Disgruntled Solaris x86 Users Turn Up Heat on Sun

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-09-09

Disgruntled Solaris x86 Users Turn Up Heat on Sun

Sun Microsystems Inc.s refusal to release Solaris 9 for non-Sun x86 hardware could backfire and drive developers and users to Linux or even Microsoft Corp. platforms, users said.

Disgruntled x86 community developers and customers charge that Suns refusal to reach a compromise is effectively making their investments in non-Sun x86 hardware obsolete. Supporters are so irked by Suns intransigence that last week they placed an open letter in The Mercury News, of San Jose, Calif., accusing Sun Chairman, President and CEO Scott McNealy of taking the developer community for granted.

"Sun has now obsoleted [my] x86 hardware investment," Al Hopper, president of Logical Approach Inc., of Plano, Texas, told eWeek last week. Hoppers company bought several dual-processor x86 systems from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. last year. "We cant afford to scrap our hardware infrastructure just because Sun decides [Solaris on x86] wasnt a viable product or that they could make more money elsewhere."

Alan DuBoff, president of consultancy Software Orchestration Inc., also of San Jose, and one of the "secret six" community representatives negotiating with Sun over the Solaris-on-x86 issue, said he supports the anti-Sun campaign. "Unless we get a stand-alone product for non-Sun hardware, we will be hard pressed to use Solaris x86 in the enterprise," DuBoff said.

Others agreed. John Groenveld, the author of the open letter and an associate research engineer at Pennsylvania State Universitys Applied Research Lab, or ARL, in State College, Pa., warned that Suns refusal to release a stand-alone Solaris 9 "is forcing us to consider our long-term Sun view."

ARL, with customers in the government and private sector, runs Solaris 8 on 12 servers at the edge of the network, as Web or workgroup servers, and as development machines. It also runs high-end Sun SPARC systems.

"I now have to decide whether to stick with Sun over the long term or move to solutions like Red Hat [Inc.] on Dell [Computer Corp.], [Hewlett-Packard Co.] or IBM. While Im skeptical about Linux, Sun is forcing our hand," Groenveld said.

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With no upgrade path for Solaris on non-Sun hardware, Groenveld said he was now "under a lot of pressure from customers to transition our existing servers back to Microsoft."

Logicals Hopper agreed. By closing the door to Solaris 9 on x86 hardware other than its own, Sun will force developers and research and educational institutions to gravitate toward a lower-cost Linux or Microsoft environment, he said.

Solaris 9 has numerous enterprise features, such as homogeneous networking, which allows single sign-on and secure computing. "Not having access to the advances found in Solaris 9 puts us at a grave disadvantage," Hopper said.

The community wants Sun to release Solaris 9 as a stand-alone product, not just as a bundle with its two-way LX50 rack-mount server, which runs Solaris 9 and Suns Linux operating system.

"Sun still regards software as something that helps sell hardware. Nothing more. And they want to push sales of the LX50," Hopper said.

Bill Moffitt, a Solaris product line manager in Menlo Park, Calif., said the solution for customers wanting to run Solaris 9 on the x86 architecture is to buy Suns LX50 boxes, which are offered with an Intel Corp. 1.4GHz Pentium III with 512MB of memory or dual 1.4GHz Pentium IIIs with 2GB of memory.

Moffitt defended Suns business model, saying the company was a complete systems provider that wanted to deliver a system it could stand behind, support and guarantee. "Selling a stand-alone operating environment that runs on random pieces of hardware is simply not part of that model," he said.

Sun continues to talk with representatives of the developer and user community about a broader offering on the x86 platform.

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