Is Sun Solaris on its deathbed?

Linux backers claim Solaris is irrelevant; Sun of course disagrees

"I think Solaris is absolutely a great OS," says Neil Wilson, a former Sun employee who later left the OpenDS project. Solaris is "absolutely far superior to Linux for the cases where the hardware support is there," he adds.

Gracenote, which provides a media recognition and metadata service for MP3 users (the CDDB database familiar to iTunes users), agrees. "We found the threading model in Linux was problematic. You get to a certain number of concurrent threads and the OS just slows way down," says Matthew Leeds, vice president of operations at Gracenote. Solaris "just works for us."

The debate over Solaris's open source future

As part of its plans to give Solaris a longer life, Sun has developed an open source effort based on Solaris, called OpenSolaris, featuring a binary release of Solaris through Project Indiana.

The Linux Foundation's Zemlin, though, dismisses Sun's open-source Solaris as "too little, too late." His foundation has also charged that there is no real open source community around OpenSolaris, arguing that Sun still controls development. To back up its point, the foundation points to blogs detailing disputes over control of OpenSolaris and the Sun-driven OpenDS directory projects, from February 2008 and November 2007. Sun declined to comment on the specifics of these issues and noted they both happened several months ago. Zemlin claims Open Solaris is no more than an attempt to expand the Solaris user base to drive customers to commercial Sun technology.

Sun's Boyle acknowledges that Sun employees participate in OpenSolaris development, but says they do so along with individual and corporate contributors such as Intel. Community registrations in the OpenSolaris community exceed 160,000, far in excess of Sun's total employee account of 34,000 people, he notes.

"I'd say we've got a great community around OpenSolaris." Boyle said. "People are free to come and go as they want, and the community's been growing every month," he says. "To say that Sun is controlling all this, I don't think is a fair and accurate statement."

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