Solaris is a Unix operating system originally developed by Sun Microsystems. It superseded their earlier SunOS in 1993. Oracle Solaris, so named as of 2010, has been owned by Oracle Corporation since the Sun acquisition by Oracle in January 2010.
Solaris is known for its scalability, especially on SPARC systems, and for originating many innovative features such as DTrace, ZFS and Time Slider Solaris supports SPARC-based and x86-based workstations and servers from Oracle and other vendors, with efforts underway to port to additional platforms. Solaris is registered as compliant with the Single Unix Specification.
Historically, Solaris was developed as proprietary software. In June 2005, Sun Microsystems released most of the codebase under the CDDL license, and founded the OpenSolaris open source project. With OpenSolaris, Sun wanted to build a developer and user community around the software. After the acquisition of Sun Microsystems in January 2010, Oracle decided to discontinue the OpenSolaris distribution and the development model. In August 2010, Oracle discontinued providing public updates to the source code of the Solaris kernel, effectively turning Solaris 11 back into a closed source proprietary operating system. Following that, in 2011 the Solaris 11 kernel source code leaked to BitTorrent.However, through the Oracle Technology Network (OTN), industry partners can still gain access to the in-development Solaris source code.Source code for the open source components of Solaris 11 is available for download from Oracle.
In 1987, AT&T Corporation and Sun announced that they were collaborating on a project to merge the most popular Unix variants on the market at that time: BSD, System V, and Xenix. This became Unix System V Release 4 (SVR4).
On September 4, 1991, Sun announced that it would replace its existing BSD-derived Unix, SunOS 4, with one based on SVR4. This was identified internally as SunOS 5, but a new marketing name was introduced at the same time: Solaris 2. The justification for this new overbrand was that it encompassed not only SunOS, but also the OpenWindows graphical user interface and Open Network Computing (ONC) functionality.
Although SunOS 4.1.x micro releases were retroactively named Solaris 1 by Sun, the Solaris name is used almost exclusively to refer only to the releases based on SVR4-derived SunOS 5.0 and later.
For releases based on SunOS 5, the SunOS minor version is included in the Solaris release number. For example, Solaris 2.4 incorporates SunOS 5.4. After Solaris 2.6, the 2. was dropped from the release name, so Solaris 7 incorporates SunOS 5.7, and the latest release SunOS 5.11 forms the core of Solaris 11.3.
Although SunSoft stated in its initial Solaris 2 press release their intent to eventually support both SPARC and x86 systems, the first two Solaris 2 releases, 2.0 and 2.1, were SPARC-only. An x86 version of Solaris 2.1 was released in June 1993, about 6 months after the SPARC version, as a desktop and uniprocessor workgroup server operating system. It included the Wabi emulator to support Windows applications. At the time, Sun also offered the Interactive Unix system that it had acquired from Interactive Systems Corporation. In 1994, Sun released Solaris 2.4, supporting both SPARC and x86 systems from a unified source code base.
Solaris uses a common code base for the platforms it supports: SPARC and i86pc (which includes both x86 and x86-64).
Solaris has a reputation for being well-suited to symmetric multiprocessing, supporting a large number of CPUs. It has historically been tightly integrated with Sun’s SPARC hardware (including support for 64-bit SPARC applications since Solaris 7), with which it is marketed as a combined package. This has led to more reliable systems, but at a cost premium compared to commodity PC hardware. However, it has supported x86 systems since Solaris 2.1 and 64-bit x86 applications since Solaris 10, allowing Sun to capitalize on the availability of commodity 64-bit CPUs based on the x86-64 architecture. Sun has heavily marketed Solaris for use with both its own “x64” workstations and servers based on AMD Opteron and Intel Xeon processors, as well as x86 systems manufactured by companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. As of 2009, the following vendors support Solaris for their x86 server systems:
- Dell – will “test, certify, and optimize Solaris and OpenSolaris on its rack and blade servers and offer them as one of several choices in the overall Dell software menu”
- Hewlett-Packard– distributes and provides software technical support for Solaris on ProLiant server and blade systems
- Fujitsu Siemens
As of July 2010, Dell and HP certify and resell Oracle Solaris, Oracle Enterprise Linux and Oracle VM on their respective x86 platforms, and IBM stopped direct support for Solaris on x64 kit.
Solaris 2.5.1 included support for the PowerPC platform (PowerPC Reference Platform), but the port was canceled before the Solaris 2.6 release. In January 2006, a community of developers at Blastwave began work on a PowerPC port which they named Polaris.In October 2006, an OpenSolaris community project based on the Blastwave efforts and Sun Labs’ Project Pulsar, which re-integrated the relevant parts from Solaris 2.5.1 into OpenSolaris, announced its first official source code release.
A port of Solaris to the Intel Itanium architecture was announced in 1997 but never brought to market.
On November 28, 2007, IBM, Sun, and Sine Nomine Associates demonstrated a preview of OpenSolaris for System z running on an IBM System z mainframe under z/VM,called Sirius (in analogy to the Polaris project, and also due to the primary developer’s Australian nationality: HMS Sirius of 1786 was a ship of the First Fleet to Australia). On October 17, 2008, a prototype release of Sirius was made available and on November 19 the same year, IBM authorized the use of Sirius on System z Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processors.
Solaris also supports the Linux platform application binary interface (ABI), allowing Solaris to run native Linux binaries on x86 systems. This feature is called Solaris Containers for Linux Applications (SCLA), based on the branded zones functionality introduced in Solaris 10 8/07.
Installation and usage options
Solaris can be installed from various pre-packaged software groups, ranging from a minimalistic Reduced Network Support to a complete Entire Plus OEM. Installation of Solaris is not necessary for an individual to use the system. Additional software, like Apache, MySQL, etc. can be installed as well in a packaged form from sunfreewareand OpenCSW. Solaris can be installed from physical media or a network for use on a desktop or server, or be used without installing on a desktop or server.
olvwm with OpenWindows on Solaris
Early releases of Solaris used OpenWindows as the standard desktop environment. In Solaris 2.0 to 2.2, OpenWindows supported both NeWS and X applications, and provided backward compatibility for SunView applications from Sun’s older desktop environment. NeWS allowed applications to be built in an object-oriented way using PostScript, a common printing language released in 1982. The X Window System originated from MIT’s Project Athena in 1984 and allowed for the display of an application to be disconnected from the machine where the application was running, separated by a network connection. Sun’s original bundled SunView application suite was ported to X.
Sun later dropped support for legacy SunView applications and NeWS with OpenWindows 3.3, which shipped with Solaris 2.3, and switched to X11R5 with Display Postscript support. The graphical look and feel remained based upon OPEN LOOK. OpenWindows 3.6.2 was the last release under Solaris 8. The OPEN LOOK Window Manager (olwm) with other OPEN LOOK specific applications were dropped in Solaris 9, but support libraries were still bundled, providing long term binary backwards compatibility with existing applications. The OPEN LOOK Virtual Window Manager (olvwm) can still be downloaded for Solaris from sunfreeware and works on releases as recent as Solaris 10.
The Common Desktop Environment (CDE) was open sourced in August 2012. This screenshot is a build of CDE for Linux.
Sun and other Unix vendors created an industry alliance to standardize Unix desktops. As a member of the Common Open Software Environment (COSE) initiative, Sun helped co-develop the Common Desktop Environment (CDE). This was an initiative to create a standard Unix desktop environment. Each vendor contributed different components: Hewlett-Packard contributed the window manager, IBM provided the file manager, and Sun provided the e-mail and calendar facilities as well as drag-and-drop support (ToolTalk). This new desktop environment was based upon the Motif look and feel and the old OPEN LOOK desktop environment was considered legacy. CDE unified Unix desktops across multiple open system vendors. CDE was available as an unbundled add-on for Solaris 2.4 and 2.5, and was included in Solaris 2.6 through 10. In 2001, Sun issued a preview release of the open-source desktop environment GNOME 1.4, based on the GTK+ toolkit, for Solaris 8. Solaris 9 8/03 introduced GNOME 2.0 as an alternative to CDE. Solaris 10 includes Sun’s Java Desktop System (JDS), which is based on GNOME and comes with a large set of applications, including StarOffice, Sun’s office suite. Sun describes JDS as a “major component” of Solaris 10. The Java Desktop System is not included in Solaris 11 which instead ships with a stock version of GNOME. Likewise, CDE applications are no longer included in Solaris 11, but many libraries remain for binary backwards compatibility.
The open source desktop environments KDE and Xfce, along with numerous other window managers, also compile and run on recent versions of Solaris.
Sun was investing in a new desktop environment called Project Looking Glass since 2003. The project has been inactive since late 2006.
Traditional operating system license (1982 to 2004)
For versions up to 2005 (Solaris 9), Solaris was licensed under a license that permitted a customer to buy licenses in bulk, and install the software on any machine up to a maximum number. The key license grant was:
License to Use. Customer is granted a non-exclusive and non-transferable license (“License”) for the use of the accompanying binary software in machine-readable form, together with accompanying documentation (“Software”), by the number of users and the class of computer hardware for which the corresponding fee has been paid.
In addition, the license provided a “License to Develop” granting rights to create derivative works, restricted copying to only a single archival copy, disclaimer of warranties, and the like. The license varied only little through 2004.
Open source (2005 until March 2010)
From 2005–10, Sun began to release the source code for development builds of Solaris under the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) via the OpenSolaris project. This code was based on the work being done for the post-Solaris 10 release (code-named “Nevada”; eventually released as Oracle Solaris 11). As the project progressed, it grew to encompass most of the necessary code to compile an entire release, with a few exceptions.
Post-Oracle closed source (Solaris 10 after March 2010, and Solaris 11 (2011 and later))
When Sun was acquired by Oracle in 2010, the OpenSolaris project was discontinued after the board became unhappy with Oracle’s stance on the project. In March 2010, the previously freely available Solaris 10 was placed under a restrictive license that limited the use, modification and redistribution of the operating system. The license allowed the user to download the operating system free of charge, through the Oracle Technology Network, and use it for a 90-day trial period. After that trial period had expired the user would then have to purchase a support contract from Oracle to continue using the operating system.
With the release of Solaris 11 in 2011, the license terms changed again. The new license allows Solaris 10 and Solaris 11 to be downloaded free of charge from the Oracle Technology Network and used without a support contract indefinitely however the license only expressly permits the user to use Solaris as a development platform and expressly forbids commercial and “production” use. Educational use is permitted in some circumstances. From the OTN license:
If You are an educational institution vested with the power to confer official high school, associate, bachelor, master and/or doctorate degrees, or local equivalent, (“Degree(s)”), You may also use the Programs as part of Your educational curriculum for students enrolled in Your Degree program(s) solely as required for the conferral of such Degree (collectively “Educational Use”).
When Solaris is used without a support contract it can be upgraded to each new “point release”; however, a support contract is required for access to patches and updates that are released monthly.
Solaris logo introduced with Solaris 10 and used until Oracle’s acquisition of Sun
Notable features of Solaris include DTrace, Doors, Service Management Facility, Solaris Containers, Solaris Multiplexed I/O, Solaris Volume Manager, ZFS, and Solaris Trusted Extensions.
Updates to Solaris versions are periodically issued. In the past, these were named after the month and year of their release, such as “Solaris 10 1/13”; as of Solaris 11, sequential update numbers are appended to the release name with a period, such as “Oracle Solaris 11.3”.
In ascending order, the following versions of Solaris have been released: