Which Is More Viable: Solaris or Illumos?

 I have been watching the Illumos open source project since it began as an offshoot of OpenSolaris.  It was meant to be a downstream distribution of Solaris, meaning that changes in the open sourced Solaris operating system would make their way into Illumos.  The problem is, after Oracle acquired Sun, Oracle clamped down on releasing Solaris source code at release milestones.  As far as I know, Oracle still hasn't released source for Solaris 11.  I don't blame Oracle for this; it's consistent with Oracle's business model to keep the source code closed.  But it did have an effect on Solaris-based distributions like the Illumos project.

So, Illumos forked.  If you are a Solaris fan, you now have to make a choice that you didn't really need to make before: if you want the technology advantages that were put into the OpenSolaris codestream, you need to decide whether to take the technology from Illumos-based distros such as Nexenta and Joyent, or from Oracle.  And because Solaris is now forked, you will be getting incompatible improvements in ZFS, DTrace, and Zones, all of which are technologies touted by Oracle as game-changers that make Solaris better than other enterprise operating systems.

It gets worse: most of the original teams for these technologies left Oracle and are now putting their brainpower into the Illumos version of these projects.  I'm curious to know which distro is going to improve fastest and best: Oracle Solaris, or Illumos?  The customer didn't have to make this kind of choice before, but they do now.

There's a good set of slides here that describes the history of OpenSolaris, Illumos, and the reason Illumos was forced to fork from Solaris.  If Oracle ever does release Solaris source code, Illumos could conceivably take it, but the longer Oracle waits, the harder it gets.  If I were a betting man, I'd say that Illumos is going to stay separate.  And since a cloud computing vendor and a storage vendor are now basing their businesses on Illumos, I'd also say there's a good chance that Illumos innovates faster than Oracle Solaris.

This oughta be interesting to watch.

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