After Oracle effectively neutered the OpenSolaris project, many spin-offs of the public source code popped up, like oh-so-many mushrooms in a fallow field. Many short-lived derivatives have come and gone, and there have been some surprising changes in the ecosystem. I decided that it was time for a re-evaluation of the available variants.
It should be noted that the goal here is to compare these various OpenSolaris spin-offs against each other, not against other FOSS operating systems. As such, I focus primarily on the quantifiable traits that differentiate them. Things that they all have in common are omitted. Traits like the software packaging system in use are not quantitative, only qualitative, so that's not of interest here (though it is a serious consideration for usability). Similarly, capabilities relative to other operating system families like GNU/Linux, the BSDs, or Windows are outside the scope of this comparison.
In considering each variant, I looked at the following attributes:
- Download ease - could a download be quickly and readily obtained from the variant's main page?
- Version maintenance - has an official release been made within the last 365 days?
- Documentation availability - could installation and setup documentation be found easily from the download page?
- Documentation maintenance - does the available documentation cover up to the most recent official release?
- Boot capability - does the variant support EFI boot on x86-64 "out of the box"
- Disk label recognition - can the variant read GPT disk labels, at least in a non-boot capacity?
- VirtIO support as a KVM guest - VirtIO block devices, network devices, memory ballooning, CPU hotplugging, and serial devices are all considered
- Ability to act as a KVM host - pretty self-explanatory, all via the Joyent illumos-kvm project
|Name||TOTAL||Grade||Version Tested||Most significant perk||Most significant deficit|
|SmartOS||85%||B||3783||Cloud friendliness||No EFI boot|
|OpenSXCE||85%||B||2014.05||Hardware support||No EFI boot|
|OmniOS||85%||B||151012||Compat. with Oracle Solaris||No EFI boot|
|Oracle Solaris||65%||D||11.2||EFI boot support||No KVM support|
|DilOS||60%||D||1.3.7||Ease of migration from Linux||Lack of documentation|
|OpenIndiana||58%||F||151a||Compat. with Oracle Solaris||Outdated builds|
|Dyson||58%||F||1327||Ease of migration from Linux||Lack of documentation|
|illumian||58%||F||1||Ease of migration from Linux||Outdated builds|
|FreeBSD||88%||B||10.1||No KVM host support|
I've included the same criteria applied to Fedora 21 and FreeBSD 10.1 for reference only- their capabilities aren't intended to be a part of this analysis.
While there are a few stars shining out in this bunch, to somebody who remembers the "golden days" of the OpenSolaris project, I can only reach one conclusion: the FOSS Solaris movement has been fractured. The best contenders receive a "B" on the evaluation, and two of those three have significant backing from large IT companies. It seems that no single OpenSolaris-derived project has the community backing required to bring it to premier status, and I'm concerned that without such support, the only FOSS System V derivative may be quickly headed towards fork-and-die oblivion...