Linux at Sun: The big push

Linux is no longer Unix's poor cousin at Sun Microsystems. The computing giant has announced a big push of the open-source operating system, beginning now.

To start, Sun will ship a full Linux implementation. Then, it will expand its line of Sun Cobalt Linux appliances and introduce a family of low-end general-purpose Linux/x86-based systems. And Sun intends to be more of a presence in the Linux community by making freely available key components of Solaris.

Sun's move looks, in part, like an effort to put new wrapping on an old package. Linux already plays a large part in Sun's strategy, though perhaps not clearly articulated as such. After all, Solaris 8 runs Linux applications, many of Sun's software products also run on Linux, and Linux runs native on the Sparc platform. Moreover, Sun has a history of open-source support at various levels, including participation in such projects as OpenOffice.org, Gnome.org, Mozilla.org, Apache.org, NetBeans.org, X.org, WBEMsource Initiative, the University of Michigan NFS version 4 Linux port, the Grid EngineProject, and Project JXTA.

Nonetheless, Sun's announcement does mark a more aggressive commitment to Linux. For example, Sun says that it will now deliver built-in Linux compatibility in key programming interfaces, commands and utilities, and user environments. Also coming is the Linux Compatibility Assurance Toolkit (LinCAT), which will make ensuring that Linux applications run on its Sun Fire servers much simpler. And Sun announced that Solaris 9, now in early access, will feature even more built-in Linux commands, utilities, and interfaces.

According to Herb Hinstorff, group marketing manager in Sun's operating environment group, "It's not just one little thing here and one little thing there. The strategy is one of using the products we have now -- the compatibility built into Solaris and the offering in appliances -- to really bring together the Java, Linux, and XML communities and be viewed as a true contributor, to really get credit for all the energies we've have and continue to put into Linux."

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