The announcement to EOL Solaris Express Community Edition (SXCE) was telegraphed well in advance, and we're coming to the end of the road with only a handful of planned releases left to look forward to.
But, is this just the end of the road for SXCE, or is it something bigger that's at stake here?
Read the Sun marketing and you might believe this is a glorious new dawn for the Solaris/OpenSolaris world. The reality may be more like sailing off into the sunset and disappearing from view.
The fundamental difference between the old and the new is instalation and packaging, which have been ripped out wholesale and been incompatibly replaced. Even if the replacements had been perfect (and, quite frankly, they fall a huge distance short) this would have been a huge challenge. Organisations (and individuals) are under huge pressure to retrench and consolidate. Adding additional technologies that they're expected to support is an uphill battle. Adding brand new (and essentially untested) technologies that they're going to have to learn from scratch makes it doubly hard.
If the next version of Solaris had been based around SXCE, with traditional deployment technologies - traditional packaging and jumpstart - then customers would have been able to start rolling it out tomorrow. Everything a customer knew, all their existing investment in skills and tools, would be preserved. New customers would be able to leverage the skills and expertise of existing customers. All the great features and functionality present in OpenSolaris would be there to be taken advantage of.
Contrast that with the planned OpenSolaris transition. You have to retrain all your staff, replace your entire toolset, rebuild your entire systems deployment and administration infrastructure. Most environments are heterogeneous, so this means you now have an entire extra set of infrastructure to support - you aren't going to transition everything to the new scheme immediately, so you're going to have to shoulder the burden of supporting the extra scheme in parallel for years. Isn't the most likely course of action for a cash-strapped IT
department with a CIO breathing down their neck to simply reject that and migrate everything over to RHEL?
Solaris and OpenSolaris contain fantastic technologies that make them a great choice for IT departments - ZFS, Crossbow, CIFS support, zones (especially sparse root zones), Dtrace, and many more - but by making deployment such an unattractive proposition we're making it far less likely that customers will try or use these technologies, and are giving organizations and managers every excuse to ignore Solaris and OpenSolaris as an option.
The best thing Oracle could do for Solaris and OpenSolaris would be to scrap the OpenSolaris distribution (but not the rest of OpenSolaris) and redirect our energies into building a better Solaris based on SXCE. If not, then I fear that Solaris will ride off into the sunset and be consigned to the wastebasket of superior technologies that failed due to bad strategic decisions, and that's a prospect that truly saddens me.