Sun Delivers Solaris 9 Beta Code To Customers Without Itanium Support

Company confirms Intel version of Solaris postponed

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Sun Microsystems on Tuesday announced the delivery of the Solaris 9 beta code to customers, but the beta version lacks support for the Intel platform.

The company released the early access developer's version of Solaris 9 in October. Solaris 9, expected to ship by June, integrates Sun's iPlanet directory server, Linux APIs, support for Sun's ONE Web services platform, and enhanced security and management features. The version delivered Tuesday, Solaris 9 Early Access 2, also incorporates code that optimizes performance on Sun's 900MHz UltraSPARC III-based Sun Fire 15K Server and other systems--but not Intel platforms.

A Sun spokesman confirmed that the company has postponed the release of Solaris 9 for Intel, but he said it will deliver the UltraSPARC III version of the operating environment during the first half of this year.

Industry analysts say the move demonstrates Sun's desire to buttress its proprietary SPARC hardware and Solaris operating system as competitive offerings such as Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip and the open-source Linux OS make headway in the marketplace. Analysts added that they expect Sun's decision to be final, although they are still waiting to see how Sun's management will react to feedback about the company's decision to not support Intel's Itanium processor.

"I did not and do not see much of an impact on either the integration partners, developers or customers. I do now, however, see what seems to be a groundswell of angry folks. How big this groundswell is, or will become, remains to be seen. But I'm watching," said Ed Broderick, principal analyst at consulting firm Robert Frances Group. "Is the [decision permanent? Yes. But only until [Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy or [Sun President and COO Ed Zander get so much heat from angry folks that they decide that the money and people resources that they were trying to save are no longer worth it in terms of customer satisfaction. We'll just have to wait and see."

Sun's decision to postpone Solaris for Intel may be a move to thwart migrations to systems from Hewlett-Packard, which is transitioning to Itanium, said Rob Enderle, an analyst at research firm Giga Information Group.

"Unfortunately, many of the Sun developers had already made product plans with Itanium support in them. And when this news came out, many were unable and/or unwilling to make this adjustment," Enderle said. "IT folks really like the idea of common hardware. However, the danger for Sun is that they are a hardware company and likely will not have the best Itanium implementation. Hewlett-Packard--which is eating Sun's lunch here--likely will. So [HP could become a migration enabler, and the migration would be away from Sun."

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