Solaris exec touts Unix platform's strengths

Company is undaunted by Linux momentum, claims many users switch back

Jim McHugh, vice president of software infrastructure marketing, Sun Microsystems

Jim McHugh, vice president of software infrastructure marketing, Sun Microsystems

Solaris has been Sun Microsystems's bread-and-butter Unix system since 1992. While Unix platforms such as Solaris now are up against the open source Linux juggernaut, Sun maintains it has the technological advantages and accommodations for open source to keep Solaris in the game. The company also cites important customer wins as evidence of the platform's continued strength. To hash out the state of Solaris in today's marketplace, Paul Krill recently met with Jim McHugh, vice president of Solaris marketing at Sun, at the company's California campus.

Solaris has major users such as Joyent and General Electric. But it does seem like Linux has the momentum, not just when compared with Solaris, but compared with Unix overall. Recent shipment figures I received from IDC show Linux growing and Solaris slipping, with the Solaris volumes being reduced between 2006 and 2007. Does Sun have any new efforts planned to promote Solaris as an alternative to Linux or as a complement to Linux?

I actually think that what we're hearing is Linux has made some momentum and there was some movement toward Linux, but actually we're seeing now a lot of movement back from Linux to Solaris. So basically, you could find an example anywhere that would lay out -- OK, if I moved off this old machine, running this older version of that operating system to a new machine running a newer version of [an] operating system, I will find cost savings. Right? For every example, [people were] saying, "I moved from Solaris to Linux and I saved X amount of dollars," I can give you a couple of examples right back of people who moved from Linux, an older version, to Solaris have saved a lot of money, as well.

Do you have a couple of examples?

Glasses Direct in the UK switched to Solaris because they found that they were relying upon Apache and that ran 450 percent faster on Solaris than on Linux. So if you're looking at a Web economy, the ability to run your application faster and faster is driving people to say, "OK, I'm going to look at Solaris for two reasons. One, if Apache runs a lot faster on Solaris, that's a big advantage to my company, but I can also take advantage of key features like DTrace where I actually can optimize the application itself that's running on the Web server, so that plays a good component of it." Others are Sapotek, when they found they had a sixfold performance increase on Solaris 10, and ZhengTu Network, which is in online gaming.

And if you're looking at the trend here of the examples I'm giving you, [for] people that are Web-facing, buying into the Web economy, scale is very important. They probably chose to start out with basic hardware and the OS that they could find. The key thing that you'll see with all these companies, it wasn't the OS that actually they were really thinking about when they were building their application. They wanted to use MySQL, they wanted to use Apache, basically they were looking at the LAMP stack and the most important parts of that were the A, M, and P, right, so they were looking at the Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, components.

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