Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Senior executives from Sun Microsystems Inc. will take the stage Monday at the company’s last quarterly Network Computing event at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Calif., to finally unveil the Solaris 10 operating system, which is scheduled to ship by the end of January 2005.

Solaris 10, which Sun officials say reflects 3,000 engineering years and an investment of more than $500 million in research and development, contains more than 600 new features. Sun also plans to make Solaris 10 available for SPARC, x86, AMD64 and EM64T systems as a free download by Jan. 31, 2005.

Sun also on Monday will announce a new services-led business model with a complete set of service and support models to expedite and ease user transition to the new Solaris 10 operating system.

The operating system itself will be offered for free, alongside a new, flexible subscription-based offering and set of support, migration and education services.

John Loiacono, Sun’s executive vice president of software, told eWEEK the new model will cost between 30 percent and 50 percent less than the leading Linux distribution, but he declined to give specific figures before Monday’s event.

Customers will be able to choose from standard or comprehensive premium offerings, which range from lower-level subscriptions that provide just software updates and upgrades to higher-level subscriptions that provide increased levels of support and services to the highest-level subscriptions that provide the most comprehensive level of support available for the most demanding business operation, Loiacono said.

“Solaris 10 is a vendor-neutral operating system that runs on more than 270 different hardware systems from vendors as diverse as Dell, Fujitsu, IBM and HP,” he said, adding that Solaris 10 was designed for modern datacenter workloads and is the fastest operating system ever released by Sun—more than 40 percent faster in Web server performance on both SPARC and x86.

Among the key new features are 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, Loiacono said.

Also new are the Solaris Containers, multiple software partitions with more than 8,000 containers on one instance of the operating system. Resources can be automatically reallocated, achieving up to 80 percent system utilization.

Next Page: The latest on Project Janus.

Also new is the Linux Application Environment, code-named Project Janus, which lets Solaris 10 and native Linux binaries run side by side with no modifications.

Read more here about Janus and its delays.

The new 128-bit Solaris ZFS file system has 16 billion billion times more capacity than current 64-bit file systems, he said.

But Sun’s Loiacono told eWEEK that when the first production version of the new Solaris 10 operating system ships, it will likely not include the new 128-bit Solaris ZFS file system or the Linux Application Environment (Janus) technology that allows Linux binaries to run natively on Solaris.

Click here to read about Sun’s delay of some Solaris pieces.

“The ZFS file system, which automates many common tasks for system administrators, may not make it until the first update after Solaris 10 ships, which should be within two quarters of that initial ship date,” Loiacono said last week.

“This revolutionary new file system required a lot of work and we had to make sure it could meet the quality standards we set for Solaris in general, and so we decided we would pull it if necessary.”

Longtime Solaris users such as Thomas Nau, head of the Communication and Information Center’s infrastructure department at the University of Ulm, Germany, say they would have liked to see ZFS in the initial release because it is the only bundled file system that really supports file systems larger than 1TB without introducing other limitations. “We require ZFS to handle our large file systems more easily as we are approaching a number of limits,” he said

James Dobson, a systems architect at Dartmouth College, of Hanover, N.H., said he is interested in Janus since the college uses Solaris, mostly on Sun SPARC hardware, with more on x86 and x86-64 hardware expected in the future.

“My vendors ship i386/Linux binaries—more specifically, Red Hat Enterprise Server/Advanced Server. I run these on Fedora and other free Linux distributions. I would like to run these on Solaris if possible,” Dobson said.

But he said an important question that must be answered is why Sun is doing this. “Is it a transition tool? A porting tool? A real tool for production use? I think we would all prefer to run native applications,” Dobson said.

“If Sun is not able to get ISVs to port to Solaris x86, then Janus becomes critical for the success of their platform. Thought is required as to why they are doing this so it can meet the needs of customers,” he said.

“It should, for example, allow me to run graphical applications—interactive, like Mathworks Matlab. Some plans I’ve heard suggest it will be run in virtual machine, in a Linux “zone,” which may not let me use Janus on the workstation.”

Check out’s for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.