Sun Readies New Solaris Push, Snipes at Linux

Sun offers new details on its open-source strategy. Officials say its forthcoming Solaris 10 will be cheaper than comparable Linux solutions.

Sun Microsystems Inc. officials on Tuesday offered new details on its open-source strategy. The company said publicly what most industry players understood for a long time: Suns top priority is supporting its Solaris operating system rather than Linux.

At a briefing in San Francisco ahead of this months launch of Solaris 10, John Fanelli, the senior director of marketing for Suns network systems group, told reporters that Suns upcoming Solaris 10 would be cheaper than, say, a Red Hat Inc. Linux solution.

"It is not that were trying to undercut Linux, and we ship and support Red Hat on our systems, but we are going to do everything we can to provide the most compelling Solaris environment," Fanelli said. "Solaris is our top priority, as is satisfying customer demand. But in those areas where Solaris doesnt meet that demand, we have and support Linux."

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about eWEEK Labs early testing of Solaris 10.

Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., is also preparing to deliver its new compatibility technology known as Project Janus, which will allow users to run Linux binaries natively on Solaris. On the operating-system level, Janus will operate as an optional kernel service of Solaris, the company said at the summer Linuxworld introduction of the technology.

However, Glenn Weinberg, vice president of Suns operating platforms group, said that one of the problems with this was that many Linux binaries had dependencies built in for the environment on which they were meant to run.

"So, initially, we are focused on being able to run Red Hat binaries and will over time add more binaries as well," Weinberg said. While the Janus technology probably would not be built into the first shipping version of Solaris 10, it would most likely be included in the first update for Solaris 10.

"We currently guarantee binary compatibility between the different versions of Solaris, and are certainly looking at providing the same for Red Hat [Linux]. But we are not ready to guarantee that as yet," he said.

"If we decide to do this, we expect [the guarantee of binary compatibility] to be available at the same time as Janus. Because 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, Weinberg said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifTo read more about Project Janus, click here.

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun president and COO, who popped in for a 10-minute stint, said he believed an Open Solaris would be a leveling force for the open-source operating system market place and would allow the developers and users to compare Open Solaris with Red Hat Linux.

"But our licensing model will be more flexible and generous. There has always been a political overhang that says if you are not open source, you are not comparable. So we are now removing that obstacle," he said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about the sometimes combative Sun-Red Hat relationship.

But Suns goal with Open Solaris was not to undercut Linux, but rather to "ensure that we provide a competitor to Red Hat, because Red Hat is not Linux, despite the way they behave," Schwartz said.

Sun also expected there to be a "zero delta" between its supported Open Solaris distribution and the one made available to the open source community. "Everything that we build in Solaris will be open sourced by us and we will be supporting it," he said.

Sun was also engaged in a spirited debate with the open-source community, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) about how best to build a high value relationship with them.

"Many in the open-source community are feeling marginalized at this point, and so we are having a robust discussion with them. We want to do the right thing for the community and our stockholders," Schwartz said.

Schwartz also seemingly contradicted what he and other Sun executives have repeatedly said about the lack of suitability of using a GNU General Public License (GPL) for Open Solaris. "We have not ruled out the GPL in the least, and the odds are as good for such a license as for any other type of license," Schwartz said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about open-source licenses.

But Weinberg pointed out that while Suns intent with Solaris is to open up as much of the code as it could, it did not own all the intellectual property rights to Solaris and, as such, could not open those.

"But the new features in Solaris 10 like Dtrace, predictive self-healing and performance enhancements will not be held back. The code that will is mostly in the device space, where we have code from third parties and havent been able to get the rights to it or they dont want us to share this," he said.

Stephen Borcich, the vice president of Suns partner and industry marketing group, said the company would, over the next two weeks to the upcoming event, announce new partners and key ISVs that have adopted Solaris 10.

One of these announcements would be that it has partnered with Topspin Communications Inc. to deliver grid computing solutions for Solaris 10.

"We have 1,100 partners that have driven and adopted technologies around Solaris and many of these are in the proofing stage for Solaris 10. We have also changed the way we compensate our sales force," Borcich said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more here about Suns grid plans.

"There are now no restrictions and they are not tied to just selling Sun hardware. This was done to drive platform independence. Our Opteron systems are all now certified for Solaris 10, Linux and Windows support. "There is a big ecosystem drive for us and around our partners for Solaris 10," he added.

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