Exclusive Interview with Illumos Founder Garrett D’Amore

During the week, Unixmen exclusively interviewed Illumos Founder, Garrett D’Amore. Garrett has worked for the likes of Sun Microsystems and Nexenta. Upon the announcement of Oracle closing development of OpenSolaris, he founded the Illumos project which would become a continuation of the OpenSolaris kernel. We asked him to shed some light on what he thinks of the current situation with OpenIndiana, the open-source desktop project which would continue on from where OpenSolaris stopped so suddenly.

Unixmen would like to thank Garrett D’Amore for his time and expressing his open opinion about OpenIndiana.

Unixmen: When you first received word that Oracle was discontinuing development of OpenSolaris, what prompted you to found the Illumos project and become involved with OpenIndiana?

Garrett: I think you’re confused about Illumos vs. OpenIndiana. Unfortunately, many people have the same confusion, which is one of the problems I foresaw when the OI project was first described to me.

Alisdair Lumsden founded OpenIndiana. I founded “Illumos”, which occurred in advance of the OpenIndiana project. The Illumos project is just the kernel (and some supporting core software), much like kernel.org hosts the Linux project. OpenIndiana is to Illumos as Debian is to Linux. Without Illumos, there would be no OpenIndiana, but Illumos lives quite happily as the heart of many other projects besides Open Indiana, including a few commercial distributions, and several non-commercial alternatives.

Unixmen: When Alasdair founded OpenIndiana, what do you think was envisioned for the project?

Garrett: I think you’ll have to ask Alasdair, because he’d founded the project. From my understanding, the sole purpose of OpenIndiana was to carry on where Oracle left off, to be a free CentOS to Oracle’s Solaris.

In many respects this mission was flawed from the get go, and I gave the project my specific opinion to that effect. OI needed to attempt to be more than that, and needed to divorce itself from just being a free Solaris clone. Because ultimately, once Solaris went back to being closed source, it wasn’t viable to continue to maintain the level of equality and compatibility that was part of the OI mission statement.

Unixmen: Would you agree that OpenIndiana has some internal issues that need to be sorted before the project can move forward and in to a more positive direction?

Garrett: I think its mostly a question of whether OI serves a purpose, and deciding what that purpose is. Its no longer the case that the world needs OI as a delivery vehicle for Illumos technology.

Unixmen: What issues do you believe require immediate attention?

Garrett: OI needs to sort out the following:

a) What is its mission? What problem(s) are they trying to solve?

b) Equally important, what problems *aren’t* they trying to solve?

c) How can they get folks to start contributing again?

d) How can they get to a regular/predictable release schedule?

The first two questions need to be sorted before any others. Much of the debate and problems with the project came about because there was no clear vision for the project, and so lots of people came to it with different goals and ideas. Its not practical to try to be all things to all people, and the project lead, when there is one, has to be willing to accept that some folks are not going to like whatever direction is taken. That’s ok. The beauty of open source is that we can have multiple different projects, with different reasons to exist, and these projects can share code and collaborate without having to be competitive.

Unixmen: When the Project Leader, Alasdair Lumsden resigned, it was a big blow for the project because Alasdair was a well respected member of the project and upon his resignation he outlined his reasons for his resignation. And the issues raised by Alasdair still plague the project today. Do you see the project introducing or promoting a new Project Leader soon?

Garrett: It wouldn’t be my place to do. I have about as much control or influence over OI as Linus Torvalds does over Red Hat or Debian.

Unixmen: And finally, do you see any short-term and long-term plans for OpenIndiana?

Garrett: You’ll have to ask the project team. I think Andrzej Szeszo <aszeszo@gmail.com> has taken over most of the leadership, and spawned a new version of it called “hipster”, which I think is an attempt to modernize and move forward.