Sun hopes to persuade Linux users across to Solaris, by releasing binaries for its OpenSolaris Unix platform next spring, as part of Project Indiana.
The company wants to mimic the Linux distribution model as a way to grow the market for Solaris.
"Over the last five or 10 years, orders of magnitude more people in the world know the Linux environment than know Solaris. This is a problem," said Ian Murdock, Sun's chief OS strategist and a former CTO of the Linux Foundation.
Having already opened Solaris' source code in 2005 via the OpenSolaris project, Sun will expand its proselytising of the platform by releasing binaries. Project Indiana seeks to combine what Sun described as the best of Solaris - its enterprise-class capabilities, innovation, and backward compatibility - with the best of Linux - its distribution model, community, and its being free and open source.
"Even with open source, the binary platform is the key thing of value," said Murdock.
Pre-releases of Project Indiana are expected to start this fall. Also featured as part of the project will be short release cycles that will offer something downloadable every six months. Developers will get the latest Solaris innovations without having to build the Solaris code.
"The main goal of Indiana is to reorient Solaris around the distribution model," said Murdock.
With the project, Sun is moving to a two-tier development environment in which enterprise customers can get the commercial version of Solaris and developers can access the Indiana binary version.
Indiana was called "a good step" by analyst Tom Kucharvy, senior vice president at Ovum.
"By releasing Indiana as a binary, it has the potential of creating the foundation for a market for add-ons," which would be third-party extensions to the operating environment, Kucharvy said.