: Debian package management on an OpenSolaris kernel. Of course, hearing about a new technology is one thing; seeing it is quite another -- I wanted to get my hands on actual bits before I got too excited. Well, today Nexenta released their ISOs. And, to make a pleasantly short story even shorter, I am writing this now running Nexenta on my Acer Ferrari 3400. But don't take my word for it; check out this screenshot -- and note in particular my use of DTrace to examine the package management system. Oh be still, my beating heart!

That's all nice and well, but did you happen to notice that SUNW packages had to be converted to DEBs? Do you realize the implications of this? It will be a tremendous amount of work to convert SVR4 SUNW packages to DEBs every time a new release is made. This holds especially true now that Nevada builds are coming out every two weeks or so. And what about SVR4 structure/layout? Debian knows nothing of SVR4 standards. It's GNU userland on top of some (any) kernel. Yet SVR4 structure and layout has been one of the core usability strengths of Solaris. And finally, what implications will the eventual release of SVR4 packaging tools (pkgadd and friends) have for Nexenta? Some will argue it's all about choice. However, how am I going to upgrade my Nexenta system when new functionality is introduced by Sun? I can't do a Solaris upgrade because Debian and Solaris are completely incompatible. What are your opinions on the practicality of such a solution?

Posted by ux-admin on November 07, 2005 at 05:47 PM PST #

I think your probably underestimating nexanta a bit. If the process of converting the pkg's to debs is not already automated, it surely will be in the future. And as with any OS distribution, you will turn to the distributer to provide updates. If they are unable to put updates out in a timely manner, then that would be an issue, but it is far too early to jump to conclusions.

Posted by Samuel Kielek on November 08, 2005 at 12:26 AM PST #

ux-admin: First, understand that I'm not advocating ditching SVR4 package management in Solaris. I am however claiming that giving users some choice in packagement management is a Good Thing. In terms of the practicality of upgrading the kernel, the Nexenta approach is (ironically) more in keeping with the approach we use internally: we have a monster of a script called BFU that splats the latest cpio archives on a running machine. Modifying BFU to be able to make it manageable by the Debian package management tools might be non-trivial, but it won't be impossible. And in terms of the consequences of releasing the SVR4 packaging tools, I think that will only be a Good Thing -- it will allow for some SVR4-based distros. (For example, Blastwave would be in much wider use if it were a distro, in my opinion.) If you a Solaris user, all of this is good: it means more choice for you, bigger markets for the ISVs that serve you, etc. -- which serves to drive down your costs. So yes, I'm obviously one of those that would argue that Choice is Good.

Posted by Bryan Cantrill on November 08, 2005 at 02:52 AM PST #

Whats your take on many debian devs saying its illegal to mix GPL code and CDDL libs in the way Nexenta (and SUN with Solaris 10) does in <a href => this thread

Posted by geniedren on November 08, 2005 at 05:11 AM PST #

I don't want to recreate that thread here, but in my opinion the claim is absolutely absurd: libc is in no way a derivative work of GPL'd software, and it has no dependency on GPL'd software; the talk of the "special exception" is actually immaterial because libc cannot be considered part of the Program. That is, the GPL can't actual say anything about rights not reserved for the copyright holder to begin with -- and indeed, there seem to be a few Debian developers who are rather obsessed with rights that they do not have. I trust that these are the minority; I think many if not most will realize that this is just as good for Debian as it is for OpenSolaris.

Posted by Bryan Cantrill on November 08, 2005 at 12:48 PM PST #

I haven't played with Nexenta yet, but its interesting to see coments about the packages having to be converted from SVR4 to deb. I will be very interested to see how the developers integrate debs into a zones environment for example. SVR4 has the notion of usr and root packages which is very convienient for installing different types of zones. Even if the debian folks follow the same approach of usr and root there would be substantial work in installing a zone from that package base. Updating the packages in zones is another complication. Releasing the patch and package tools will be a good thing. Perhaps it will even offer the Debian folks the ability to preserve SVR4 on the system to use things like zones and live upgrade, while at the same time the user will interact with the system with apt and friends. Right, I'd better download and try Nexenta and stop talking about it.

Posted by Albert White on November 09, 2005 at 04:56 AM PST #

They're not claiming libc is a derivate work. RMS really hates people who claim that the GPL is viral. What the GPL says (it has a specific clause) in this case is you can't distribute (this non-GPL library) libc and a GPL'd program together. Distributing separately is fine (hence blastwave has no problems).

Posted by James on November 20, 2005 at 02:14 AM PST #

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