Enterprise Unix Roundup: OpenSolaris, Farm Team or Big League?

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted May 7, 2008


Brian Proffitt
One of the pleasures of living in a major city is the ability to watch professional sports teams in action. I have been fortunate to live in or near two Indiana cities in that support professional baseball teams: the Indians in Indianapolis, and now the Silver Hawks in South Bend. Both teams have new, modern stadiums and season schedules that allow my family and I to enjoy games as often as we wish. Despite a long history and solid reviews, the jury seems out on OpenSolaris before it even gets going.

It should be clarified that neither of these teams are what we in America term "major league." Both are minor league organizations, with the Indians in a AAA minor league and the Silver Hawks in an A league. AAA is the league right below the majors, and A teams are accordingly less experienced. While my love for any baseball game is great, you can tell the difference. My 11 year old certainly can; I have had to instill the "everyone starts somewhere" notion with her just to get her to go to a Silver Hawks game.

My fixation on baseball this week was actually brought up when I watched the press hoopla forming around Monday's announcement of OpenSolaris' release during Sun's JavaOne Conference.

Enterprise Unix Roundup

First off, this is one snazzy looking piece of software. Everyone with whom I have talked who's played with it likes the operating system and believes it will be a powerful force in the enterprise. Many, however, don't feel it's ready for the "big" leagues yet.

Now, for the sake of this discussion, we're going to assert Unix is the major league for server operating systems, and Linux is one league below and coming up fast. I do not make this assertion on the quality of each individual server platform but rather based on the history and market penetration of the Unix flavors over the years. Many folks would argue the opposite, but let's assume that this is the case for the time being.

Why? Because this is the mentality of the media at large right now (and, of course, the Unix vendors). To make it big in the enterprise, a platform must be on par with the Unix operating systems, the current meme says. And — interestingly — in this world view, OpenSolaris is not in the majors.

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As evidence, I point to two telling things that happened (or didn't happen) this week. One was the constant comparisons of OpenSolaris to Linux. Not just any Linux, but Ubuntu. Now, I have nothing against the desktop or server versions of Canonical's popular distribution. But Solaris has been around a long time. Ubuntu Server Edition has not. Why this comparison? Why not with AIX (another System V flavor of Unix) or HP-UX?

Plus, if you had to compare and contrast with Linux, then why not Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, two commercial distributions often touted as heirs to the Unix throne?

It may be just a case of comparing something new to something newer. But OpenSolaris has a long and venerable history in Solaris; it's not really new. (Nor, for that matter, is Ubuntu — if you think about its Debian roots.)

Another piece of evidence is what didn't happen this week: I didn't see any requests for the commentary calls I usually get from competitors when someone makes a breakout product or move in the market. You know the kind of story: "We're glad Company X is doing Y. But here at Z, we've been doing Y for years."

The fact that no one asked to chime in with self-interested two cents makes me wonder if the other Unix vendors simply don't think of OpenSolaris as a threat. Even the Linux vendors haven't made any statements. And in case you think I've offended the vendor community and I'm no longer on their collective speed dial, I have not seen any such stories in other media outlets, either.

With all of this going on, I am wondering if the vendor and media crowd has already decided to send OpenSolaris into minor league status. If so, that would be a disservice to OpenSolaris team. Perhaps it should be given a chance before making blanket assumptions.

Brian Proffitt is managing editor of JupiterWeb's Linux/Open Source channel, which includes Linux Today, LinuxPlanet, and AllLinuxDevices.

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