Demise of OpenSolaris?

You may have heard some troubling news about the fate of OpenSolaris recently.  Based on some of the rumors floating around, you might think OpenSolaris is going away, never to be seen again.  Admittedly, OpenSolaris has never been an open source project in quite the same way that Linux has.  Sun launched the OpenSolaris project to help promote its commercialware Solaris product.  Sun seemed to do a decent job of managing the OpenSolaris project, but Sun is no longer in charge.  The project is now at the mercy of Oracle.

The OpenSolaris Governing Body (OGB) has struggled to get Oracle to continue to work with the OpenSolaris project.  Oracle’s silent treatment has gotten so bad that the OGB threatened to dissolve itself and return control of the OpenSolaris community to Oracle on August 23 if Oracle did not appoint a liaison to the community by August 16, 2010.  It is pretty safe to assume that Oracle, clearly a for profit company, would benefit more from allowing the OGB to dissolve.  That would give Oracle the option to do what ever they wanted with OpenSolaris, including simply killing the project.

At this point, two possible outcomes seem the most likely.  One possible outcome is that Oracle will continue to offer OpenSolaris but will tighten its grip over the direction of the project.  Perhaps Oracle would use the opportunity to make some technical changes within OpenSolaris to limit the scope of the product so as not to compete directly with commercialware offerings.

The other outcome is that a fork will occur in the project, possibly resulting in several different projects.  Regardless of Oracle, OpenSolaris appears to be living on through the Illumos project located at - There hasn't been much activity yet in the Illumos project, but it's only been announced for a few weeks.  We will be closely monitoring this to see if it will be a suitable replacement for OpenSolaris.  Illumos was initiated by Nexenta employees in collaboration with OpenSolaris community members and volunteers. While Nexenta does sponsor some of the work, Illumos is independent of Nexenta. Illumos aims to be a common base for multiple community distributions. It is run by the community on a system of meritocracy.  Distributions like Nexenta, Belenix and Schillix will move to using Illumos as the base for their distributions, and other distributions have shown interest as well.

Personally, I don’t think the situation is as dire as some people suggest.  Oracle now owns MySQL as well as OpenSolaris, yet millions of us continue to use these products.  If Oracle does over exert control to the point that it chokes off these open source products, then we can always resort to forking the code and getting behind the new open source projects.

As far as using OpenSolaris, I don’t see Oracle’s ownership as a reason to give up on using OpenSolaris.  If you are considering deploying a ZFS based SAN using OpenSolaris or Nexenta, don’t let all of this talk about the OGB and Oracle scare you off. 

A final note on the possible demise of OpenSolaris is that OpenSolaris may now be officially dead.  According to an internal Oracle announcement that was posted into some mailing lists, Oracle is killing off OpenSolaris and replacing it with Solaris 11 Express.  Additionally, Oracle claims they will continue to release open source snapshots of Solaris after each major release instead of releasing nightly builds, but that does not sound like a typical open source project. 

Benchmark Results Shortcomings of OpenSolaris


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  • diamondsw2 - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    You're not doing your readers any favors by conflating the terms NAS and SAN. NAS devices (such as what you've described here) are Network Attached Storage, accessed over Ethernet, and usually via fileshares (NFS, CIFS, even AFP) with file-level access. SAN is Storage Area Network, nearly always implemented with Fibre Channel, and offers block-level access. About the only gray area is that iSCSI allows block-level access to a NAS, but that doesn't magically turn it into a SAN with a storage fabric.

    Honestly, given the problems I've seen with NAS devices and the burden a well-designed one will put on a switch backplane, I just don't see the point for anything outside the smallest installations where the storage is tied to a handful of servers. By the time you have a NAS set up *well* you're inevitably going to start taxing your switches, which leads to setting up dedicated storage switches, which means... you might as well have set up a real SAN with 8Gbps fibre channel and been done with it.

    NAS is great for home use - no special hardware and cabling, and options as cheap as you want to go - but it's a pretty poor way to handle centralized storage in the datacenter.
  • cdillon - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    The terms NAS and SAN have become rightfully mixed, because modern storage appliances can do the jobs of both. Add some FC HBAs to the above ZFS storage system and create some FC Targets using Comstar in OpenSolaris or Nexenta and guess what? You've got a "SAN" box. Nexenta can even do active/active failover and everything else that makes it worthy of being called a true "Enterprise SAN" solution.

    I like our FC SAN here, but holy cow is it expensive, and its not getting any cheaper as time goes on. I foresee iSCSI via plain 10G Ethernet and also FCoE (which is 10G Ethernet + FC sharing the same physical HBA and data link) completely taking over the Fibre Channel market within the next decade, which will only serve to completely erase the line between "NAS" and "SAN".
  • mbreitba - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    The systems as configured in this article are block level storage devices accessed over a gigabit network using iSCSI. I would strongly consider that a SAN device over a NAS device. Also, the storage network is segregated onto a separate network already, isolated from the primary network.

    We also backed this device with 20Gbps InfiniBand, but had issues getting the IB network stable, so we did not include it in the article.
  • Maveric007 - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    I find iscsi is closer to a NAS then a SAN to be honest. The performance difference between iscsi and san are much further away then iscsi and nas. Reply
  • Mattbreitbach - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    iSCSI is block based storage, NAS is file based. The transport used is irrelevent. We could use iSCSI over 10GbE, or over InfiniBand, which would increase the performance significantly, and probably exceed what is available on the most expensive 8Gb FC available. Reply
  • mino - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    You are confusing the NAS vs. SAN terminology with the interconnects terminology and vice versa.

    SAN, NAS, DAS ... are abstract methods how a data client accesses the stored data.
    --Network Attached Storage (NAS), per definition, is an file/entity-based data storage solution.
    - - - It is _usually_but_not_necessarily_ connected to a general-purpose data network
    --Storage Area Network(SAN), per definition, is a block-access-based data storage solution.
    - - - It is _usually_but_not_necessarily_THE_ dedicated data network.

    Ethernet, FC, Infiniband, ... are physical data conduits, they are the ones who define in which PERFORMANCE class a solution belongs

    iSCSI, SAS, FC, NFS, CIFS ... are logical conduits, they are the ones who define in which FEATURE CLASS a solution belongs

    Today, most storage appliances allow for multiple ways to access the data, many of the simultaneously.

    Therefore, presently:

    Calling a storage appliance, of whatever type, a "SAN" is pure jargon.
    - It has nothing to do with the device "being" a SAN per se
    Calling an appliance, of whatever type, a "NAS" means it is/will be used in the NAS role.
    - It has nothing to do with the device "being" a NAS per se.
  • mkruer - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    I think there needs to be a new term called SANNAS or snaz short for snazzy. Reply
  • mmrezaie - Wednesday, October 6, 2010 - link

    Thanks, I learned a lot. Reply
  • signal-lost - Friday, October 8, 2010 - link

    Depends on the hardware sir.

    My iSCSI Datacore SAN, pushes 20k iops for the same reason that their ZFS does it (Ram cacheing).

    Fibre Channel SANs will always outperform iSCSI run over crappy switching.
    Currently Fibre Channel maxes out at 8Gbps in most arrays. Even with MPIO, your better off with an iSCSI system and 10/40Gbps Ethernet if you do it right. Much cheaper, and you don't have to learn an entire new networking model (Fibre Channel or Infiniband).
  • MGSsancho - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    while technically a SAN you can easily make it a NAS with a simple zfs set sharesmb=on as I am sure you are aware. Reply

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