Solaris 10: Sun Struts Its Stuff, Details New Opportunities

By Peter Galli  |  Print this article Print


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Calling Solaris 10 the "biggest thing Sun has done in the past nine years," executives say the company is getting back to its roots.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Sun executives took attendees for a trip down memory lane Monday as they unveiled the company's upcoming Solaris 10 operating system.

Speaking at Sun's quarterly Network Computing event here at the Tech Museum of Innovation, Sun's CEO and chairman Scott McNealy said Solaris 10 would be available in the first quarter of 2005.

"Solaris 10 is the biggest thing Sun has done in the past nine years, pretty much since our first SPARC hardware launch," McNealy said, quipping that he had turned 50 over the weekend, which was why he used notes rather than speaking from memory like other executives to take the stage, including John Loiacono, the senior vice president for software, and Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's president and chief operating officer.

"With Solaris 10, we are getting back to our core base, the developer base and the community around the operating system and the applications built on top of it. Our strategy has paid off big time, and over 23 years, there are not many companies who have been able to put as much cash in the piggybank as we have," McNealy said.

On the platform side, it was Microsoft .Net versus Java on the Web services front, McNealy said, adding that Sun had "gone 15 years cash flow-positive on an operating basis, and we don't have an unfunded pension scheme," he said.

Early on, Sun had taken a big bet on open interfaces, a move that was not popular with the financial analysts who supported customer lock-in. Sun was also the first company to offer an open operating environment with BSD, McNealy said, adding that the first computer the company ever shipped had TCP/IP and every computer since then has shipped with this.

Another big bet was on microelectronics, which was unique at the time given that IBM was doing mainframes. "We bet big-time on RISC and bet the whole company on this, and a lot of the cash we now have in the bank is because of that bet," he said, showing the Niagara chip, which uses less than 2 watts a thread and "will put some more dough in the bank."

Sun was also the No. 2 donor of code to the open-source community after Berkeley Labs. "People ask if open source will hurt us, but we have been sharing and cooperating with the community for a long, long time," he said.

Sun and Microsoft have a "surprisingly strong relationship," and next month Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates and Sun chief technology officer Greg Papadopoulos will be on an analyst call to discuss the ways the two companies are partnering, he said, adding that this would be of great interest to customers and analysts.

Indicating an evolution of the companies' interoperability work, the two vendors are focusing on linking their respective directory servers—Sun's Java Enterprise LDAP Directory and Microsoft's Active Directory—to provide single-sign-on capabilities for companies using both servers.

Turning to Java and the Java Community Process, McNealy said there are 20 billion-plus Java devices out there and not a single virus. Sun had been doing community development for a long time and felt it had to make a choice between security and open software, he said. Sun did not believe that customers had to make a choice, and Sun was indemnifying all of the open-source and community-generated code that was used in its products.

He also turned to the issue of intellectual property rights and the concerns around this, turning to the way the movie industry is now going after illegal downloads, much as the music industry has done. "Customers need to use a software provider with cash in the bank, who protects and indemnifies them and will look out for their interests," McNealy said.

Sun had also said five years ago that software would become free. Sun could live with that model as it had many ways to lower the barrier to entry for developers, McNealy said.

Next Page: Schwartz says increased performance is Solaris' major goal.

Schwartz then took the stage and also took a walk down memory lane. In an address titled "Solaris 10: Putting You 10 Steps Ahead," he said Solaris' major goal is increased performance. The fact that it had been dubbed Slowlaris by some made that issue abundantly clear, Schwartz said.

Sun would also guarantee the $80 billion in customer investments in Solaris: that all Solaris versions and applications will be compatible. One way of achieving this was using DTrace, which gives developers new diagnostic tools so they can zero in on performance issues and hard-to-find bugs. This allows problems to be diagnosed in minutes rather than in hours or days.

Don Fike, the technical director and chief technical architect at FedEx Corp., which has moved off Sun products in several key areas, took the stage and said performance and availability had improved over the past few years.

Fike also said he was pleased to be able to see early Solaris 10 code through the Software Express release, and its internal testing showed that it outperformed anything on Intel, AMD and SPARC hardware.

Schwartz said Solaris 10 contains 80 percent of the code and features of Trusted Solaris, with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense running both Solaris and Trusted Solaris.

Openness is all about choice, Schwarz said, calling on HP and IBM to follow the lead of Egenera, which on Monday announced that it would add support for Solaris 10 to the Egenera BladeFrame system (PDF form) in the second half of 2005.

The Egenera BladeFrame now will dynamically and automatically deploy and redeploy the Solaris, Linux and Microsoft Windows operating systems across servers in real time. Egenera also will resell both Solaris 10 running on the x86 platform and the Sun Java Enterprise System.

Sun soon will be announcing that Solaris is LSB-compliant, ensuring that all of the applications out there for Solaris could then be migrated across, Schwartz said, adding that Sun also has expanded its alliance with SAP.

Chris McClain, senior vice president and general manager of SAP America, took the stage to say that SAP will port the mySAP business suite and SAP NetWeaver to Solaris 10.

There have been 6.5 million cumulative shipments of Solaris since 1996, Schwartz said, before turning to the Linux Application Environment (formerly Project Janus), which allowed them to run Linux unmodified on Solaris.

Read more here about the Linux Application Environment.

In conclusion, Schwartz showed a graphic of two tombstones, which had RIP HP-UX and RIP AIX on them, referring to HP and IBM's Unix offerings. "Both these operating systems are dying, and they have nothing to replace them with. We are now letting them focus on cease-and-desist letters," Schwartz said.

For its part, Sun expressed confidence that its free binary, right-to-use binary for Solaris 10 would be well-adopted and would drive the adoption of the operating system as well as the ecosystem around it.

"Solaris is back," Schwartz said. "Sun is back, and what we showed you today is all about innovation."

Check out eWEEK.com's for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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