A Simpe Code Repository

Quote: Sun packs out Solaris developer support: "Sun told The Register that Project Indiana is 'adding the concept of a distribution' to OpenSolaris, which is a 'code repository.' Apparently, OpenSolaris was always meant to be a code repository and not a free, open version of Solaris, which is what Sun had led us to believe OpenSolaris would be during the years leading up to release. Project Indiana will feature new packaging systems and Solaris features such as ZFS." -- Gavin Clarke, The Register

That's the last paragraph of Gavin's story, and he touches on some of the confusion around OpenSolaris for the past few years. There have been many community conversations on various OpenSolaris lists with "what is OpenSolaris" in the subject line, and there have been many press articles and blogs about OpenSolaris positioning it as an operating system. It is ... but it isn't. As a practical matter, the code from OpenSolaris is used to build a few distros as well as Sun's developer distro, which is called Solaris Express. (You can get all the distros here) So, in that sense, OpenSolaris is an operating system. But ... not quite. Some closed bits are used in the building process, and the resulting system built from the OpenSolaris source is not called OpenSolaris but it's called something else. So, it can get confusing if you don't deal with this every day. So, what actually is OpenSolaris then? It's source code. And a community. And a website. At the highest level, that's pretty much it.

Now, there have been some random acts of corporate messaging in the past few years around OpenSolaris, but that's normal and should be expected. The project has been opening in stages over a long period of time, and it's taken some time for everyone to understand how to explain everything. No harm, really. Every new project I've ever worked on in every industry has experienced early messaging challenges. After all, we're talking about human communication, aren't we? But what I think is really cool here is that the message that OpenSolaris is an operating system has resonated even when we have not really been pushing that within project itself. What does that mean? It means that the market has looked at our stuff, it has listened to our confusing messaging, and it's made up its mind in a generally positive way. You simply could not ask for anything more given the limitations we've been working under.

But I think things are going to get much easier. Project Indiana, for instance, will help clarify this issue as it grows into a complete system that can be customized from various source repositories and serve as a platform from which other distributions can be built. Critical engineering projects to support Indiana are install and packaging among others, and the final binary distribution should be easy to downland, install, and use. And easy to explain, too! From an engineering perspective, OpenSolaris will always be many things, but from a market positioning perspective OpenSolaris needs to be one thing so that one thing can be communicated around the world to a variety of different audiences. Once you engage the conversation on that one thing, you can drill down into the many things under the hood.

There were many reasons why some of us on the project wanted OpenSolaris to fly under the radar from a publicity perspective during our early years. This is one of them. A lot of engineering and community building work had to be done first before we could really bring the conversation and the technology to large numbers of users and developers globally. That's what's happening now. One step at a time. And you will see the site start to evolve to reflect this as well. The number of people hitting the site is really escalating and diversifying lately. We are, quite simply, maturing as a project. Hopefully, in this next phase we can learn to explain ourselves better as well. I think we will.
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