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The illumos Family

Similar to other operating systems, there are many different OS distributions based on the common illumos kernel. Some of them are maintained by enthusiasts, others are primarily developed by commercial companies with their own priorities and target products (i.e. storage, virtualization, etc.) with different packaging systems (IPS, SVR4, DEB, RPM, etc). These projects contribute back to the common core set of software which the illumos project is about.

Active Distributions and projects built on the illumos kernel include (in alphabetical order):

  • DilOS from igork is an open-source illumos distribution with dpkg/apt. Can be using on VM and bare metal with text console and SSH logins as server with DPKG & IPKG & LX (ported from illumos-joyent tree) zones. Also can be using as dilos-xen34-dom0 with PV and HVM guests. SPARC ISO available too for servers with ssh access.
  • Dyson is a general-purpose operating system, a Debian derivative using the illumos kernel, libc, and SMF init system. 
  • napp-it is a project of a ZFS storage server appliance that can be installed atop OmniOS, OpenIndiana or Solaris 11 with a single-command online installer and a WEB-UI. Alternatively, napp-it ToGo is a preconfigured installable image.
  • NexentaStor - commercial distribution aimed at storage appliances. Sold by Nexenta Systems.
  • OmniOS (originally from OmniTI but now maintained by the OmniOS Community Edition Association) takes a minimalist approach to create a full illumos-derived operating system. It includes all of the benefits of illumos, such as zone and KVM virtualisation, but also adds Linux branded (lx) zones. It's targeted for server use.
  • OpenIndiana is a successor to and derived from the original Sun OpenSolaris reference distribution, and is suitable for use on Servers and Desktops.
  • SmartOS from Joyent is an open-source illumos distro designed for cloud computing. It includes a port of KVM, allowing other OSes such as Linux and Windows to run natively in SmartOS/illumos virtualized environments.

  • Tribblix from Peter Tribble uses SVR4 packaging with the Xfce and many other desktops, providing a retro feel with modern components. Suitable for both desktop and server use, a (more limited) SPARC version is also available.
  • v9os is a server-only, IPS-based minimal SPARC distribution.
  • XStreamOS is a distribution of the illumos kernel developed and maintained by Sonicle, featuring a customized text install, the ZFS fileystem, Crossbow network architecture, virtualization, zones, and a starting point to contribute and develop the illumos kernel.
  • Add your distro here!

Older / Legacy Distributions and projects built on the illumos kernel include (in alphabetical order):

  • Belenix – an old time distro, on which development has resumed again. Uses RPM. ( is down/dead as at Feb-4-2013)
  • EON Storage – an old time distro based on OpenSolaris SXCE, EON Storage since version 1.0 is now based on illumos/OI. It is an OS designed to make the best use of your Home/SOHO NAS server, enhancing it with ZFS, web-serving, media streaming, VM hosting, etc. Additional packages are available. A specific feature of this distribution is use of boot media separate from the storage pool for your data, so updates or repairs might be as simple as changing your USB/CF flash boot device (256 Mb or higher); customizations for your local deployment are quite possible. See also:
  • illumian – general purpose server OS using Debian packaging rather than IPS (similar to OpenIndiana but without GUI components or other desktop packages). Currently no KVM virtualization support (feature to be possibly added later).
  • OpenSXCE is a project on which Martin Bochnig (previously creator of MartUX distribution based on OpenSolaris SXCE) slaved away for many months, investing all his time and scarce monies. It is ultimately an up-to-date distribution in sync for SPARC and x86, and on SPARC it supports all sun4u and sun4v Workstations, Servers, Telcos from the 1995' Ultra-1 to everything that came to market before 2011. All gfx cards have binary redistributable driver support. The distribution comes with Caiman text-install and gui-install, on CD.iso, DVD.iso and USB (even on select SPARC models).

  • StormOS – originally a Desktop focused distribution based on Nexenta Core Platform 2.0 (NCP2) with thousands of packages backported from Ubuntu Jaunty and later Debian Sid.  Project was abandoned after rebasing on NCP4 and becoming unmaintainable. (Superseded by

Distro Comparison Table

NameCreated/maintained byPackaging SystemDefault UserlandRecommended UseNotes
Belenix rpm   
DilOSIgor Kozhukhovdpkg/aptGNUxen34-dom0, vmware guests, SPARC, etc. General purpose - servers with ssh access 
EON StorageAndre Lue  Home/SOHO NAS and all-in-one servers: storage appliances, media streamers, web-servers, VM hosters... 
illumianNexentadeb/aptGNUGeneral purpose - servers 
napp-it ToGonapp-itIPS Ready to use images for USB sticks on supported hardware with all napp-it add-ons and Web-UI preinstalled 
NexentaStorNexentadeb/aptGNUStorage appliances


OmniOSOmniOS Community AssociationIPS General purpose - serversWas originally maintained by OmniTI
OpenIndianaEveryCity/communityIPSGNU (Native optional)General purpose - servers and desktop 
OpenSXCEMartin BochnigSVR4 General purpose - SPARC and x86 servers and desktops 
SmartOSJoyentpkgsrcGNUCloud computing hypervisor, appliances 
StormOSAndrew Stormontdeb/apt

GNU (NCP2 based)
illumos (NCP4 based)

General purpose - desktop

Superseded by:
StormOS Next-portageNative (GNU optional)General purpose - developer focused 
TribblixPeter TribbleSVR4 Desktop, but will expand to server 
v9osAlexander EreminIPS General purpose - SPARC servers 
XStreamOSSonicleIPS General purpose