Sun Scraps Its Own Custom Linux, Embraces Standard Distributions

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Sun Microsystems is abandoning its plans to deliver Project Orion on its own version of Linux and will instead support distributions from other Linux vendors, said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive vice president of software, on Friday.

Sun also is working to ensure interoperability among applications built for Sun's Solaris and standard Linux distributions, and vice versa, Schwartz said. "You'll be able to run Linux applications unmodified on Solaris," he said.

Facing massive defection by customers from its Unix-based servers, Sun introduced its own Red Hat-based Linux distribution last August. The custom distribution engineered by Sun, however, offered additional functionality including Java 2 Standard Edition 1.4, Sun Streaming Server, mySQL, Web cache, Apache servers and the Sun Grid engine.

The announcement on Friday appears to signify Sun's acceptance of more standard Linux distributions and an openness to UnitedLinux and Red Hat. UnitedLinux, which is backed by SuSE, SCO, TurboLinux and Conectiva, aims to be the second standard Linux distribution besides market leader Red Hat.

Schwartz did not explain the specifics of Sun's change in plans, but he did cite the fact that "people are writing to a distribution, not to Linux" as the likely impetus for Sun's dropping its custom Linux plans.

Schwartz also would not identify which distributions Sun would support, saying only that Sun will choose about two vendor distributions, and no more than three or four.

Because its own version of Linux is based on Red Hat, Sun will likely support the Red Hat distribution, observers said. Schwartz also hinted that Sun likely will support UnitedLinux, possibly by partnering with vendor SuSE because "they are the driving force there."

In February, Sun formally unveiled Project Orion, a plan to deliver its entire software stack on the Solaris and Linux operating systems for 64-bit and 32-bit server architectures.

See related stories: "Sun Unveils Linux, Solaris on Intel Platforms" and "Sun's Project Orion Shoots for Technology and Price Simplification."

Paula Rooney contributed to this story.

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