When Linux moves up the hardware food chain, Sun's tune changes fast.
Doing its part to benefit from Linuxs surging market share, Solaris 9 has gained some significant Linux-oriented features.
Release 9, by default, includes Solaris versions of a number of common libraries found on Linux (Glib, GTK+, libxml2 and Tcl/Tk, as well as JPEG, PNG and TIFF image libraries). Linux software that uses APIs exported by these libraries can now be re-compiled with less effort into native Solaris versions.
In addition, making it easier for Linux administrators to switch to Solaris, Release 9 includes for the first time a number of utilities and servers typically installed by Linux distributions: GNU grep, tar and wget tools; Samba; tcp-wrappers; ncftp; and a slightly modified version of OpenSSH (finally). Moreover, Sun will be moving to GNOME 2.0 as its preferred desktop later this year.
These changes have a more strategic meaning to current users of Linux than a technical one.
Open source makes for a long lever, and Sun is leaning with all its might on one end, trying to put a crack into Microsofts desktop and office suite monopolies.
Encouraging low-end Intel server customers to choose a Unix operating system instead of Windows makes complete sense for Sun, which is happy to sell Linux-based Cobalt servers (which top out with two slow CPUs) to customers who wouldnt have bought real Sun hardware in any case.
However, when Linux moves up the hardware food chain, Suns tune changes fast. Linux isnt internally scalable enough to run well on Suns higher-end systems, which makes the hardware look slower than it is (not good for Sun). Thats why Sun created Solaris, after all.
Furthermore, Sun looks scornfully on efforts to make Linux run better on high-end systems because it makes its hardware competitors more viable.
Linux needs many things that Solaris 9 hasincluding its scalability, performance, directory features and role-based security access controlbut Sun is sure it doesnt really need Linux, and thats guaranteed to keep the relationship on rocky ground.
Timothy Dyck is a Senior Analyst with eWEEK Labs. He has been testing and reviewing application server, database and middleware products and technologies for eWEEK since 1996. Prior to joining eWEEK, he worked at the LAN and WAN network operations center for a large telecommunications firm, in operating systems and development tools technical marketing for a large software company and in the IT department at a government agency. He has an honors bachelors degree of mathematics in computer science from the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and a masters of arts degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada.