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03 August 2010, 20:06

Illumos launched as OpenSolaris derivative

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Nexenta's Garrett D'Amore presented Illumos, an OpenSolaris derivative which aims to create an all open source baseline for future distributions. Illumos will be based on OS/Net, a consolidation of the core operating system and networking components of OpenSolaris, with all the closed source elements, such as libc_i18n, nfs lock manager and critical drivers, replaced with open source versions.

The project plans to be downstream of OS/Net (ON) and aims to be 100% application binary interface (ABI) compatible with Solaris ON while acting as a repository for innovations from the community which may not be acceptable upstream (Oracle).

Illumos is endorsed and supported by Nexenta, Joyent, Greenviolet, Belenix, Schillix, Berlios and Everycity in its efforts to create a freely available SunOS derivative. D'Amore emphasises that Illumos is not a fork, but the work being done will empower the community to fork if needed in the future. He believes the project already has the critical mass necessary to sustain the engineering effort needed.

Zoom Illumos, booting via GRUB
Brian Cantrill, who recently left Oracle and joined Joyent, said the announcement was "Terrific news for OpenSolaris ... This will give us the power to fork the system in innovative ways. I personally am thrilled, we at Joyent are thrilled. We owe a debt of gratitude to Garrett". Simon Phipps, OSI board member and ex-Sun/Oracle, noted that the project was similar to the IcedTea effort for OpenJDK, which positioned itself downstream of OpenJDK and developed open source replacements for the closed source elements of OpenJDK; this has in turn allowed OpenJDK to be more widely used and, in some Linux distributions, it has become the default Java implementation. In a similar way, he hopes to see Illumos become the default open source implementation of OpenSolaris.

Oracle have been invited to participate in the project as a peer, but had not responded by the time of the announcement; D'Amore also invited individual employees to participate. The project aims to have a collaborative and cooperative relationship with Oracle and its other corporate partners; one of the objectives of the Illumos project is specifically to make its developments usable upstream by Oracle in OpenSolaris and Solaris.

Zoom Illumos, ready to boot, with Oracle's OpenSolaris desktop and tools running
A demonstration of the work already done with Illumos was also given. The developers have already replaced the closed source components of libc, most critical closed source utilities, and some drivers. This allows the base system to boot and then run OpenSolaris user space applications such as the X11 windowing system and desktop environment.

There are still a few closed bits says D'Amore, which he expects to be replaced very soon; he is aiming for a full release by the end of the year but expects this to go faster with more participation. Beyond the booting system, work needs to be done to create free replacements for the NFS lock manager, the kcf module of the crypto framework, trusted extensions such as labeld and many drivers. Contributions to Illumos are to be allowed under the preferred MIT or BSD licences, or with the less preferred CDDL and a signed SCA (Solaris Contributor Agreement); other licences, such as Apache 2.0, are also under consideration.

Another problem is that the toolchain needed to build Illumos currently uses closed source applications, but work is already ongoing to create an open toolchain. The plan is to support x86 and AMD64 architectures, VMWare, VirtualBox and SPARC, though D'Amore admitted "I haven't actually compiled SPARC yet but it should work". He also anticipates that S390, PowerPC and ARM support will be possible. D'Amore says he hopes that a putative Nexenta Core 4 will itself be based upon Illumos.

The project itself is creating an administration council, which will manage the non-technical issues around Illumos, such as resources for servers and defining a code of conduct, and a developer council, initially appointed and made up of people with commit rights to the project. The developer council aims to be a consensus driven meritocracy. Currently D'Amore is "Benevolent Dictator" for both councils, at least for the early days of the project, but anyone wishing to contribute and take part is invited, in the FAQ, to register on the site, join the project and "write a patch".


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