Tuesday Mar 17, 2009

Coming soon, SourceJuicer. 'cloud based' OpenSolaris package development

Circular cloud In recent weeks I've been busy working on the bug management, user authorization and authentication components of the SourceJuicer project. SourceJuicer is a Django based web service which will allow developers to build OpenSolaris packages in a standard build environment and put them on a clearly paved path to review and publication in the OpenSolaris contrib repository.

Christian has a more detailed explanation on the SourceJuicer Blog. The technology behind it is really interesting, it makes good use of ZFS as well as Solaris Containers (a.k.a. zones.) Watch the SourceJuicer blog for more detail as the project unfolds.

Monday Mar 16, 2009

Is the recession accelerating OpenSolaris adoption?

This Slashdot article points to an IT Manager survey indicating that Linux adoption is growing during these difficult economic times. It does make sense that companies and governments which normally spent freely on proprietary software might begin to consider unorthodox, but much more cost effective alternatives now. What does this mean for other opensource operating systems such as OpenSolaris? I think the Google trends graph says it better than I could. Anyone looking for the root cause of this economic mess only needn't bother about property bubbles, dodgy investment shenanigans or massive increases in debt. Just look at the trend line of the third parameter in this Google graph ;-)

P.S.: I compared 'opensolaris' with 'economic downturn' instead of 'recession' because the magnitude of recession searches is so much larger that it pushes opensolaris towards the bottom of this graph. A similar scale issue makes it difficult to see that opensolaris seems to be gaining market share against Windows, Solaris, Linux and some of the most popular proprietary Linux distributions.

Google trends is an amazing tool, but it can't answer all psychohistory questions. Trends for some topics such as 'great depression' and 'great gatsby' are common topics in standardized U.S. school curriculum and therefore searches for these closely follow the school calendar. You'd think with so many students learning about Gatsby's 1920s hedonism and its unravelling during the 'Great Depression', it should be impossible to repeat this history.

Monday Nov 24, 2008

Good news about a bank

We often teased the shyest member of my family by reminding her of the bad joke about the kid who didn't speak a word until he was eating breakfast on his 7th birthday when he said, "My porridge is cold!" When asked why he never spoke before, he said, "Up until now everything has been alright." This is how I felt about the silence which followed my work on a project which installed and provided support for over 7000 opensource JDS desktops at a bank.1 We called the customer occasionally to see if everything was O.K. We helped them through one upgrade which was necessary because the Linux kernel needed to be upgraded to support modern hardware but didn't have a stable ABI so the entire application stack also had to be upgraded. After the upgrade, one of our customers gave us some upgrades/minute statistics that were well beyond what is possible given network bandwidth limitations so I'll just say that the upgrade went well.

Shortly after the upgrade, we helped solve a peculiar focus bug whose root causes were spread across gtk, Java, Firefox and Star/OpenOffice. But overall things were very quiet. Sun was also quiet about this deployment, first of all because we hadn't yet finalized the disclosure agreement and later because Sun decided to drop our Linux-based desktop product and focus on OpenSolaris. So between our "are you still there?" pings to the customer's 2 person technical support staff, I was left wondering if no news is good news?

Then when I gave my presentation at the Irish Opensource Technology Conference, I noticed that two knowledgeable IT managers from this bank were giving presentations on their opensource desktop (a.k.a. JDS) roll out. I finally had the opportunity to be the "fly on the wall" and hear how things really went. I don't have links to their presentations, but these gentlemen said that the project was a success, that the deployment saved money and IT support costs compared to traditional Microsoft Windows based desktop solutions. They said the project completed ahead of schedule and under budget and that they were telling other banks the secrets of their success. I don't know if the other banks were paying attention to the potential savings in deploying opensource alternatives back when easy money was still flowing, but I would think they should take a hard look at such cost-effective alternatives now. In any case, it seems likely that the number of successful cost-saving "invisible" opensource deployments is understated.

"The art and science of interface design depends largely on making the transaction with the computer as transparent as possible in order to minimize the burden on the user" -- S. Joy Mountford

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic!"
-- Arthur C. Clarke.


1 The deployment was of Sun's linux based "Java Desktop System." If we were to do it now, the obvious choices in Sun's product portfolio would be Solaris 10 or OpenSolaris. Since the customer's network is now fast enough to support Sun Ray over WAN, we could potentially save them another $500,000 in annual electricity costs by deploying their desktop via Sun Ray clients instead of X86 PCs.
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