Sun Chided Over x86 Decision

By Michael Singer (Send Email)
Posted Sep 9, 2002


A battle is brewing between Sun Microsystems and some of its longtime customers. A battle is brewing between Sun and some of its longtime customers. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based networking giant's decision not to support Intel's x86 architecture in its Solaris 9 server operating environment is being met with criticism from a group of loyalists under the banner of 'Save-Solaris-x86.ORG.'

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based networking giant's January decision not to support Intel's x86 architecture in its Solaris 9 server operating environment is being met with criticism from a group of loyalists under the banner of "Save-Solaris-x86.ORG."

The debate erupted Wednesday after the group sent off a missive Scott McNealy blasting the CEO and the company for what it calls a "broken promise and a betrayal."

"For your long-time customers (hardware and software), it is disconcerting that Sun would discontinue any product without following its traditional procedure of giving at least one version notice in an official end-of-life notice," the group vented in its letter to Sun.

Save-Solaris-x86 spokesperson John Groenveld said he and others were shocked after being reassured by Sun as late as this fall that there would indeed be a Solaris 9 for x86 and after the widely publicized Solaris 9 beta for SPARC (Sun's 32-bit chip architecture) and x86.

Groenveld said many in the group are scrambling to find alternatives since there is no SPARC upgrade path. Most are reevaluating their future development plans, which may not include Sun.

"If Scott truly wants to repair his relationship with his community, he should offer us even a modest expression of good will," Groenveld said.

Currently, the Save Solaris Organization has issued a challenge to meet face-to-face in an open forum.

A Sun executive said while they are sensitive to their developers, the decision to drop x86 was purely strategic.

"The strategy is to migrate into 64-bit architectures like our UltraSPARC line," said Sun Solaris product line manager Bill Mossitt. "As we are moving into an enterprise computing model, part of that asks us to prescribe this to use our own chip architectures. I understand his frustration, but this is not an open source effort, this is our primary business. We have to have a little more control of what users are running our software on."

As for x86 support on Solaris, Mossitt said Solaris 8 still supports Intel's chip makeup and Sun posts a hardware compatibility list on its home page. Currently, Sun is shipping boxes with Solaris 9, 8 and even 7. The company also provides support for older releases dating back as far as Solaris 2.5.1.

Sun has not entirely left the x86 building. The recently announced LX50 Solaris/Linux combo is built on Intel chips. However, Sun maintains that these low-cost servers are part of its low to mid-range strategy.

While Groenveld's group admits that the company is trying to be fiscally responsible by not paying high-end fees to Intel, Save-Solaris-x86 says Sun advocates have produced some 3,000 ready to run applications developed over a long period of time - applications that will have a shorter shelf life now that x86 is not in Solaris' future.

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