Solaris – What is the Appeal, Outside the Server Room?

So, I’ve recently been experimenting with and loving ZFS on FreeBSD and OS X.  Some of the initial instability (kernel panics) issues I was having with ZFS and OS X seem to have calmed down for the moment, and I’ve had zero problems on 64-bit FreeBSD.  32-bit FreeBSD has been mostly problem free after doing a little tuning to make sure that there was enough space for ZFS to grow during times of need.Recently I ran across this old thread about ZFS being ported to OS X, and it reminded me of how I feel about Solaris and related technologies that have been ported to other operating systems.I love ZFS, and I’ve liked DTrace in my recent experiments with it on OS X, which has lead me to play a bit with Solaris from whence these technologies come.  After all it has not only those technologies, but a bunch of other neat solutions like zones (including branded zones to run native Linux applications and the like), but I don’t see how I could love this operating system without more easily installable & buildable software available for it.  Sure there’s Blastwave and a few other repositories out there that have Solaris binaries, and Project Indiana is working on linux-izing Solaris to provide a nice command-line package manager and whatnot, but I don’t see how one could already love the operating system as an experimenting “power user.”  Sun, I’ve heard, does an excellent job on engineering solid server products (both software and hardware), but I can’t imagine going back to compiling everything from makefiles to get decent pieces of software on it.  It’s OK if everything you want to build doesn’t have terrible dependency trees and, say, has been tested on Solaris, but trying to figure out how to get something to compile that requires some modification to make it through this process is a waste of time, unless I’m going to be using a particular piece of software a lot, and already know that it’s essential from use on other platforms.Perhaps Indiana will change much of this, but I’m also wondering why it hasn’t happened already?  FreeBSD and the variety of other BSD operating systems out there are also somewhat acquired tastes in an operating system, but working with it is so much easier with the ports collection.  I can build and install pretty much whatever I want on it, and have a working desktop machine or a server box up and running without too much pain.  If I went over to Solaris, however, I know that I would end up spending time trying to get things like netatalk to compile, and figuring out how to get and compile relevant libraries because I don’t see it at any of the standard repositories.  If I were on linux or BSD, even if I ended up compiling from source, the package system would allow me to get the right compiler and libraries without any trouble.  I could also trust that what’s in ports or on an rpm or deb repository will be fairly recent.  When I sifted around looking for things on blastwave, not only was I unsure about whether things would run happily on something other than the somewhat long released Solaris 10 (the current OpenSolaris builds are called Nevada and I believe will be Solaris 11) , but quite a few things were more than a few versions old.I’m not blaming the Solaris community, or Blastwave or anyone for this, I think they’ve all done quite a bit of work to make available what is there, but I don’t think I’ll end up playing with it much until there’s at least a healthy set of packages or ports that don’t require too much messing around with to get running.  When that’s there, I’ll give it a go again.

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