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Sun Refreshes Solaris 9 with GNOME

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Sun Microsystems will release its latest update to its Solaris 9 operating environment to the general public starting August 13.

Sun Microsystems will release its latest update to its Solaris 9 operating environment to the general public starting August 13.

Dubbed Solaris 9 8/03 to correspond with the timing of its release, the fourth update contains about 30 different tweaks and patches, including a new multi-terabyte Unix File System and improvements to Live Upgrade.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker said anyone who purchased its recently released entry-level Sun Fire V60x and Sun Fire V65x servers already has the update pre-installed for x86 systems. Next month’s release will add in support for SPARC-based systems.

The company is still expected to announce its quarterly hardware and software updates later this month.

The 8/03 upgrade is also the first look at Sun’s new desktop environment for the Linux community based on GNOME 2.0. The company is weeks away from releasing its desktop version code-named Mad Hatter.

Sun Group Manager Solaris Product Manager Bill Moffitt said GNOME was a perfect fit as a desktop environment.

“There has been a lot of effort in the GNOME community to make it friendly to users,” Moffitt told “We felt it was necessary because it fits in as a desktop environment without having to modify or delete any current desktop software. Also, many people are already working with GNOME as part of a Linux distribution.”

Moffitt said Solaris’ default desktop version would continue to be CDE, but it would take little effort to switch over. Sun’s other desktop — Open Look — was finally put to rest last May. Moffitt says the latest Solaris build continues to support any applications based on Open Look.

Whereas the April 2003 release increased data storage on partitioned systems beyond the 1 TB level, this update supports a Unix File System that can scale up to 16 TB for the first time. Moffitt says the improvements are beneficial for big data centers, database mining and high-performance computing applications. All elements of Sun’s N1 strategy.

“What you do is end up virtualizing the entire machine so you can handle a big amount of memory, have larger file systems with more data and apply it to that job,” he said.

Developed by Sun internally, the other major improvement is a consolidation of sorts to Sun’s Live Upgrade, which lets systems administrators upgrade Solaris using Solaris Volume Manager and Veritas Volume Manager.

“On a normal Unix machine, you have to take it down and put it into single user mode. That could take you hours to upgrade the OS,” Moffitt said. “The problem is that you would have to copy your data out, structure the data manager and recopy the data back in. Now, the Upgrade partitions the disks and the only downtime is to reboot the system.”

The change also enables administrators to convert Veritas volumes into Solaris volumes on machines not connected to a heterogeneous system. Moffitt says that did cause some tension with Veritas, but it wound up being beneficial for some configurations.

“They’re not entirely happy about it, but the fact is they’re customers, and it costs a great deal to have Veritas on smaller machines,” he said.

In addition to developing its Solaris 9 platform, Sun Tuesday began offering sneak peaks at Solaris 10 through its “Pilot Program.”

The next major release of the operating environment is not due until the fourth quarter of 2004, but Sun is letting customers get the jump on some of the very latest work-in-progress code base from its Sun Development team in monthly intervals.

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