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Solaris version supports Sun ONE

[MAY 29, 2002] - Sun Microsystems bolstered its Solaris operating system last week by adding higher-level components and expanded capabilities that have, said Sun execs, transformed the Unix-based software into a "network services platform" that becomes the foundation of its evolving Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) strategy.

The new Solaris 9 adds more than 300 new features, and Sun execs characterized the upgrade as the biggest in the 10-year history of the flagship OS. In particular, they touted Solaris 9's ability to deliver better application performance and its enhanced security, partitioning and management capabilities. The OS (Sun prefers "OE" for "operating environment") also comes with an enterprise-class firewall, new provisioning and change management software and a threading library designed to make it easier to run complex applications across multiple machines.

This version of Solaris also includes built-in Linux compatibility, as well as a toolkit for developing Linux-compatible applications, which officials say answers past criticism for lagging behind competitors in the low-end Linux-compliant server market.

According to outgoing Sun President and COO Ed Zander, bundling the core elements of the company's app server and directory server into Solaris 9 creates a complete platform for deploying Java applications and Web services. Zander, who oversaw the unveiling of the original version of Solaris a decade ago as head of Sun's software group, explained the new version to reporters and analysts gathered at the company's Menlo Park, Calif., campus.

"I don't believe Solaris 9 is an operating system anymore," Zander said. "It's a new class of product. I don't think we'll talk about operating systems five to 10 years from now. [Solaris is] a Web services delivery platform."

According to Anil Gadre, vice president and general manager of Sun's Solaris business, integrating the directory server into Solaris 9 boosts its performance to five times that of Solaris 8. The directory server integration will also help with the upcoming Liberty Alliance Project's single sign-on specification, he said. The Liberty spec is expected in late June.

Solaris 9 is currently available across the Sun server line. The company expects to make it available across the Sun workstation product lines during calendar 2003. Customers who currently participate in a Sun's maintenance program can upgrade free. The company is also providing a suite of services to help customers upgrade or migrate to the new OS, including technical consulting for mainframe migration and server consolidation.

Gadre said an Intel-based version of Solaris 9 is "done and sitting on a shelf." Because there is no significant demand for it, supporting the product isn't economically viable, he said. If vendors such as IBM or Dell express an interest in the product, Zander added, Sun would provide a compatible version. "We just want some demand," Zander said. Customers currently using Solaris 8 on Intel-based servers will continue to receive support for several years, Gadre said.

The Solaris 9 announcement followed Sun's release a week earlier of version 6 of its StarOffice productivity suite. More announcements regarding the company's SunONE strategy are expected over the next few weeks.

In what was probably his last Sun press conference, Zander, who is retiring at the end of this year, gently admonished reporters and analysts for tending to ignore the company's software business, portraying it primarily as a hardware vendor.

"I don't think that many of you out there know that of the 8,000 or so engineers in this company more than two-thirds of them are software people," he said. "If we ever did report revenue for software business, you'd be stunned. We'd be one of the largest software companies on the planet today. People say you buy a Sun server and get Solaris for free. No, you don't. The hardware is free as far as I'm concerned, we just charge $200,000 for Solaris."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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