OpenSolaris is becoming more like regular Solaris

Support deals are now the same for the open source and commercial versions of the OS; open source upgrade also adds Sparc support

Lines are beginning to blur between the open source and commercial versions of the Sun Microsystems Solaris Unix operating system.

The company will unveil the open source OpenSolaris 2009.06 release at the CommunityOne conference in San Francisco Monday, one day prior to the opening of the JavaOne conference. A key improvement in the release is the addition of Sparc processor support.

As part of the announcement Sun, which is in the process of being acquired by Oracle, also will offer a Spectrum support contract for OpenSolaris equal to Solaris 10, said Jim McHugh, vice president of datacenter software marketing at Sun. Previously, there were different levels of support involving factors such as turnaround time for bug fixes.

Solaris has been positioned as Sun's enterprise-level OS while OpenSolaris has been geared to developers and has served as a proving ground for the latest OS features.

"We have two different delivery vehicles [for Solaris]," McHugh said. But OpenSolaris is becoming enterprise-ready, he added.

The Solaris-OpenSolaris relationship has been similar to the arrangement between Red Hat Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, in which new functionality in Fedora would then find its place in the enterprise Red Hat Linux, said analyst Jean Bozman, research vice president for the enterprise platform group at IDC.

"There's a bit of blurring between the two [Solaris] products because you're able to get some datacenter support functionality in OpenSolaris," which was not the original plan, said Bozman.

Also part of release 2009.06 is networking technology from Project Crossbow. "What this allows us to do is deliver improved performance and scaling," for multicore and multithreaded applications that leverage newer processors, McHugh said.

"In today's world, with the new multithreaded applications and new hardware being designed for that, there's a need for the OS to facilitate that and be able to work with extremely fast network interfaces," he added. In addition to Sparc, the new OpenSolaris can run on Intel x86 and x64 hardware.

Crossbow technology "extends virtualization to the network," Bozman said.

The OpenStorage capability in OpenSolaris has been enhanced to distinguish between read-optimized and write-optimized flash storage, said McHugh.

McHugh said he could not comment as what specific plans Oracle might have for  OpenSolaris. Oracle, though, has stated an affinity for the Solaris platform.

"The Sun Solaris operating system is the leading platform for the Oracle database, Oracle's largest business, and has been for a long time," Oracle said in a statement on April 13, when the Sun acquisition was announced. "With the acquisition of Sun, Oracle can optimize the Oracle database for some of the unique, high-end features of Solaris."

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