OpenSolaris follows Linux to the mainframe

Open-source Solaris makes its way to IBM's top-end server line--in prototype form for now.

IBM's T-Rex mainframe helped restore the high-end server line to relevance, as did its ability to run Linux. Next up: Solaris? IBM

Free-wheeling Linux was an improbable enough operating system to be used on IBM's mainframe line, but now an even more unlikely operating system is making an appearance there: Sun Microsystems' Solaris.

Sun and IBM have been archenemies for decades, but through the combination of open-source flexibility and something of a detente between the companies, the operating system has arrived. IBM expressed interest in collaborating with engineering firm Sine Nomine Associates, which has been working on a mainframe translation of OpenSolaris since Sun opened the source code in 2005. Now Sine Nomine is demonstrating the software on a System z mainframe.

David Boyes, Sine Nomine's president and chief technologist, described the project (code-named Sirius) for SearchDataCenter.com in a quintet of YouTube videos (first, second, third, fourth, and fifth) from a Gartner conference this week. The actual demonstration, including a pretty pokey boot process and not yet including network support, is in the fourth and fifth videos.

The OpenSolaris port is designed to use the same interface as Linux, Boyes said, meaning that software written for Linux on the mainframe should work on OpenSolaris, too. As with Linux, the operating system runs atop IBM's z/VM virtual-machine foundation rather than on the "bare metal," which eases issues of sharing hardware with other operating systems.

When the software is more mature, making a business case for using it will of course be another challenge entirely. But even absent that real-world relevance, the move does illustrate some success in Sun's ambition to spread Solaris more widely by making it open-source.

Sun's previous chief executive, Scott McNealy, jabbed competitors mercilessly, but his successor, Jonathan Schwartz, has taken a more diplomatic tone, signing Solaris partnerships with Dell and IBM, a chip-supply deal with Intel, and a Windows partnership with Microsoft.

(Via Mainframe Weblog.)

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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