Enterprise Unix Roundup: Will Sun Rise With Solaris 10?

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Nov 18, 2004

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Fresh off the coming-out party for Solaris 10, we look at what Sun is shooting for when its long-awaited operating system hits the street in early 2005. Red Hat and Novell 'support' a reborn United Linux. DNS conflicts got you down? Debug with dnstrace.

Well, it's here.

After a year-long procession of pre-announcements, announcements of intent, coy threats of tears in the fabric of space, time, and enterprise IT as we know it, Solaris 10 has arrived.

Mostly, seeing as how it won't really be shipping until early 2005.

Sun announced the launch of the latest version of its flagship operating system on Monday, introducing it to the world as a combination of improved technology and licensing meant to establish Solaris as the preeminent enterprise Unix in both the high-end RISC market and the low-end x86 market.

The technical improvements are easy to quantify: Sun has been releasing bits and pieces of Solaris 10 over the course of the past year, whetting appetites and earning approving nods from prospective Solaris 10 admins.

In terms of simple enhancements, Solaris 10 is a melange of new features (N1 Grid Containers, the new high capacity ZFS filesystem, and a promised Linux compatibility layer) and components cannibalized from its Trusted Solaris product as well as enhanced tools (the well-regarded DTrace diagnostic software) that make Solaris 10 a promising product all on its own.

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The release also marks Sun's attempt to relaunch in the x86 market. Solaris x86 was widely regarded as an afterthought — a product pushed out while Sun spent its time daydreaming about the return of big IT budgets and an attendant move away from the commodity servers that characterized both the rampant growth of the Web and The New Frugality that accompanied The Bust. While Solaris x86 provided eloquent comment on Sun's opinions about low-end servers, Linux (and its open source cousins in the BSD family) grew. A key talking point with the new release is the fact that Sun regards both its SPARC and x86 releases as equals this time around.

In many ways, though, Solaris is launching into a Unix market that is becoming less and less differentiated, and with a growing sense (pushed hard by IBM and HP) that the operating system isn't so important. Though Sun executives have publicly argued to the contrary, Sun's Solaris 10 launch shows that it's at least attuned to that sentiment: Licensing has received a lot of attention this time around.

Solaris 10's licensing is remarkably similar to that offered by Red Hat: It plans to release Solaris under an open source license to be determined and make the operating system freely available. Interested parties will be welcomed in to poke around and contribute to the OS's development under some sort of Sun-guided community process. Companies interested in using the OS as a free, unsupported glue OS (in much the same way Linux has found its way into organizations as simple duct-tape in the infrastructure) will be able to do so. Once support needs start coming into the picture, the costs will ratchet up as updates and patches are added to the equation.

Sun says the end result will be an operating system with better legs in the grassroots server closet crowd, with cost benefits that outstrip Red Hat to lure in the people in the executive suite.

Much of this is well-covered territory. We've been watching Solaris 10 arrive for a year now. The question now is just how much good it will all do Sun. We'll get back to you on that.

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