Sun Offers Express Code Delivery for Solaris

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2003-10-15

Sun Offers Express Code Delivery for Solaris

Sun Microsystems, Inc. on Wednesday released the latest update of its Software Express for Solaris code, which includes an optimized networking stack for both commodity x86 and Sparc hardware.

Software Express for Solaris is a new code delivery mechanism that gives customers the code for the next version of Solaris, due for release by fall 2004. The express delivery lets developers receive the code much earlier in the development process; it also offers monthly snapshots of future software features currently under development.

Sun released the first version of Software Express last month and has so far signed up more than 1,000 customers for the downloads. On Wednesday the firm also announced the first update to the operating system.

That update is based on Project Atlas, a performance-optimization and tuning solution. That project makes up the majority of the code going into the new networking stack and the performance enhancements that come with it.

"That code is being dropped into Express and is an entire rebuild of the TCP IP stack, so we have a whole new networking stack built in there and its way faster. In some cases were seeing up to a 40 percent performance increase in things like networking and Java performance," John Loiacono, the vice president of Suns operating systems group, told eWEEK in an interview.

Sun will also guarantee that the code in these monthly updates would be binary compatible with users existing applications, Loiacono said.

Asked how Sun was able to deliver production-level code to users so quickly, Loiacono said Suns engineering team was making a lot more effort and doing more testing to make sure that the quality of the code was better.

"You must remember we have been working on Solaris code for a long time. We dont just invent it and put it in there two weeks later. This is stuff weve been working on for months or even years. Remember, weve been working on the next generation of Solaris for two-and-a-half years and we are dropping major features in one-at-a-time once they have gone through enough rigorous testing here at Sun," he said.

While Sun did not expect the process to be without its hiccups, the goal was not only to deliver production-ready code to customers at the earliest possible time, but also to get feedback from them on the code and the problems with it.

Many customers would also be taking advantage of some, not all, new features, like its upcoming diagnostic tool that was not mission critical but would help diagnose problems and make the system more reliable, he said.

Many of the features included, such as fine-grained software partitioning, and the new TCP IP stack, which makes things run faster, would be used as development code, rather than as production code.

"They may decide to use some of the componentry in services they are providing, but will likely not take their entire data center and run it on Software Express for Solaris. We are not looking for that and do not think its going to happen," he said.

Asked what feature Sun was planning to deliver in the November update of Software Express, Loiacono said that was slated to be its new tracing technology. More than a just post-fix solution, the tracing will allow users to run diagnostics, analyze the system, uncover application bottlenecks and optimize for performance.

Suns Customers Respond to

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Sun was also giving the technology to its market development team who works with the ISVs to highlight all the nuances of whats happening in the system, Lioacono said.

Some customers like Thomas Nau, the head of the Communication and Information Centers Infrastructure Department at the University of Ulm, Germany, likes the Software Express delivery mechanism as it gives him a chance to adopt features earlier.

"In the past, having the latest feature set has always been worth taking the marginal risk of upgrading. Without the early access, we would have to start testing about a year later and would thus only start upgrading about six months after the final release," Nau said.

However, one enterprise Solaris user in California, who requested anonymity, said greater stability, flexibility and security across the platform are far more important than a host of new features. "We have enough trouble dealing with and installing patches to the operating system as it is. We are not interested in implementing anything that makes life more complicated for us," he said.

Sun is offering Software Express for Solaris in two ways. First is via free download, for which customers sign an NDA (nondisclosure agreement) for use of the code. There is no support for this option, and the code can be used only for noncommercial purposes.

The second way is with a subscription costing $99 per year. This also requires customers to sign an NDA, but the code can be used commercially and includes access to the Solaris Express Community Web Site.

In addition, Loiacono told eWEEK that the Software Express delivery mechanism model would be expanded to other Sun products over time.

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