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Sun Microsystems Inc.’s plans for bringing its Solaris operating system to IBM’s Power architecture appear to be moving along.

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s president and chief operating officer, first broached the idea of porting the company’s version of the Unix operating system onto both Power and Intel Corp.’s 64-bit Itanium architecture last month during a conference call with analysts when announcing Sun’s fourth-quarter earnings.

When Schwartz mentioned it, Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy quickly said, ‘That was not a product announcement.”

However, in an entry into his Weblog posted Sunday, Schwartz said Sun is actively pursuing the Solaris-on-Power idea, and that a demo version is not far away. The mention came at the end of a lengthy entry on open technology, and the cost of qualifying one technology after porting it to a new platform.

“For example, as we continue porting Solaris onto IBM’s Power architecture (demo coming soon!), the real issue we have to grapple with isn’t the expense of moving our software over—it’s the expense of requalifying all our, and all our ISV’s infrastructure once the port is done,” Schwartz wrote. “We’re hopeful IBM will support us (there are certainly enough of their employees reading these blogs to suggest they’re paying attention)—and not close off choice and substitution to its customers.”

Schwartz did not elaborate, or indicate when that demo would be released.

Read eWEEK’s interview with Schwartz about Solaris.

A spokesman for Sun said the company is considering the idea of Solaris on Power, but that he was unsure how far along those plans are.

Officials with IBM, in Armonk, N.Y., declined to comment.

Charles King, an analyst with The Sageza Group Inc., said the move by Sun to port its operating system to other platforms carries its share of risks and benefits. It enables the company to expand the footprint of Solaris, but also could give competitors greater access to Sun’s customers.

“It would give Sun a way of going to IBM customers and clients with a cleaner migration path to SPARC/Solaris,” said King, in Union City, Calif. “It also could provide IBM an opportunity to go to Sun customers.”

Currently Solaris runs on systems powered by Sun’s SPARC processors and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron chips, as well as Fujitsu Ltd.’s PrimePower servers.

Sun has been pushing to grow its various businesses beyond the SPARC/Solaris architecture. In the volume systems space, Sun is rolling out servers powered by Opteron, which run Linux and Solaris x86. Late last month, Sun announced that its collection of server software, Java Enterprise System, will be available on Hewlett-Packard Co.’s HP-UX and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating systems starting in the first quarter of 2005.

Sun also has hinted at extending its Linux reach even further by possibly acquiring Novell Inc. and its SuSE Linux unit as a way of derailing IBM’s Linux strategy.

For more on a possible Sun-Novell deal, click here.

And like the latest Solaris-on-Power news, the Novell idea was put out there by Schwartz via his blog. It’s an interesting way of gauging reaction to ideas, said Sageza’s King.

“It’s a safe way of floating a trial balloon to see how the industry responds,” he said.

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