Sun Takes the Linux Plunge

Sun is jumping on the Linux tools bandwagon, but some developers are skeptical.

Sun Microsystems Inc.s decision to Linux-ize its development tool sets is the latest sign of the maturity of the Linux platform. But that doesnt mean users are ready for Suns Linux tools.

Sun announced at LinuxWorld here last week that it is taking a new plunge into the tools realm as it prepares to compete with more-established commercial Linux tool providers, such as Borland Software Corp. and its Kylix independent development environment for Linux.

"By the end of the year, all the tools will be on Linux, including Suns [Linux-based] Java Desktop System, and including our C and C++ tools," said Jeff Anders, group manager for the Santa Clara, Calif., companys development tools business.

Anders said Suns long-awaited Sun Java Studio Creator, formerly known as Project Rave, will be available on Linux when it ships later this year. In addition, he said, in the second half of the year, Sun will move its Sun Studio line of C, C++ and FORTRAN tools to Linux.

"Linux is certainly a platform customers are asking for, and they want native applications and Java applications," Anders said. "If Sun is to provide a Linux solution, in order for it to be complete we have to provide the development tools as well."

Suns recently announced Sun Java Studio Enterprise and Sun Java Studio Creator are scheduled for midyear release. In addition, NetBeans 3.5.1 is available for Linux, and the upcoming NetBeans 3.6 and Sun Java Studio Mobility will be made available for Linux. Sun Java Studio Standard 5.1 supports Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux 7.2.

"Early-stage [Linux] developers are self-sufficient, command-line gurus," said Zack Urlocker, vice president of MySQL Inc., in Menlo Park, Calif. "As Linux is becoming more widespread, we are seeing an area where developers are looking for more visual tools."

Suns Linux Tool Support

  • Sun Java Studio Creator
  • Sun Studio
  • Sun Java Studio Enterprise
  • NetBeans
  • Sun Java Studio Mobility

Some developers are not sold on Suns efforts. "There are many development tools already for Linux, many of them included in the basic distributions out there," said Michael Hines, a systems programmer at a large Midwestern university. "To me, it illustrates the confused state Sun Microsystems is in. I dont think theyve quite figured out where they fit in the new computing paradigm. I do think they need to figure it out quickly. Many places are considering replacing Unix, Solaris, Sun OS and other nix-flavored systems with racks of Linux clusters or with Linux mainframe clusters."

"When I last used Solaris, I had to load about 100 free or open-source packages onto it just to make it useful," said Warren Postma, an independent software developer in Toronto. "The GNU C Compiler and other GNU programming tools are far easier, at least for me, to work with than Suns proprietary C compilers, and other tools, and the same goes for the GNU shell and every other GNU piece of software I could find. By the time you load all that stuff onto Solaris, its Solaris that looks like the poor cousin."