[two_third_last]Linux and Solaris were once competitors, and Sun’s stubborn policy of sticking with its own operating system, rather than embracing an open source solution earlier, was the corner nail in its Oracle-shaped coffin. But Solaris was always brilliant in its own way, especially on Sun’s hardware. It was super-stable under high-load and it still has an enviable reputation of keeping cool under fire, even when your site is slashdotted. As Sun was at the time, it was the ‘dot’ in ‘.net’.
Like so much else at Sun. Solaris now belongs to Oracle, and this is the first major release of its operating system since the acquisition, and since the official closure of OpenSolaris. Rolling with the times, and its own interests. Oracle is trying to position this release of Solaris as a cloud operating system, both as a hosting solution and as something you might want to deploy, an instance, in the hope that enterprises will opt for its robustness in the face of some ropey performance reports on Linux running under stress. But it’s still an operating system full of free software, including the Gnome desktop and a native implementation of the ZFS file system, which puts it into the same category as BSD for Linux users – an interesting side project that could give Linux some great ideas.
Thanks to the cloud focus, you can grab the OS as a traditional text-based installer, a live CD for testing the desktop environment, but also as a virtual machine image for use with VirtualBox (a project also owned by Oracle). We tried both the installer and the virtual image, and while it’s not as easy as Ubuntu to get running, it’s nowhere near as difficult as Arch either. A few quick questions, some setup preferences in the virtual machine and you’ll find yourself at the desktop. This version also makes it much easier to deploy, thanks to a new automated installer for rapid installation within an office, or across the cloud, and this replaces the older Jumpstart utility. A migration assistant is also included, as is a Distribution Constructor that will help create customized and bootable images.
But back on the ground, the desktop is unashamedly Gnome 2.30.2, complete with old-school bottom and top panels and the Clear Desktop icon. It’s hard to imagine how Solaris might adapt itself to Gnome 3.x in the future, and we’d guess it just won’t. But there are some changes, most notably in the default theme, which features subtle pastel green and orange shades, hinting at Sun’s old livery, as well as the shiny chrome look that many Java applications used to default to. Despite the size of a default installation (3.3GB on our system), the desktop includes very few applications. This is a good thing if you’re going to use Solaris in your company, as you don’t want to remove unnecessary packages from a default installation. But the package manager could make things easier. With the default source, for example, you won’t find any office applications, and when you change the source to include all publishers (repositories, in Solaris-speak). things don’t improve. There’s neither OpenOffice.org nor LibreOffice. for instance, and while the reasoning might be political because Oracle dropped OpenOffice.org after the LibreOffice fork, the result isn’t going to help its customers.