Sun Rises Up Against Linux With Solaris 10

Even as Linux continues to wreak havoc on the Unix world, Sun's systems integration partners have been gearing up for a major Solaris upgrade, which the vendor expects will widen its technical lead over Unix competitorsand compete directly against Windows and Linux.

What you need to know about Solaris 10 >> Launch date: November 2004
>> Availability: First quarter of 2005
>> Supports UltraSPARC IV and 64-bit AMD Opteron
>> Improves boot time by 65 percent
>> Includes DTrace diagnostic tool
>> Offers advanced storage via ZFS File System
>> Supports Native Linux, allowing multiple Linux and Unix workloads to run unmodified on the same server
>> Joint go-to-market funding and training available for iForce partners

"When Solaris 10 goes GA [general availability], it will represent the most significant release by Sun of any kindhardware or softwarein 10 years," said Marc Maselli, president of Back Bay Technologies, Boston. "Solaris 10 is going to be head and shoulders above every other operating system, and I definitely expect some Linux and Wintel customers to move to Solaris on Opteron."

Sun plans to release Solaris 10 for its UltraSPARC-based servers, as well as Intel x86 and AMD Opteron servers next quarter. Solaris 10 will be loaded on new UltraSPARC IV systems in January and on 32-bit Xeon Processor MP-based servers and Opteron servers shortly after.

Solaris 10 features significant performance and scalability improvements, Solaris Containers for advanced software virtualization and workload management, and the new ZFS file system with advanced storage capabilities. It also includes 64-bit Opteron support, the DTrace diagnostic utility and self-healing features.

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For the first time, Sun's Unix OS will offer native Linux support. This may curtail customer defections from Sun, which admits to a significant loss to Linux on Wall Street and other industries. Recently, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company launched a major marketing campaign to preserve its installed base, win back defectors and grow its share in the Intel market.

"The biggest growth space is on Opteronbut we're not walking away from the big iron business," said Stephen Borcich, vice president of partner and industry marketing at Sun. "We're doing a targeted effort at why customers and partners should use Sun's systems over mainframes." To that end, Sun will kick off next week training programs and promotions to help partners prepare for Solaris 10, he said. It will also offer partners joint go-to-market funding.

Sun iForce partners say large clients whose infrastructures and business processes are based on Solaris do not plan to migrate to Linux. "I don't see customers dropping Solaris at all. Solaris 10 aims at higher-end systems. The competition is IBM midrange and mainframe solutions, not Linux boxes," said Ron Herardian, chief systems architect at Global System Services, Mountain View, Calif.

"Solaris 10 is the quantum leap in operating system evolution," said Douglas Nassaur, president and CEO of True North Technology, Alpharetta, Ga. "Look at it for performance, the consolidation opportunity it creates, and the consistency of having a [single] operating system you can use across PC and data center-class equipment."

Still, one analyst cautions Sun's partners to reassess business strategies, saying Linux features will surpass those of Solaris, while Unix growth slides to single digits by the end of the decade.

"It's a risky strategy not to be inclusive [of both Unix and Linux]," said George Weiss, an analyst at Gartner. "Partners want a stable operating system on a regular release schedule that advances the state of the art, and they want an OS that's growing and continuing to attract more users. [Partners] have to do some reality checks and look at whether this market hasn't changed irrevocably."

For his part, Herardian predicts that Sun's Solaris business will remain strong, although he wonders about the vendor's commodity approach. "Time will tell if Sun waited too long to develop a strategy around Linux other than ignoring it."