It's Still Too Late

OpenSolaris 2008.11 update woos Linux users: "Jones said, however, that Sun's moves to create an open source product and grow a developer community were on target but arrive too late. 'It's the right thing to do … but the party is already finished,' Jones said. 'Sun might be able to stem the tide from Solaris to Linux [by continuing to improve OpenSolaris]. But their grandiose plan of replacing Linux isn't going to happen. They are attracting more developers, but not from Linux.'" -- Richard Jones, vice president, Burton Group.

I don't know what the party reference is all about, but the too late commentary is about four years old now. Yet we still go about building community, products, and infrastructure. I think we fell behind on the infrastructure part, but the community is clearly coming along, and the main distro is earning its way from an engineering perspective as well. Warts and all, it's really quite good for its relatively young age. And as far as the "grandiose plan of replacing Linux" is concerned, I still haven't seen it. People talk and some are competitive with Linux (which is fine, by the way), but the vast majority of plans we are implementing are designed to build community, products, and infrastructure to grow the project organically. One thing I do agree with in the quote above, though, is that we are attracting new developers (and uses, too). Jones' position on that part is exactly what I've been saying for four years -- Linux will grow but so will we. I've never moved from that view. Yes, people will go back and forth but that's a side show. Although we are still a small community compared to Linux, we are indeed making progress in our own way. I do a lot of work in emerging markets, and it's easy to see that we are reaching new people now. It's probably too early to show up in massively big business metrics in the West, but that's what early project management is all about. You work in the dark for a long time. I've seen this repeated in multiple industries now.

So, is it too late to catch Linux? I'm not sure it matters much in that context. It's a big world, and there is room for all of us to fit. We simply have too much work to do learning from Linux in some areas where they are strong, focusing on some of our clear advantages in other areas, transforming the existing Solaris base into an open community, and reaching out to new users and developers who have never even heard of us. It's not too late. Not by a long shot. I just don't view projects from that perspective.

The other thing is this: can we learn from linux and become a better by avoiding their mistakes?

"Linux" has grown to the point where it is a quite a mess. We have a dozen different distributions, most of which are incompatible with each other. They are all called "Linux" and they all run a common code base for the kernel, but the similarities stop there.

One of the nice things about solaris was that it was a singular entity. If an app said that they supported solaris, I didnt have to think about what particular flavor of solaris they are talking about.

With linux, I have to ask the question of 'which one'. Lets say I want to run Oracle. I can use RedHat or Suse, not slackware, debian, etc. We have even run into issues with trying to use CentOS vs RedHat, which are suppose to be exactly the same. Even Oracle Enterprise linux is not 100% compatible with RedHat which they are based on.

If solaris can manage to build a community while at the same time keep the product focused enough to avoid the chaos that is the linux landscape, then opensolaris will grow. With its growth the linux folks will take note and hopefully clean up their act. Thus both communities can feed off of each other and get better. Its not a zero sum game.

Posted by John on December 17, 2008 at 05:42 PM JST #

[Trackback] Jim Grisanzio wrote an excellent piece about the alleged areas of conflict between Linux and Solaris in It�s still too late:So, is it too late to catch Linux? I'm not sure it matters much in that context. It's a big world, and there is room for all of...

Posted by on December 17, 2008 at 06:51 PM JST #

I don't know. Over on in the Sys Admin forums we get questions from people migrating off of Linux or Windows and wanting to know the Solaris specific way of doing things.

The Linux guys are usually easy to spot since they always seem to have problems with home directories and the automounter.


Posted by Alan Pae on December 17, 2008 at 08:28 PM JST #

Thanks for pointing out that article Jim. Overall (while I disaree with some of the comments) it was pretty fair and well balanced, especially from Gordon's comments. Disagree that the party is too late - all the cool kids are late arrivers :)

Alan: We really need to fix the automounter and get /home working - it's absolutely silly not to IMO.

Posted by Glynn Foster on December 17, 2008 at 09:49 PM JST #


I remember a few messages that flew around when Solaris was first open sourced that /home and the automounter were "finally" going to get fixed. It still hasn't happened.

Fixing how much space is devoted to /export/home during install time would have been an easier fix and would have saved some grief as well.


Posted by Alan Pae on December 17, 2008 at 10:30 PM JST #

I totally agree it's not a zero sum game, although many people view the world that way and I think the press many times feeds that position. And also, this article isn't bad at all (I should have mentioned that). In fact, most of the press coverage for this version of OS 2008.11 is quite good. I expected that, though. :)

Posted by James Grisanzio on December 18, 2008 at 05:48 AM JST #

A vs. B makes for a simple, dramatic storyline with a winner and a loser. A good number of the press calls I take involve how does announcement XYZ affect company A's position vs. company B. That's not an unfair question but reality is often a lot more complicated.

Posted by Gordon Haff on December 18, 2008 at 03:21 PM JST #

You are absolutely right, Gordon. That`s what makes the media so frustrating. Their context is too narrow in most cases for my taste.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on December 19, 2008 at 03:18 PM JST #

"If solaris can manage to build a community while at the same time keep the product focused enough to avoid the chaos that is the linux landscape, then opensolaris will grow."

Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as that. Solaris is plagued by fear coming from people that have migrated from Windows to Linux and are quite frankly "not at home" with the command line tools that exploit the full power of a UNIX system.

To these people, manual pages like filesystem(5) are completely unknown, and the term "System V" causes anything from arguments about "lacking tools" (exactly the opposite is true) to inexplicable fears of something that is not GNU, not Windows, can't be understood by looking at pretty pictures, and is unknown to them.

And there are entire armies of such "IT" people, because they are cheap.

Posted by UX-admin on December 19, 2008 at 07:18 PM JST #

Alan Pae's comment on spotting linux guy's by their questions on /home and automounter gave me a good laugh.
I have to admit that I come from \*BSD land, but I have the same question after installing 2008.11 two weeks ago; only maybe just a bit differently.
"If automounter is supposed to mount the home directories in /home; why not the local ones as well?"

My solution is:

Step 1 append to /etc/auto_home
\* -fstype=lofs :/export/home/&

Step 2 have automounter reread its config
svcadm refresh autofs

Step 3 create local user accounts where they reside
useradd -m -b /export/home ..... (username)

Step 4 change local user to where they should by found
usermod -d /home/(username) (username)

BUG: Maybe this needs a better place for discussion ;-)

Posted by Rudi on December 22, 2008 at 08:25 PM JST #


That's because AFAIK Linux does not mount /home with the automounter. Usually the question goes something like, I use cd to change to /home and couldn't mkdir username, how come?

If you ask them most will confess to being Linux guys. Most aren't aware and haven't researched the issue. The issue being that be default on Solaris the automounter controls /home.

The one's I really love are the guys who start by stating, "Ok, I'm user ROOT, and user ROOT is all powerful so how come even ROOT can't do it!"


Posted by Alan Pae on December 22, 2008 at 09:22 PM JST #

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