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I am currently developing a Java EE Application which will presumably run on the Glassfish v2.1 Application Server and PostgreSQL 8.4.

As we are currently extremely short in manpower (just me), I am looking for production platform solutions that require as little maintenance as possible to achieve high reliability and availability. The solution should also be able to scale evolutionary in little steps without any earth shattering big bang. So it should be a homogeneous operating system landscape (i.e. only one OS). The chosen operating system should not be required to change for as long as possible. This is why there should be support available for a very long time and the operating system should also be able to run on high-end hardware shoud the need for more reliable hardware occur later on (i.e. Sparc or Power CPUs, etc).

I do have some minor linux skills - but only to be able to care for my developer box. So I would have to learn practically everything from scratch anyway and I do not have to become an all-round admin wizard - I just need the skills required to set up and maintain this specific appliance like self-hacked setup.

This is why I would like to choose Solaris as the operating system. As Solaris 10 is four years old now and Solaris 11 is rumoured to be released mid 2010 and the first release of our software is planned to be in spring 2010, Solaris 11 might be more interesting than Solaris 10: This way, I would not have to migrate anytime soon from 10 to 11 and can already make use of Solaris 11 features in any scripts and installation configurations.

Sun claims that the next Solaris version will be derived from OpenSolaris 2009.6 and 2010.2, so I could use OpenSolaris as long as Solaris 11 is not available, as OpenSolaris seems to be fairly mature and tested and our JEE Application is not that mature at that time period anyway.

The remaining question I have (and that Sun obviously will not and can not answer as it is a guessing game) is:

Do you think that Opensolaris 2009.6 and later also 2010.2 can be regarded as a fairly advanced Solaris 11 Beta version? So it is the same relationship as between Fedora Core 6 and RHEL 5? I.e. will practically all Opensolaris features also be included at the first Solaris 11 release? Or will all my scripts break when they are migrated from OpenSolaris 2010.2 to Solaris 11, as there will be Features in Opensolaris 2010.2 that are not included in Solaris 11, like ZFS encryption, etc?

I am planning to develop an OpenSolaris automated install system with an install server and the client being installed in a VirtualBox machine for testing purposes and later one and more dedicated servers in production use installed using this procedure. Do you guess that this setup will break with Solaris 11?

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3 Answers

Full disclaimer I'm currently working at Sun but I don't speak for them - all this info is freely available, but a bit difficult to find.

Solaris 10 while having been out a few years is now at update 7 - new features have gone into Solaris 10 from OpenSolaris and will almost certainly continue to do so, but at a slower pace than an OpenSolaris distribution.

The name OpenSolaris confusing refers to a few different things. There is the Solaris Express Community Edition (SXCE) - a binary distribution that comes out roughly every 2 weeks is created from the internal builds of a product called Nevada (aka Solaris 11). Shortly following the putbacks to Nevada/SXCE these then go back to the development build of OpenSolaris 2009.06 (aka Indiana) and that comes out every couple of weeks as well. If you want to run the latest and greatest bits you can do so by changing your OpenSolaris (indiana) repository.

The 2008.11 and 2009.06 6 monthly releases of OpenSolaris are almost entirely Open Source (nvidia graphics drivers being one of the notable exceptions) and are also supported, these are not BETA releases - you can buy a contract and will get any important fixes back ported to these releases through a paid for support repository. Security fixes will get back ported to OpenSolaris 2008.11 and 2009.06 (latest two releases) eventually and will be available without a contract to anybody.

Your choices are Solaris 10 update 7 or OpenSolaris 2009.06 the SXCE distribution has never been a supported OS and the only way to get fixes is to upgrade your entire OS. Personally I would recommend the 6 monthly releases of 2009.06 as a good starting point unless you have a need for very long term enterprise support (10+ years) for your environment. If your interested in scaling then it is worth noting that you can get OpenSolaris 2009.06 instances in Amazons EC2 cloud these days. All Sun Solaris distributions will run on most x86 and most SPARC hardware.

Check http://www.opensolaris.com/learn/faq/ if you haven't already.

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Keep in mind that the reliability, availability, and scalability of your application will have more to do with the application and infrastructure design than the platform you choose.

The ability to run on Sun big iron will certainly overcome some performance related issues if you're dealing with a really large application. But the ability to scale out to a cluster of x86 boxes may yield better availability and easier scaling.

One of the largest differences between Solaris and OpenSolaris is the package management system. I'm not sure what the plans are for Solaris 11 package management but I'm not sure you can count on any installation type stuff going from OpenSolaris to Solaris without a little work.

Developing for a platform that doesn't exist currently is always going to be a guessing game that has associated risks with it.

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If you are looking for the newest releases, you are probably better going with Solaris Express Community Edition (SXCE). This has a release every few weeks and is what OpenSolaris is based off. You can keep updating this as new releases come out and hopefully will get closer and closer to the actual Solaris 11 release. Obviously nobody can answer if it will break, or if some features will be dropped for Solaris 11, but this is probably the closest you will get.

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As someone's who's used SXCE nevada for a few years, Sun is clearly moving towards developing in OpenSolaris instead of SXCE then porting. As an example, GCC 4.3 is available in 2009.06 but not in any SXCE build. So a year or two ago I'd agree with SXCE, but for new installs OpenSolaris has a clear advantage now. As for the original question, I do think the Fedora/RHEL comparison is valid. Sun is pretty good about backporting features as well - Solaris 10 Update 7 has a lot more features than the original Solaris 10 release. –  TRS-80 Jul 4 '09 at 19:06
OpenSolaris 2000x.yy is planned to replace SXCE as Sun's development platform at some point in the future. OpenSolaris is redistributable, and Sun keep the old CD images and package repositories available -- by contrast, SXCE can't legally be distributed by anyone other than Sun, and as far as I'm aware, only the latest DVD image is available at any given time. Finally, you can get buy support for the OpenSolaris releases -- SXCE is completely unsupported. Personally, I'd steer clear of SXCE for anything approaching production, or even development work. –  Stephen Veiss Jul 4 '09 at 20:06
I'm a little confused by these statements do you have links to more information on this? Crossbow appeared in SXCE long before the 2009.06 release, and the OpenSolaris release was based on a nevada build. Opensolaris has a number of differences from Solaris 10/SXCE (Solaris 11 is anyone's guess), such as a different packaging system (which has showstopping issues that I have not seen addressed) that may be cause issues with application development. –  Mark Jul 5 '09 at 0:58
NB. Sun has now said that SXCE is being discontinued, in the end of October 2009 time-frame. opensolaris.org/jive/thread.jspa?threadID=109944&tstart=0 –  jrg Sep 1 '09 at 0:43
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