Sun releases delayed Linux code for Solaris

After nearly a year's wait, Sun has released its Janus Linux compatibility software for Solaris.

After nearly a year's delay, Sun Microsystems has released software designed to let its Solaris operating system run Linux applications without any modification. The software, formerly called Project Janus, but now rewritten and renamed BrandZ, was released to Sun's OpenSolaris community on Tuesday.

With the release of BrandZ, (http://opensolaris.org/os/community/brandz/) the project has expanded somewhat, and the technology also could be used to run operating systems such as FreeBSD or Apple Computer's open-source Darwin project, said Nils Nieuwejaar, the Sun engineer who is technical lead on the project.

Janus was pulled from the Solaris 10 release earlier this year when Sun engineers decided that it would be better to redesign the software to work with Sun's new virtualization technology, called Solaris Zones. "It made much more sense to approach the problem that way," he said. "It was actually cool that after talking about Janus for so long, management was actually able to let engineering pull Janus when we felt it wasn't ready."

Sun hopes to eventually support specific Linux distributions, including those of Red Hat and Novell, with BrandZ, said Tony Iams, senior analyst with research firm Ideas International. "They're not just going to make this a generic Linux capability. This is actually going to be supporting very specific Linux distributions," he said.

Because Solaris users will need to install the version of Linux that they want to use with BrandZ, they will need to buy support licenses in order to get compatibility with products like Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Nieuwejaar said.

That means that commercial Solaris users will be looking at two separate support licenses.

Sun is currently in negotiations with Red Hat over licensing terms, said Chris Ratcliffe, Sun's director of Solaris marketing. "We would hope to come up with a cheaper alternative than purchasing support for an entire Red Hat operating system"

Red Hat declined to comment for this story.

The free CentOS (http://www.centos.org/) enterprise Linux distribution works with BrandZ, and Sun is considering supporting Red Hat's free Fedora distribution as well, Nieuwejaar said.

Sun has had limited success in the past in creating ways for Linux or Windows to run their applications under Solaris, generally because these programs have taken a performance hit in the process, Iams said. Whether that will be the case with Linux running within BrandZ remains to be seen, he added. "We need to see what is the performance overhead. We don't know what that is."

Though it is available to OpenSolaris users now, Nieuwejaar could not say when BrandZ will ship with the commercial version of Solaris. When that happens, the product will be called Solaris Containers for Linux Applications, he said.

Though BrandZ is "still a long way off from being in a full Solaris release that you would run your business on," the fact that it will let administrators use sophisticated Solaris tools like the DTrace diagnostic software to analyze their Linux applications makes it very exciting, said Ben Rockwood, a systems administrator with Homestead Technologies Inc.

The fact that Linux applications can now run on a Solaris box brings some added benefits, he added. "I can now play Linux games on Solaris."

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