Oracle Layoffs Suggest Winding Down Solaris-SPARC

Oracle Corp. is laying off hundreds of employees, documents filed with the California Employment Development Department show, and the biggest cuts appear to be hitting the teams working on the Solaris OS and the SPARC processor. It's a move many industry watchers were expecting, and further evidence to some that the company is winding down its investment in the Solaris-SPARC bundle.

"Given the dominance of Linux in the enterprise, the writing has been on the wall for Solaris for a long time," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, in an e-mail.

A notice filed under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) regulations on Aug. 31 indicates that the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company is permanently laying off a total of 1,008 workers in Santa Clara and San Diego counties. The layoffs take effect on Oct. 31.

Oracle declined our request for comment.

The layoffs came to light when Oracle employees posted comments on TheLayoff, an anonymous discussion board. But it was Simon Phipps, who led Solaris development at Sun Microsystems from 2005 to 2010, who seems to have been the first to report the news publically. He did so on Twitter (@webmink): "For those unaware, Oracle laid off ~ all Solaris tech staff yesterday in a classic silent EOL of the product."

That EOL (end of life) deadline has been hanging over the open source, Unix-based Solaris OS and the SPARC server line it was designed to run on ever since Oracle acquired Sun in 2010. Rumors circulated at the time about the demise of the system, but Oracle announced plans to integrate both Solaris OS and SPARC into Oracle's technology stack. John Fowler, then Oracle's executive vice president of hardware engineering (and a former Sun exec), said Oracle was planning for four generations of UltraSPARC processors, along with enhancements of Solaris to support them.

Fowler left the company in early August 2017, adding to speculation that time was running out for Solaris-SPARC. Use of both the Solaris operating system and SPARC servers has been in decline for decades.

Oracle adding even more fuel to that fire when it published a new release roadmap for Solaris that shows Solaris pushed back from its late 2017 release date to 2018. Oracle unveiled its plan to drop the Solaris 12 release in favor of Solaris in January. The naming scheme will apply to a continuous-update system for the OS.

Oracle says it will continue to support both Solaris and SPARC until 2034.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].