NEW YORK (01/28/2000) - Sun Microsystems Inc. staked out nothing less than the entire Internet as its playing field last week with the introduction of the Solaris 8 operating system. Executives used a New York kickoff event to argue that only Solaris offers what enterprises need to become Internet-based businesses.
"There is no such thing as a 'Unix market,'" claimed Ed Zander, Sun's president. "There is only a Solaris market."
Solaris 8 will be released March 5, hard on the heels of its chief rival, Microsoft Windows 2000, scheduled to ship Feb. 17. Sun officials used last week's event to highlight features of Solaris 8 they say Win 2000 will lack.
In one demonstration, an executive plugged in a new CPU board, adding two CPUs and more memory to a running Solaris 8 server. The application on the server paused momentarily, then restarted from where it had stopped.
"NT can't do this," said Anile Gadre, vice president of the Solaris division.
The combination of features and their packaging as part of the operating system are eagerly awaited by some. "It is vital to our e-commerce initiatives," says Bob Rudis, a senior consultant for e-business technology development at Johnson & Johnson in Raritan, N.J. "We are counting on the [Lightweight Directory Access Protocol] integration to tie a number of our services together. And we are confident that the 64-bit hardware/software combination will be unbeatable for shared, scalable, e-commerce servers."
Sun has replaced the former Solaris directory with the LDAP-compatible iPlanet Directory Server, from the Sun-Netscape Alliance. The directory is based on the former Netscape directory, which has been available for about two years.
Directories hold information about users, including Web site visitors, and make it possible to tailor access to applications and data.
"It will help me provide authentication and authorization services in a global, open fashion," Rudis says. There are other improvements that make it easier to manage and deploy Solaris servers and their applications, he adds.
In another change, Sun announced it is going to give away the Solaris source code for free. Only if users make additions to the code with the intention of selling products for profit will Sun require payment. Sun will make money from Solaris licensing to OEMs such as NCR and Fujitsu, and from selling support and consulting services.
Gadre said the goal is to spur innovation in Solaris by Unix developers worldwide and to make it easier for the operating system to be used in new projects.
Several users, who requested anonymity, are unimpressed by the move. One describes it as a "lame open source announcement." Another, who prefers Linux, calls it an extension of Sun's early Java community licensing program, which he says is "failing miserably."
Sun clearly is of two minds about Linux and the open source movement in general. "I still have reservations about Linux," Zander said. He predicted that as Linux matures, the market will fragment because there will be Linux versions that are different enough to require applications to be rewritten.
That can't happen with Solaris, he said.
Solaris Vice President Gadre said Linux is a "huge friend" because it has made Unix, and by extension Solaris, exciting again to developers. But he said Linux lacks "rocket science" features that Internet business applications need, such as clustering and sophisticated systems administration. "Sun will be able to contribute this kind of expertise to Linux," he said.