OpenSolaris (/ˌpən səˈlɑːrɪs/[6]) is a discontinued, open source computer operating system based on Solaris created by Sun Microsystems. It was also the name of the project initiated by Sun to build a developer and user community around the software. After the acquisition of Sun Microsystems in 2010, Oracle decided to discontinue open development of the core software, and replaced the OpenSolaris distribution model with the proprietary Solaris Express.

OpenSolaris 2008.11
DeveloperSun Microsystems
Written inC
OS familyUnix (System V Release 4)
Working stateDiscontinued, continued by illumos[1][2][3]
Source modelOpen source
Initial releaseMay 5, 2008 (2008-05-05)
Latest release2009.06 / June 1, 2009 (2009-06-01)
Latest previewsnv_134 (build 134) x86/SPARC / March 8, 2010 (2010-03-08)
Available inMultilingual (more than 53)[4]
Update methodImage Packaging System
Package managerPackage Manager, pkg
PlatformsSPARC, IA-32, x86-64
Kernel typeMonolithic
UserlandGNU and traditional Solaris
Default user interfaceGNOME
LicenseMostly CDDL with proprietary components[5] and other licenses
Official (now redirects to closure page)

Prior to Oracle's moving of core development "behind closed doors", a group of former OpenSolaris developers decided to fork the core software under the name OpenIndiana. The OpenIndiana project, a part of the illumos Foundation, aims to continue the development and distribution of the OpenSolaris codebase.[7] Since then many more illumos distributions are available for use, continuing development in open or offering support.

OpenSolaris is a descendant of the UNIX System V Release 4 (SVR4) code base developed by Sun and AT&T in the late 1980s. It is the only version of the System V variant of UNIX available as open source.[8] OpenSolaris was developed as a combination of several software consolidations that were open sourced subsequent to Solaris 10. It includes a variety of free software, including popular desktop and server software.[9][10] On Friday, August 13, 2010, details started to emerge relating to the discontinuation of the OpenSolaris project and the pending release of a new closed-source, proprietary version of Solaris, Solaris 11.[11][12]


OpenSolaris was based on Solaris, which was originally released by Sun in 1991. Solaris is a version of UNIX System V Release 4 (SVR4), jointly developed by Sun and AT&T to merge features from several existing Unix systems. It was licensed by Sun from Novell to replace SunOS.[13]

Planning for OpenSolaris started in early 2004. A pilot program was formed in September 2004 with 18 non-Sun community members and ran for 9 months growing to 145 external participants.[14] Sun submitted the CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License) to the OSI, which approved it on January 14, 2005.

The first part of the Solaris code base to be open sourced was the Solaris Dynamic Tracing facility (commonly known as DTrace), a tool that aids in the analysis, debugging, and tuning of applications and systems. DTrace was released under the CDDL on January 25, 2005 on the newly launched website.[15] The bulk of the Solaris system code was released on June 14, 2005. There remains some system code that is not open sourced, and is available only as pre-compiled binary files.

To direct the newly fledged project, a Community Advisory Board was announced on April 4, 2005: two were elected by the pilot community, two were employees appointed by Sun, and one was appointed from the broader free software community by Sun. The members were Roy Fielding, Al Hopper, Rich Teer, Casper Dik, and Simon Phipps. On February 10, 2006 Sun approved The OpenSolaris Charter, which reestablished this body as the independent OpenSolaris Governing Board.[16] The task of creating a governance document or "constitution" for this organization was given to the OGB and three invited members: Stephen Hahn and Keith Wesolowski (developers in Sun's Solaris organization) and Ben Rockwood (a prominent OpenSolaris community member). The former next-generation Solaris OS version under development by Sun to eventually succeed Solaris 10 was codenamed 'Nevada', and was derived from what was the OpenSolaris codebase and this new code was then pulled into new OpenSolaris 'Nevada' snapshot builds. "While under Sun Microsystems' control, there were bi-weekly snapshots of Solaris Nevada (the codename for the next-generation Solaris OS to eventually succeed Solaris 10) and this new code was then pulled into new OpenSolaris preview snapshots available at The stable releases of OpenSolaris are based on these Nevada builds."[17]

Initially, Sun's Solaris Express program provided a distribution based on the OpenSolaris code in combination with software found only in Solaris releases.[18] The first independent distribution was released on June 17, 2005, and many others have emerged since.[19]

On March 19, 2007, Sun announced that it had hired Ian Murdock, founder of Debian, to head Project Indiana,[20] an effort to produce a complete OpenSolaris distribution, with GNOME and userland tools from GNU, plus a network-based package management system.[21] The new distribution was planned to refresh the user experience, and would become the successor to Solaris Express as the basis for future releases of Solaris.

On May 5, 2008, OpenSolaris 2008.05 was released in a format that could be booted as a Live CD or installed directly. It uses the GNOME desktop environment as the primary user interface. The later OpenSolaris 2008.11 release included a GUI for ZFS' snapshotting capabilities, known as Time Slider, that provides functionality similar to macOS's Time Machine.

In December 2008, Sun Microsystems and Toshiba America Information Systems announced plans to distribute Toshiba laptops pre-installed with OpenSolaris.[22][23] On April 1, 2009, the Tecra M10 and Portégé R600 came preinstalled with OpenSolaris 2008.11 release and several supplemental software packages.[24][25]

On June 1, 2009, OpenSolaris 2009.06 was released, with support for the SPARC platform.[26]

On January 6, 2010, it was announced that Solaris Express program would be closed while an OpenSolaris binary release was scheduled to be released March 26 of 2010.[27] The OpenSolaris 2010.03 release never appeared.

On August 13, 2010, Oracle was rumored to have discontinued the OpenSolaris binary distribution to focus on the Solaris Express binary distribution program. Source code would continue to be accepted from the community and Oracle source code would continue to be released into Open Source, but Oracle code releases would occur only after binary releases. Internal email was released by an OpenSolaris kernel developer but was unconfirmed by Oracle.[28]

There was a post confirming the leak posted to the OpenSolaris Forums on August 13, 2010. Upstream contributions will continue through a new Oracle web site, downstream source code publishing will continue, binary distribution will continue under the old Solaris Express model, but release of source code will occur after binary cuts, and binary cuts will become less frequent.[29]

On September 14, 2010, OpenIndiana was formally launched at the JISC Centre in London. While OpenIndiana is a fork in the technical sense, it is a continuation of OpenSolaris in spirit: the project intends to deliver a System V family operating system which is binary-compatible with the Oracle products Solaris 11 and Solaris 11 Express. However, rather than being based around the OS/Net consolidation like OpenSolaris was, OpenIndiana became a distribution based on illumos (the first release is still based around OS/Net). The project uses the same IPS package management system as OpenSolaris.[30]

On November 12, 2010, a final build of OpenSolaris (134b) was published by Oracle to the /release repository to serve as an upgrade path to Solaris 11 Express.

Oracle Solaris 11 Express 2010.11, a preview of Solaris 11 and the first release of the post-OpenSolaris distribution from Oracle, was released on November 15, 2010.[31]

Version history


Release model

OpenSolaris was offered as both development (unstable) and production (stable) releases.

  • Development releases were built from the latest OpenSolaris codebase (consolidations) and included newer technologies, security updates and bug fixes, and more applications, but may not have undergone extensive testing.
  • Production releases were branched from a snapshot of the development codebase (following a code freeze) and underwent a QA process that includes backporting security updates and bug fixes.

OpenSolaris can be installed from CD-ROM, USB drives, or over a network with the Automated Installer.[34] CD, USB, and network install images are made available for both types of releases.[35]


OpenSolaris uses a network-aware package management system called the Image Packaging System (also known as pkg(5)) to add, remove, and manage installed software and to update to newer releases.

Packages for development releases of OpenSolaris were published by Oracle typically every two weeks to the /dev repository.[36][37] Production releases use the /release repository[38] which does not receive updates until the next production release. Only Sun customers with paid support contracts have access to updates for production releases.[39]

Paid support for production releases which allows access to security updates and bug fixes was offered by Sun through the /support repository on


A hardware compatibility list (HCL) for OpenSolaris can be consulted when choosing hardware for OpenSolaris deployment.[40]

Extensive OpenSolaris administration, usage, and development documentation is available online,[41] including community-contributed information.[42]


Sun has released most of the Solaris source code under the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), which is based on the Mozilla Public License (MPL) version 1.1. The CDDL was approved as an open source license by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) in January 2005. Files licensed under the CDDL can be combined with files licensed under other licenses, whether open source or proprietary.[43]

During Sun's announcement of Java's release under the GNU General Public License (GPL), Jonathan Schwartz and Rich Green both hinted at the possibility of releasing Solaris under the GPL, with Green saying he was "certainly not" averse to relicensing under the GPL.[44] When Schwartz pressed him (jokingly), Green said Sun would "take a very close look at it." In January 2007, eWeek reported that anonymous sources at Sun had told them OpenSolaris would be dual-licensed under CDDL and GPLv3.[45] Green responded in his blog the next day that the article was incorrect, saying that although Sun is giving "very serious consideration" to such a dual-licensing arrangement, it would be subject to agreement by the rest of the OpenSolaris community.[46]


The first annual OpenSolaris Developer Conference (abbreviated as OSDevCon) was organized by the German Unix User Group (GUUG) and took place from February 27 to March 2, 2007 at the Freie Universität Berlin in Germany.[47] The 2008 OSDevCon was a joint effort of the GUUG and the Czech OpenSolaris User Group (CZOSUG) and look place June 25–27, 2008 in Prague, Czech Republic.[48] The 2009 OSDevCon look place October 27–30, 2009, in Dresden, Germany.[49]

In 2007, Sun Microsystems organized the first OpenSolaris Developer Summit, which was held on the weekend of October 13, 2007, at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the United States.[50] The 2008 OpenSolaris Developer Summit returned to UCSC on May 2–3, 2008, and took place immediately prior to the launch of Sun's new OpenSolaris distribution on May 5, 2008, at the CommunityOne conference in San Francisco, California.[51]

The first OpenSolaris Storage Summit was organized by Sun and held September 21, 2008, preceding the SNIA Storage Developer Conference (SDC), in Santa Clara, California.[52] The second OpenSolaris Storage Summit preceded the USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST) on February 23, 2009, in San Francisco, United States.[53]

On November 3, 2009, a Solaris/OpenSolaris Security Summit was held by Sun in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, Maryland, preceding the Large Installation System Administration Conference (LISA).[54]



Notable derivatives include:

  • illumos, a fully open source fork of the project, started in 2010 by a community of Sun OpenSolaris engineers and the NexentaOS support. Note that OpenSolaris was not 100% open source: Some drivers and some libraries were property of other companies that Sun (now Oracle) licensed and was not able to release.
  • OpenIndiana, a project under the illumos umbrella aiming "... to become the defacto OpenSolaris distribution installed on production servers where security and bug fixes are required free of charge."[30]
  • NexentaStor, optimized for storage workloads, based on Nexenta OS
  • OSDyson: illumos kernel with GNU userland and packages from Debian. Strives to become an official Debian port.
  • SmartOS: Virtualization centered derivative from Joyent.


  • Nexenta OS (discontinued October 31, 2012), first distribution based on Ubuntu userland with Solaris-derived kernel[61]

See also


  1. "/osol-discuss/ OpenSolaris cancelled, to be replaced with Solaris 11 Express". Archived from the original on 2010-08-16. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
  2. "/osol-discuss/ OpenSolaris cancelled, to be replaced with Solaris 11 Express". Archived from the original on 2012-01-05. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
  3. Garrett D'Amore (3 August 2010). "illumos - Hope and Light Springs Anew - Presented by Garrett D'Amore" (PDF). Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  4. Petr Hruška (April 6, 2010). "Language/Locale Coverage". OpenSolaris 2010.03 Test Plan. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  5. "OpenSolaris Binary Licensing FAQ". Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  6. Cf. analogously pronounced word "Polaris". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2016-01-20.
  7. "Welcome to Project OpenIndiana!". Project OpenIndiana. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  8. The BSD variant of UNIX, on which versions of Solaris prior to Solaris 2 (= SunOS 5) were based, has been open-source since June 1994.
  9. Jim Grisanzio (December 12, 2009). "OpenSolaris Consolidation Information". Archived from the original on July 29, 2012. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
  10. Jim Grisanzio (March 26, 2010). "What version of the Solaris Operating System is OpenSolaris?". Archived from the original on January 2, 2012. Retrieved 2010-04-22.
  11. "OpenSolaris is now officially dead. RIP". Retrieved 2010-08-13.
  12. "Site Decommissioned". Retrieved 2012-12-29.
  13. "SunSoft introduces first shrink-wrapped distributed computing solution: Solaris" (Press release). Sun Microsystems. September 4, 1991. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
  14. Jörg Schilling (March 24, 2010). "More ksh93 builtins". Retrieved 2010-04-12.
  15. Michael Singer (January 25, 2005). "Sun Cracks Open Solaris". Retrieved 2010-04-12.
  16. Simon Phipps (February 10, 2006). "OpenSolaris Independence Day". Sun Microsystems. Archived from the original on February 25, 2006. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  17. Larabel, Michael (2010-07-20). "It Looks Like Oracle Will Stand Behind OpenSolaris". Phoronix. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  18. Dan Price (June 21, 2006). "What's New in Solaris Express 6/05 (Nevada Build 15)". Sun Microsystems. Retrieved 2010-04-12.
  19. "Schillix's Homepage: Main / Announce". Jörg Schilling. April 22, 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-08.
  20. Simon Phipps (March 19, 2007). "Charting the Next 25 Years". Sun Microsystems. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  21. Timothy Prickett Morgan (August 2, 2007). "Q&A: Sun's Top Operating System Brass Talk OS Strategy". IT Jungle. Retrieved 2012-12-29.
  22. Tom Espiner (December 12, 2008). "OpenSolaris now on Toshiba laptops". ZDNet Australia.
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  26. "What's New In 2009.06". Sun Microsystems. June 2006. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  27. Derek Cicero (January 6, 2010). "Update on SXCE". Archived from the original on February 24, 2012.
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  29. Alasdair Lumsden (August 13, 2010). "Update on SXCE".
  30. Frequently Asked Questions] From the OpenIndiana Wiki, OpenIndiana, retrieved 2012-12-29
  31. Glynn Foster (November 15, 2010). "[osol-announce] Oracle Solaris 11 Express 2010.11 Releases Today!". Retrieved 2010-11-15.
  32. "End of Service Life Status for OpenSolaris Operating System". Sun Microsystems. Retrieved 2009-09-28.
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  34. OpenSolaris 2010.03 Automated Installer Guide, Sun Microsystems
  35. OpenSolaris distributions and development releases,[ ]
  36. OpenSolaris Development Release Packaging Repository
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