Solaris on Intel Debate Rages On

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-09-03 Print this article Print

Save Solaris x86 Organization challenges Sun CEO Scott McNealy to defend his company's actions regarding Solaris 9 on non-Sun hardware.

The brouhaha between Sun Microsystems Inc. and the Solaris on Intel user community took another turn this week. A half-page advertisement in Tuesdays San Jose Mercury News, titled "Shame on you, Scott," is the latest salvo in the battle to have Sun release its Solaris 9 operating environment for non-Sun hardware. The ad, paid for by the Save Solaris x86 Organization, accuses Sun of "a total disconnect with the Solaris x86 user community. A complete betrayal of trust. A major upset for users whose strategic business decisions were based on the expected release of Solaris 9 in sync with the SPARC based product."
It also challenges Scott McNealy, Suns chairman, president and CEO, to meet face-to-face with the organization and the technical press in an open and public forum to defend his companys actions and decisions.
Bill Moffitt, a Solaris product line manager in Menlo Park, Calif., told eWEEK on Tuesday that it is unlikely McNealy or any other Sun executives will agree to debate the issue in an open, public forum. "We continue to hold discussions, under non-disclosure agreements, with community representatives on our strategy and plans going forward. We are being as public as we can without giving away proprietary information," he said. This is the latest salvo in what has been a tumultuous eight months since Suns decision in early January to not release a version of the Solaris 9 operating environment for network servers on the Intel platform. Graham Lovell, a Solaris director at Sun in Palo Alto, Calif., said at that time that the company had decided to defer the productization of the Solaris 9 Intel version "as we have decided to focus more tightly on projects that have the greatest impact on Suns bottom line." "The SPARC version of Solaris is used with our hardware and therefore generates revenue, while the Intel version focused primarily on enthusiasts and others who ran Solaris on PCs and laptops," he said. However, taken aback by the vehemence with which users met that decision, just a week later Sun said it would meet a group of customers and developers who use Solaris on Intel to try to work out a compromise. Backtracking significantly, Lovell told eWEEK at that time that the companys decision was not irreversible and was made purely from a business perspective. But, after a couple of meetings with the Solaris Intel community, the process again seemed stuck. But then, in August, Jack OBrien, the manager of Suns Linux Business Office in Menlo Park, confirmed to eWEEK that Sun will now introduce Solaris 9 for x86 going forward. Discussions with the Solaris on Intel community are also actively continuing, he said. "We really want to work out the processes so we can do two things. One, we want to offer Solaris 9 with an integrated systems approach; a business model that works and which is akin to our Linux on x86 business model, and which is fully supported by Sun. "Secondly, were exploring the right business model to make sure the community is actively engaged in that market as well. So, yes, the community is still very important to us, and we just need to nail down the details," OBrien said last month. But John Groenveld, a spokesman for the Save Solaris x86 Organization, told eWEEK on Tuesday that Sun had informed the community that it is only releasing Solaris 9 x86 on Sun hardware, namely its recently released general-purpose x86 based server, the Sun LX 50. "What Sun has now done is shorten the hardware compatibility list for Solaris from several hundred to one--its LX50 servers. That is unacceptable as I see no reason to replace my existing Intel hardware with Suns new box," he said. "They are refusing to make a possible community version of Solaris 9 a priority. It is simply languishing. What Sun fails to understand is that their customers want to see an upgrade path for the software products they use on the hardware platforms they support. They are increasingly shutting us out and denying us the many compelling features Solaris 9 brings to the table." Suns Moffitt disputed this, saying that while Sun is currently committed to only delivering Solaris 9 on the x86 platform as part of its LX50 offering, "moving forward we continue to look for ways to work with the community to build a broader offering on the x86 platform." "But we have not, as yet found a way to do that. We have not found a business model that works," he said.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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