Sun Phases Out Intel Solaris

Company will issue Solaris 9 for SPARC; will support 8 for five years.

The competition between server rivals Sun Microsystems Inc. and Intel Corp. took another turn last week, with Sun announcing it will not release a version of its upcoming Solaris 9 for Intels platform.

Graham Lovell, a Solaris director at Sun, in Palo Alto, Calif., said Sun will "defer" the producing of Solaris 9 for Intel, "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."

Sun has distributed more than 1.2 million licenses for Solaris 8 via its Web site, with most of the downloads for Intel-based computers. The figure did not include Solaris licenses that came with the purchase of new hardware from Sun, Lovell said.

Sun will continue to ship an earlier version, Solaris 8 for Intel, for the foreseeable future—two to three years—and support it for five years after that, Lovell said, adding that he did not believe there was a "great deal" in Solaris 9 that users on the Intel platform will miss by not getting early access. Sun will release the eighth update to Solaris 8 toward the end of this quarter, which will be available in SPARC and Intel format.

Suns decision has disappointed some users.

"They seem to be essentially withdrawing from a market they have supported for so long and which has supported them," said Dave Eriqat, a software developer for Syntel Design, of San Francisco. "This also reduces the number of operating systems available to me and other developers, as I will now have to choose pretty much just between Windows and Linux."

Sun gained exposure and market share by positioning Solaris on Intel as an affordable workstation, rather than tie it exclusively to the comparatively expensive Sun hardware.

"I found that Solaris on Intel outperformed Windows 2000 on the networking and Internet side," Eriqat said. "However, Suns latest decision leaves me little choice but to use Linux going forward."

Bill Kircos, a spokesman for Intel, in Santa Clara, Calif., was not surprised by the move, saying Intel had itself talked 18 months ago about a lack of interest in Solaris on the Intel platform at its Intel Developer Forum.

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

The latest announcement is also not surprising given the sniping 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 cut its support of Suns effort to bring Solaris to Itanium, saying that Sun wasnt committing sufficient resources to the project.

Then, as Sun later reaffirmed its plan to bring Solaris to Itanium, Intel hinted that Sun had become its primary competitor and target in the server market. Sun 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 32-bit Intel chips. Suns Lovell said the company will release a newer, UltraSPARC-only test version this week that will be available to customers who want early access to the new operating system.