Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Jul 2009 19:16 UTC
Sun Solaris, OpenSolaris The Linux desktop has come a long way. It's a fully usable, stable, and secure operating system that can be used quite easily by the masses. Not too long ago, Sun figured they could do the same by starting Project Indiana, which is supposed to deliver a complete distribution of OpenSolaris in a manner similar to GNU/Linux. After using the latest version for a while, I'm wondering: why?
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Reality check ....
by cade on Tue 21st Jul 2009 02:49 UTC
Member since:

Firstly, ...
My computer system is a HP XW9300, having dual-slot single core Opteron 2.4 GHz CPUs, 4GB RAM, 1st generation Western Digital Raptor HDDs.
Two operating systems are installed being
- 64-bit OpenSolaris (patched using "dev" repository)
---> "uname -a" gives
SunOS Argo 5.11 snv_117 i86pc i386 i86pc Solaris
- 32-bit Win2K
and these operating systems are accessed using the simple GAG boot manager.

OpenSolaris as well as Win2K are fast on my system.
The 64-bitness of OpenSolaris truly pays off well. e.g. OpenOffice and Gimp on OpenSolaris show marked performance improvement over the Win2k versions.

Thirdly, ...
My OpenSolaris boot time (i.e. from GRUB screen to Gnome login shell) is about 35 to 40 seconds. Shutdown is about 8 to 10 seconds. For me, this is fine for an operating system have many high technology "internals". Any "serious" issues I have found with OpenSolaris (more so with the "dev" repository) has been boot-related and for some systems you may need to investigate the GRUB options. Remember, all hardware is not the same. For me, I found the "avoid PCI reprogramming" GRUB option to be useful. I avoid the text splash screen during boot and just have the conventional white text on black background so that I can see boot related messages to facilitate my timing of boot period. Also, I have about 10 boot environments (since I evaluate long term stability of patches) and the system is really fine.

Fourthly ....
My OpenSolaris box is a C++ development box, using SunStudio tools. I patch using the "dev" repository and the system is stable, quick, and fun to use. My primary criteria are performance, stability, and standard "ease of use" and redundant/excessive/* "eye candy" has no priority.

Fifthly, ...
My backup OpenSolaris box is a dual core Athlon 2GB RAM system and this box is fine. I recently installed 32-bit OpenSolaris on a Pentium IV (3 GHz) system and found boot and application loading times to be much slower than the AMD systems I have. Then again, AMD has the direct connect architecture for several years in which Intel recently (2008) had cloned this idea and implemented in their CPUs.

Sixthly, ...
People should not forget the origins of (Open)Solaris and Linux. While Linux was growing from someone's bedroom and initially penetrating the commercial scene through the back door (before Linux's "saviour" IBM apparently woke up and started supporting Linux, rather than supporting it's own OS/2), Solaris was satisfying real world constraints. The Solaris kernel has been big-iron (i.e. multi-processor, multi-core) ready for years since the Solaris kernel was designed on that foundation in order to address real world challenges. Linux's SMP offering has been an afterthought and definitley not as mature.

e.g. Back in the early-to-mid 1990's my IT admin friend was managing a heterogeneous computing environment for a brokerage house in Sydney (Australia) consisting of Microsoft Windows clients, Novell file servers and Sun SPARC hardware. This SPARC hardware was used to handle real-time shares/futures processing. During the design phase of this real-time framework the company had prepared a specification for the target performance/stability of the proposed framework (type of operating system was less of an issue, as long as it could be interfaced to the rest of the network). It was Sun with their multiprocessor SPARC architecture, not IBM, not HP, etc,. who were only able to give the required quality of service guarantees.

The OpenSolaris codebase is mature w.r.t. x86 and SPARC CPUs; x86 support since early 1990's.

Rather than people being petty with subtle dramas, they should realise that a good thing Linux did was make Sun go back to it's roots and release a capable operating system as Solaris as opensource. I have been a C++ developer for Linux/Windows/OpenSolaris platforms and when gauging these platforms in terms of C++ tools, console/terminal functionality, and operating system features then OpenSolaris has been the big winner for me. I have introduced OpenSolaris to friends who I helped switch from Windows to Linux and they have been impressed with OpenSolaris (they have modern AMD boxes).

Some people say words to the effect ...

"so what if Solaris has great technologies like ZFS, DTrace, good multithreaded/multiprocessor ability, predictive self healing, package management with rollbacks, etc., but that is more good for the server and not that important for the desktop ..."

to try an indicate that OpenSolaris is less suited for the desktop.

What people should realise is that these "server-like" features are able to run admirably in desktop/workstation (Open)Solaris systems and has enormous benefit to developers like myself. The benefit is that nice operating system features exist to complement the user/developer/admin work. I now have an arsenal of great technologies/tools which allow me to easily approach the goal of developing good quality software code since the features of the technologies/tools allow me to interact with the software development/testing process in ways which were not possible in previous years (Linux/Windows); e.g. DTrace embedded in the programming tools so I can run "experiments" on my compiled/linked executables.
Any serious Solaris-based developer realises SunStudio, not gcc/etc., is the better way. The enhanced development environment offerred by OpenSolaris is a bonus for the user of OpenSolaris applications.

(Open)Solaris is a UNIX as it complies with the OpenGroup's UNIX accreditation. Linux is a UNIX clone, as it's "too-dynamic" development model does not allow it to satisfy a UNIX accreditation; it's too much of a moving target and unlike (Open)Solaris, less priority for maintaining backwards binary compatibility (ABI stuff). This is important because UNIX systems reflect a maturity in design of the underlying API's and subsystems. It's easy for Linux to run away and hap-hazardly support many themes since it has no mature/accredited framework that has to be maintained to ensure an accreditation is always applicable.

People might knock OpenSolaris for lagging Linux' hardware support but then again if hardware support was the dominant issue then we'd all be using Microsoft's products. At least the OpenSolaris harware support is getting better.

Also, it's very convenient for certain Linux supporters to forget that Linux (as well as other operating systems) have attempted to clone Solaris-related technologies (e.g. ZFS, DTrace) with limited success. Sun have a good set of competent Solaris engineers who kick started the opensourcing of Solaris and help maintain the innovation that is characteristic of the OpenSolaris community. OTOH, we have IBM who ditched the OS/2 operating system which had great potential and, like HP, has embraced Linux but still maintain their proprietary UNIX operating systems. Obviously, accredited UNIX systems offer users certain experiences that Linux does not, but the important issue is that Sun opensourced it's UNIX operating system while IBM and HP did not. I only stress this point since on one hand IBM/HP imply "Linux for the masses" and on the other hand they imply "Linux has issues and so some people need to stick with our closed/proprietary UNIX offering". At least with Sun, they are implying (Open)Solaris can be used everywhere. If x86 does not scale well for your needs, then SPARC (and even some mainframe tech) is there for your OpenSolaris needs.

Lastly, if you wonder about the potential of (Open)Solaris then take a look at pages like the OpenSolaris community pages at

The OpenSolaris community is coherent and adequately structured to enforce the ongoing evolution of (Open)Solaris.

I believe this aspect of OpenSolaris would scare many of OpenSolaris' "vocal" opponents. If it hasn't, then they should be scared.

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