Is Sun Solaris on its deathbed?

Linux backers claim Solaris is irrelevant; Sun of course disagrees

Solaris, Zemlin says, is losing market share because it does not have a good price performance or value proposition.

Zemlin also disputes Sun's notion that Solaris technology gives it an edge over Linux. "The only people I hear talk about DTrace [Solaris's technology for assessing program and OS behaviors] and ZFS [the Zettabyte File System] as competitive features [are] Sun Microsystems sales representatives. It's not something I believe is impacting the market in any way," he says.

With capabilities such as ZFS and DTrace, Sun is trying to compete based on minor features, Zemlin says. "That's literally like noticing the view from a third-story building as it burns to the ground." And the Linux community is working on rival technology, Zemlin adds.

Given Sun's own Linux support on its Sparc and x86 servers, Zemlin suggests that it should make ZFS and DTrace available under a Linux-compatible license. Sun instead uses its Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), which is not compatible with the Linux GNU General Public License. (Sun says CDDL provides licensing support for a greater universe of systems than GPL does.)

One company that is moving from Solaris to Linux is Sesame Workshop, famous for TV shows such as Sesame Street. A key reason is that more people are available to support Linux than Solaris, says Noah Broadwater, vice president of information services at Sesame Workshop. "I honestly have one person who is certified on Solaris. I have four people who are certified on Linux," Broadwater said.

The other key issue with Solaris boils down to one word: cost. Sesame is saving about US$20,000 a year in support costs by moving to Linux, Broadwater says.

One fear that Broadwater had in moving to Linux was degradation in performance, but he has been pleasantly surprised such degradation has not occurred. For example, the company's IBM Cognos BI application runs faster on x86 Linux boxes than it did on Sparc Solaris, he says.

The case for Solaris's existence

Sun stands behind Solaris. "For customers who'd chosen Linux in the past, we're seeing some of those same customers come back to Solaris," says Charlie Boyle, director of Solaris product marketing at Sun.

Solaris boasts features such as ZFS for simplified storage management and Solaris containers for virtualization, Boyle says. He cites a recent partnership in which Dell will make Solaris available on its computers; Dell would not do this if there was not customer demand. Sun is seeing brand new customers for Solaris; "I think we've got a great future," Boyle says.

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