Sun: No Solaris 9 for Intel Servers

Sun announces that it will not release a version of Solaris 9 for network servers on the Intel platform--at least for the foreseeable future.

The dissention and rivalry between Sun Microsystems Inc. and Intel Corp. in the server market took another turn Tuesday, with Sun announcing that it will not release a version of its upcoming Solaris 9 operating environment for network servers on the Intel platform--at least for the foreseeable future.

Graham Lovell, a Solaris director at Sun in Palo Alto, Calif., told eWEEK on Tuesday that Sun has decided to defer the productization of the Solaris 9 Intel version "as we have decided to focus more tightly on projects that have the greatest impact on Suns bottom line."

"The SPARC version of Solaris is used with our hardware and therefore generates revenue, while the Intel version focused primarily on enthusiasts and others who ran Solaris on PCs and laptops," he said.

While that marketplace will continue to have access to Solaris 8, Sun felt that in todays industry environment it was prudent to defer Solaris 9 and beyond on Intel for some time in the future, Lovell said.

But he declined to say whether or not this move reflected the financial pressure Sun is under given slowing demand for its products and the weak economy. While some 1.1 million copies of Solaris have been downloaded, Sun had not provided specific figures for the Intel platform by press time.

But Sun will continue to ship Solaris 8 for Intel for the foreseeable future--two to three years--and then support it for an additional five years after that, Lovell said, adding that he does not feel there is a "great deal" in Solaris 9 that users on the Intel platform would miss by not getting early access.

"This is not the end of the line; its about deferment. There may well be an opportunity for them to get this in the future," he said.

Sun will release the eighth update to Solaris 8 toward the end of this quarter, which will be available in both SPARC and Intel format. "So we will continue to support Solaris 8 for Intel for at least seven years," Lovell said.

Bill Kircos, a spokesman for Intel, was not surprised by the move, saying Intel had itself talked some 18 months ago about the disinterest in Solaris on the Intel platform at its Intel Developers Forum.

"This confirms what we said then. We have been seeing, and continue to see, the most momentum on the Intel-based servers from Microsoft, Linux and other flavors of Unix, with very little demand for Solaris on Intel architectures.

"As such, we are not surprised or disappointed by the move. I think one of the reasons for the lack of interest in Solaris on Intel was that it did not perform as well and may not have been as well tuned for the Intel architecture as it was for Suns proprietary SPARC platform," he said.

Tuesdays announcement was also not unexpected, given the rivalry and swiping between the two companies over the past 18 months and the fact that they have competing products in the same space.

In early 2000 Intel drastically cut its support of Suns effort to bring Solaris to Itanium, saying that Sun wasnt sufficiently committing resources or time to the project.

Then as Sun later reaffirmed its plan to bring Solaris to Itanium, Intel broadly hinted that Sun had become its primary competitor--and target--in the server market. Sun then responded by saying running Solaris on Itanium was not an important part of its future.

Late last year Sun released test versions of Solaris 9 for its UltraSparc chips and the 32-bit Intel chips. Suns Lovell said the company will release a newer, UltraSparc-only test version next week that will be available to customers who want early access to the new operating system.

Sun will also release the second beta of Solaris 9 to customers for general use next week. This beta will include additional server virtualization and technology that Sun is calling a "service container" and that allows a partition to be created that is smaller than a physical domain.

The container is in essence a partition of the Solaris operating system itself, which can be "carved" into little pieces that can then each run individual applications, Andy Ingram, a vice president for Solaris at Sun, told eWEEK recently.

The new technology will essentially pool the major compute resources, allowing virtual servers to be carved out "on the fly" that are endowed with resource, security and/or fault containment and that allow the user to track the resources assigned to and utilized by that application, he said.