Sun Continues Quest to Provide Linux Apps Under Solaris

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-06-24

Sun Continues Quest to Provide Linux Apps Under Solaris

Recent technology moves toward virtualization have led some industry insiders to question Suns commitment to letting users run Linux applications under Solaris. However, executives say the company isnt backing off its home-grown efforts.

Project Janus, recently renamed the LAE (Linux Application Environment), will enable Linux application compatibility as an optional Solaris kernel service.

Recently, however, Sun Microsystems Inc. started working with Xen, a popular open-source virtual-machine project. Superficially, LAE and Xen provide almost identical services.

However, Tom Goguen, vice president of platforms software, assured users in a recent interview with Ziff Davis Internet News that while Sun is very interested in Xen, its not abandoning Janus.

"Were continuing to work on that technology. In particular, were working on making it work with containers. So, for example, with a Janus container for Linux you could run a Linux application."

Read more here about delays in Project Janus.

In November, John Loiacono, Sun executive vice president for software, said support for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and above will arrive first.

Later, however, users will be able to "have five containers with five different distributions, including Red Hat Linux, running right beside SuSE Linux and Mandrake Linux all on one copy of Solaris, and they will all be firewalled from each other," he told eWEEK.

Click here to read more from Loiaconos November interview.

That vision may need to wait for a while, though. "Right now, were working on getting a Janus technology preview out this year," Goguen said.

At this point, Goguen said, he cant give a hint on when Janus will appear.

"Were in a replan right now about our Solaris 10 updates. Since there have been no major security problems, were not in a major rush to get an update out now."

Next Page: Xen and Janus are complementary, but are they necessary?

Xen, Janus Are Complementary

; Are They Necessary?">

As for Xen, Goguen said he sees it as a complementary technology to Janus: "Were very excited by what we see in Xen. Its two different technologies and two different ways to run Linux applications."

"With Xen, you can run the entire Linux stack—Red Hat or SuSE—on your Solaris system. That makes good sense if you want to maximize your CPU investment with a certified Red Hat or SuSE enterprise application," Goguen said.

Janus, on the other hand, is good for customers who want to run a "home-brew" Linux application.

These are users "who want to consolidate on Solaris and take advantage of its superior resource management," Goguen said; in other words, Janus is for the other end of the spectrum.

"Xen lets you keep your entire stack of software. You could run LAMP [the software stack made up of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP] on RHEL. With Janus and containers, you can run a single native Linux application. With Janus, you can also start moving your applications from Red Hat and SuSE to Solaris," Goguen said.

Of course, developers could also just compile Linux-based applications to run natively on Solaris. Thats the job that, an organization devoted to porting open-source software to Solaris, addresses.

"They [Solaris users] demand and expect the latest and greatest and they want it now," said Dennis Clarke, Blastwaves administrator.

Specifically, according to Clarke, "What they [wanted] were the latest editions of open-source software without the pains of resolving dependencies and library revisions. What they wanted was a simple way to make Solaris look and feel like a Linux distro without losing the horsepower and stability of Solaris."

The project, according to Clarke, has been successful.

"Blastwave has seen nonstop, nonlinear growth since Solaris 10 was released in beta, even though our primary user base runs Solaris 9. Our customers now include divisions of NASA, JPL, MIT and a number of government agencies that all want the freight train power and stability of Solaris with leading-edge open-source software titles," Clarke said.

Sun doesnt sponsor Blastwave, but the company does appreciate its efforts, Goguen said, adding, "Our Solaris engineers find Blastwave applications very exciting and useful."

Goguen said that Sun is working for Linux and Linux-application compatibility for Solaris because users are demanding it.

Not everyone is sure that meeting this demand is Suns wisest course, however.

"Sun needs to develop and support the broadest possible community for its products for it to be successful in the long term," said Dan Kusnetzky, IDCs system software vice president. "Historically, however, it may make sense for them to maintain a separate identity."

"Its instructive to see what happened to OS/2 when IBM decided to make it a better Windows than Windows and include Windows APIs. Developers, always looking for ways to reduce their costs and time to market, decided that was a green light to only develop Windows applications. This didnt help OS/2 grow," Kusnetzky said.

On the other hand, Yankee Group Research Inc. Senior Analyst Laura DiDio believes that OpenSolaris should be enough to make Suns customers happy.

"On paper and in theory, Suns OpenSolaris could and should provide just the shot in the arm that Sun needs to stem the tide of defections to Red Hat and other Linux and open-source distributions," DiDio said.

Its not the Linux applications that have been driving Solaris customers from Linux, she argued, concluding that the "high cost of proprietary hardware is the sole reason that Suns corporate customer base has elected to migrate away from Solaris."

DiDio added, "Yankee Groups survey data and in-depth customer interviews show that Suns enterprise customers are generally very pleased with the core performance and functionality of the Solaris OS and also with Suns service and support."

"Based on its history there is every reason to believe that OpenSolaris will maintain the same standard of performance, reliability and scalability that weve seen with the proprietary Solaris platform, but at a much lower price point," DiDio said.

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