Say goodbye to OpenSolaris. A leaked internal memo from Oracle indicated that the company is quietly killing the open-source operating system, which was spun out of the Unix-based Solaris beginning in 2004.

Rumors of Oracle’s distaste for OpenSolaris had been circulating since Oracle completed its acquisition of Sun earlier this year. The leaked memo was attributed to Chris Armes, Bill Nesheim and Mike Shapiro, all of whom are on the Solaris team at Oracle. In the memo, the trio detailed plans for a new developer-focused free version of closed-source Solaris, and described plans to push OpenSolaris customers towards traditional Solaris.

And while the memo indicates that OpenSolaris is now dead, it goes on to state that traditional Solaris will be a heavy focus for Oracle. “We are increasing investment in Solaris, including hiring operating system expertise from throughout the industry, as a sign of our commitment to these goals. Solaris is not something we outsource to others, it is not the assembly of someone else’s technology, and it is not a sustaining-only product,” read the memo.

While the memo states that existing software in the Solaris stack that is licensed under Sun’s Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) or the Free Software Foundation’s Gnu General Public License will remain under those licenses, it also states that such software will always be updated after the mainline Solaris updates are released to enterprise customers, making the remaining open-source components of Solaris second-class citizens.

“We will distribute updates to approved CDDL or other open-source-licensed code following full releases of our enterprise Solaris operating system,” read the memo. “In this manner, new technology innovations will show up in our releases before anywhere else. We will no longer distribute source code for the entirety of the Solaris operating system in real time while it is developed, on a nightly basis.”

This may not mark the end of Oracle’s contributions to Solaris-related open-source projects, however. The memo states that Oracle will continue to contribute code to projects needed in Solaris, such as the Apache Web Server, GNOME, OpenSSL and Perl.

It seems that Oracle will replace OpenSolaris with a free-for-developers edition of Solaris 11. “We will have a Solaris 11 binary distribution, called Solaris 11 Express, that will have a free developer RTU license and an optional support plan,” read the memo. “Solaris 11 Express will debut by the end of this calendar year, and we will issue updates to it, leading to the full release of Solaris 11 in 2011.

“All of Oracle’s efforts on binary distributions of Solaris technology will be focused on Solaris 11. We will not release any other binary distributions, such as nightly or bi-weekly builds of Solaris binaries, or an OpenSolaris 2010.05 or later distribution. We will determine a simple, cost-effective means of getting enterprise users of prior OpenSolaris binary releases to migrate to S11 Express.”

The process of eliminating OpenSolaris from Oracle’s portfolio was, according to the memo, a lengthy one. “The term ‘OpenSolaris’ has been used colloquially to refer to any or all of a collection of source code, a development model, a website, a logo, a binary release, a source license, a community, and many other related things,” said the memo. “So it’s taken a while to go over each issue from an organizational and business perspective, and align on the correct next step.”

Anticipating the end of OpenSolaris, the independent Illumos project kicked off on Aug. 3. The project aims to build a completely open-source replacement for OpenSolaris based on the existing, already open portions of the operating system.

That project is being headed up by Garrett D’Amore, the senior director of engineering at Nexenta, an enterprise storage company. He said that the fundamental goal of the project is to give OpenSolaris users a choice rather than leaving the platform to wither on Oracle’s vines.

“We want the things we put in to Illumos to be usable by Oracle,” he said. “This is part of why we’re not a fork. We’re looking at a collaborative relationship with Oracle. It should be reasonable for somebody to integrate the Illumos code back into OpenSolaris, if Oracle so chooses.”

While D’Amore also said that he would like the project to involve Oracle and have the company’s blessing, he also stated that Oracle has yet to speak to the Illumos team. Oracle has not responded to requests from SD Times to discuss either Illumos or OpenSolaris.