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Short Summary: 

illumian is a binary "distribution" based on illumos that uses Debian-style package management tools.

Longer description:

illumian was started by  Nexenta Systems Inc. to fill some of their own needs, while collaborating as much as possible with the OpenIndiana project.

Nexenta and others want Debian-style package management tools for familiarity and compatibility with existing internal tools. While the package format is like Debian, this is not a Debian distribution, which would imply a specific set of packages and their versions. Instead, this distribution uses the same versions of externally maintained packages as the OpenIndiana project uses, most of which are maintained in the illumos-userland gate.

The initial collection of binary packages in illumian was designed to meet the immediate needs of illumian participants, including the need for a development environment for this distribution. The first release of the ilumian distribution includes only a minimal collection of packages, similar to what is installed using the OpenIndiana "text mode" installer. In its first release, illumian uses a very simple text-mode installer developed by Nexenta.

We hope that this distribution will attract a community, perhaps including many former users of the Nexenta Core Platform (NCP) distribution. We hope this new community will extend illumian to meet its needs, possibly including a full graphical user interface (GUI) environment, improved installer, etc.

Questions & Answers:

Q: What's the relation to the Nexenta Core Platform (NCP)? Is this still a "Debian user-space on top of an OpenSolaris kernel"?
A: No, this is not Debian. Nexenta hopes that most former NCP users will find illumian to be even more useful than NCP was. There were many limiations on how much Debian familiarity could be maintained in NCP. Our experience with NCP taught us that what we really need is a useful collection of externally maintained packages, in versions that all work together. It hurt more than it helped to try to keep that set of versions in "lock step" with particular Debian versions. It turned out to be much more practical to instead keep "in step" (version wise) with that set of packages maintained in the illumos-userland gate.

Q: Is there an upgrade path from NCP to illumian?
A: Sorry, it's a reinstall (at least for now). However, you can export your data pools on NCP and then import them on an illumian system

Q: What's the relation to the NexentaStor product?
A: NexentaStor is a commercial binary distribution built on top of the community-developed illumos and illumian projects.

Q: What's the relation to the StormOS project?
A: The maintainers of StormOS plan to build on top of illumian, enhancing its usefullness as a desktop operating system.

Q: Why not just use IPS packages?
A: Many users are familiar with the Debian-style package tools (apt, dpkg, ...) and like them. Nexenta has internal tools and procedures based on the Debian-style package tools that would be inconvenient to convert to IPS.

Q: How does collaboration with OpenIndiana work?
A: Several distributions already share the kernel and related platform software via the illumos project.
The illumos gate acts as the common "upstream" repository for these varied distribution builders. The illumos-userland gate similarly serves as the common "upstream" repository for the "build recipes" (etc.) used to build most of the externally maintained software for the above mentioned distributions. Both OpenIndiana and illumian have "child" gates used to develop work specific to each project in preparation for merging into the "upstream" illumos-userland gate.
Eventually, we hope that the (shared) illumos-userland gate will allow building its packages in either IPS or Debian format.

Q: Who else uses illumos-userland?
A: Most disributions that use illumos gate also use illumos-userland . Some known consumers are: OpenIndiana, NexentaStor

Q: Are there plans to add a GUI environment? (X windows?)
A: There are efforts underway in the community to satisfy this need. For more information, see StormOS

Q: Is Nexenta planning to offer a commercial version of illumian for desktop users?
A: No.

Q: Where can I get the current illumian distribution?
A: See the download link on the illumian web site.

Q: Where can I get the current sources and build instructions?
A: See the illumos-userland gate and the this wiki for more information.

Q: How can I contribute? (upload new packages to APT?)
A: See the "contribute" link on