Illumos spork of OpenSolaris ends its development

A decade-long open source alternative to OpenSolaris will now halt development of the freeware for Sparc systems. The Illumos “spork” — neither spoon or fork — takes the core OpenSolaris kernel and foundation and creates a repository and development community around it. The core includes the kernel, C libraries, shell and shell utilities, file systems, and networking functions of OpenSolaris.

The software might have had a longer future, but the development team looks askance at existing Sun hardware. One interesting element of the decision to drop the alternative’s development? There’s only a staggeringly-high cost pool of Sparc hardware, according to Illumos team member Joshua M Clulow.

In the decade since the launch of the Illumos project, “the size and quality of the pool of second hand systems available through eBay and other vendors has dwindled,” Clulow said in a ReadMe file at GitHub. “Prices have risen to match. Desktop systems in particular are popular for collectors, and are thus now staggeringly expensive, if you can find them at all.”

The commentary appears to be unaware of Charon Sparc emulation systems from Stromasys. Instead, the Illumos note centers on the deep-dive requirements for putting an OS onto newer hardware by rewriting the OS. The same approach is churning through five solid years of development at VMS Systems Inc. for OpenVMS 9.

Such an effort, says a report in the IT website The Register, “requires an awful lot of work. And even then the results would not be great.”

Clulow wrote in his post to GitHub, “In theory one might emulate SPARC systems with QEMU, but reports in the field suggest that this does not work well enough to run modern illumos. Even if it did, it may take a very long time – e.g., weeks! – to build the operating system under full emulation.”

QEMU is another open source project staffed by volunteers. The QEMU 6.0.0 release contains more than 3,300 commits from 268 authors. Mailing list and IRC chats make up the support resources.

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