Compatibility Issues Slow Project Janus

As Sun Microsystems prepares to deliver Solaris 10 by year's end, one of its key features-"Project Janus"-may be postponed.

As Sun Microsystems Inc. prepares to deliver Solaris 10 by years end, one of its key features—"Project Janus"—may be postponed and added next year to a product update due to incompatibility issues with Linux applications.

Project Janus is designed to let Linux applications run on Solaris unmodified. But many Linux binaries have dependencies for native environments already built in and require separate development work for each version, said Glenn Weinberg, vice president of Suns operating platforms group, in Santa Clara, Calif.

As a result, Weinberg said the Janus technology probably will not be built into the first shipping version of Solaris 10, due to be announced at an event next week, but will likely be included in the first update early next year.

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"Initially, we are focused on being able to run Red Hat [Inc.] binaries and will over time add more binaries," Weinberg said. "We currently guarantee binary compatibility between the different versions of Solaris and are certainly looking at providing the same for Red Hat, but we are not ready to guarantee that as yet."

"If we decide to [provide Red Hat legacy binary compatibility], we expect it to be available at the same time as Janus," he said. "There is no single binary standard that you can certify an application against in Linux. As long as that is the case, there can be no guarantees about application compatibility."

Officials for Linux distributor Novell Inc. said Linux binaries should be compatible under LSB (Linux Standard Base) 2.0. "The [LSB] system will make sure this is the case. Nearly all application vendors are using identical binaries for SuSE Linux Enterprise Server and other Linux vendors," said Holger Dyroff, vice president for product management for SuSE Linux at Novell, in Nuremberg, Germany.

Some enterprises running both Solaris and Linux believe Janus is critical for there to be any chance of a bigger installed base for Solaris.

"It used to be that Linux had to be chameleonlike and make itself appear like other platforms, such as Solaris, to advance up the enterprise. Now, Linux is the main Unix game in town, and Solaris has to be like Linux to survive," Con Zymaris, CEO of IT services company Cybersource Pty. Ltd., in Melbourne, Australia, told eWEEK.

Cybersource runs Solaris platforms, but Linux is "just as good and totally open-source and available on many and varied hardware platforms," said Zymaris. "For our firm, theres no great advantage in Solaris being able to run Linux binaries. ... Almost all the major systems we need to run on Solaris are open-source and ... available as native Solaris versions now."

According to Zymaris, Sun is going down the native Linux binary path to capture as many of the closed-source, Linux-only enterprise applications as possible that are flooding the market. He said vendors can use LSB to ensure their Linux binary package is broadly compatible.