Sun Readies New Solaris Push, Snipes at Linux

By Peter Galli  |  Print this article Print


Desktop-as-a-Service Designed for Any Cloud ? Nutanix Frame

Sun offers new details on its open-source strategy. Officials say its forthcoming Solaris 10 will be cheaper than comparable Linux solutions.

Sun Microsystems Inc. officials on Tuesday offered new details on its open-source strategy. The company said publicly what most industry players understood for a long time: Sun's top priority is supporting its Solaris operating system rather than Linux.

At a briefing in San Francisco ahead of this month's launch of Solaris 10, John Fanelli, the senior director of marketing for Sun's network systems group, told reporters that Sun's upcoming Solaris 10 would be cheaper than, say, a Red Hat Inc. Linux solution.

"It is not that we're trying to undercut Linux, and we ship and support Red Hat on our systems, but we are going to do everything we can to provide the most compelling Solaris environment," Fanelli said. "Solaris is our top priority, as is satisfying customer demand. But in those areas where Solaris doesn't meet that demand, we have and support Linux."

Click here to read about eWEEK Labs' early testing of Solaris 10.

Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., is also preparing to deliver its new compatibility technology known as Project Janus, which will allow users to run Linux binaries natively on Solaris. On the operating-system level, Janus will operate as an optional kernel service of Solaris, the company said at the summer Linuxworld introduction of the technology.

However, Glenn Weinberg, vice president of Sun's operating platforms group, said that one of the problems with this was that many Linux binaries had dependencies built in for the environment on which they were meant to run.

"So, initially, we are focused on being able to run Red Hat binaries and will over time add more binaries as well," Weinberg said. While the Janus technology probably would not be built into the first shipping version of Solaris 10, it would most likely be included in the first update for Solaris 10.

"We currently guarantee binary compatibility between the different versions of Solaris, and are certainly looking at providing the same for Red Hat [Linux]. But we are not ready to guarantee that as yet," he said.

"If we decide to do this, we expect [the guarantee of binary compatibility] to be available at the same time as Janus. Because there is no single binary standard that you can certify an application against in Linux, as long as that is the case, there can be no guarantees about application compatibility, Weinberg said.

To read more about Project Janus, click here.

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun president and COO, who popped in for a 10-minute stint, said he believed an Open Solaris would be a leveling force for the open-source operating system market place and would allow the developers and users to compare Open Solaris with Red Hat Linux.

"But our licensing model will be more flexible and generous. There has always been a political overhang that says if you are not open source, you are not comparable. So we are now removing that obstacle," he said.

Read more here about the sometimes combative Sun-Red Hat relationship.

But Sun's goal with Open Solaris was not to undercut Linux, but rather to "ensure that we provide a competitor to Red Hat, because Red Hat is not Linux, despite the way they behave," Schwartz said.

Sun also expected there to be a "zero delta" between its supported Open Solaris distribution and the one made available to the open source community. "Everything that we build in Solaris will be open sourced by us and we will be supporting it," he said.

Sun was also engaged in a spirited debate with the open-source community, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) about how best to build a high value relationship with them.

"Many in the open-source community are feeling marginalized at this point, and so we are having a robust discussion with them. We want to do the right thing for the community and our stockholders," Schwartz said.

Schwartz also seemingly contradicted what he and other Sun executives have repeatedly said about the lack of suitability of using a GNU General Public License (GPL) for Open Solaris. "We have not ruled out the GPL in the least, and the odds are as good for such a license as for any other type of license," Schwartz said.

Click here to read about open-source licenses.

But Weinberg pointed out that while Sun's intent with Solaris is to open up as much of the code as it could, it did not own all the intellectual property rights to Solaris and, as such, could not open those.

"But the new features in Solaris 10 like Dtrace, predictive self-healing and performance enhancements will not be held back. The code that will is mostly in the device space, where we have code from third parties and haven't been able to get the rights to it or they don't want us to share this," he said.

Stephen Borcich, the vice president of Sun's partner and industry marketing group, said the company would, over the next two weeks to the upcoming event, announce new partners and key ISVs that have adopted Solaris 10.

One of these announcements would be that it has partnered with Topspin Communications Inc. to deliver grid computing solutions for Solaris 10.

"We have 1,100 partners that have driven and adopted technologies around Solaris and many of these are in the proofing stage for Solaris 10. We have also changed the way we compensate our sales force," Borcich said.

Read more here about Sun's grid plans.

"There are now no restrictions and they are not tied to just selling Sun hardware. This was done to drive platform independence. Our Opteron systems are all now certified for Solaris 10, Linux and Windows support. "There is a big ecosystem drive for us and around our partners for Solaris 10," he added.

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.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...