Sun embraces Linux while touting Solaris

While continuing its recent embrace of Linux and the Intel architecture, Sun Microsystems nonetheless remains committed to its own Sparc chip architecture and Solaris Unix operating system.

The company made several announcements at the 2003 LinuxWorld Conference & Expo on Tuesday, boosting its profile in Linux. But Sun's bread-and-butter products for high-performance computing remain Solaris and Sparc, according to Jack O'Brien, Sun group manager for Linux strategy and marketing. He acknowledged, however, that Sun may build a 64-bit AMD Opteron system.

Sun at the show is previewing its open source desktop environment, Project Mad Hatter, and is teaming up with Advanced Micro Devices to provide native Java support for the 64-bit AMD Opteron processor.

Amidst Sun's latest Linux moves, Sun is only backing Linux on its Intel-based systems, according to O'Brien. "We continue to not do Linux on Sparc. We don't have any plans to do it," O'Brien said. "It's not in line with what the market's choosing."

While Linux on Intel IA-32 systems is favorable as an economical platform, Solaris and Sparc remain the favorite for more powerful, compute-intensive environments. Solaris is "extremely powerful, it's the highest-volume Unix out there," said O'Brien. "It's basically the gold standard in 64-bit computing."

Sun with its Opteron support is pushing for broader Java adoption. O'Brien, however, would not rule out a future Sun system housing the processor. "We're not doing Opteron systems today but certainly there's a future possibility" for an Opteron-based Sun box to run Linux and Solaris, he said.

Sun's Sparc Solaris systems now compete with Linux on Intel. A Dell official interviewed at the show said Dell has witnessed migrations from Unix systems such as Sun's to Linux. "We see a lot of traction as far as moving away from the proprietary Unixes into Linux, especially in the back-end database environment," said Reza Roohalamini, director of the enterprise solutions group at Dell, in Round Rock, Texas. Dell also has seen migrations from Unix to Microsoft platforms, he added.

Further boosting its Linux support, Sun on Tuesday also said it has joined the Open Source Development Lab, a global consortium of technology companies dedicated to accelerating the adoption of Linux. In joining ODSL, Sun plans to help drive the development of open-standard software including Linux and to lend its expertise in the data center and carrier-grade markets, the company said. Specifically, Sun will participate in the Carrier Grade Linux and Data Center Linux working groups.

Sun with its AMD arrangement said it is allowing companies to migrate Java applications from 32-bit to 64-bit computing with little or no changes to code. Sun expects to make 64-bit Windows and Linux ports to AMD Opteron available with the release of Java 2 Platform Standard Edition v1.5 next year.

Sun in previewing Project Mad Hatter said the platform features desktop applications including a new version of the StarOffice personal productivity suite, Java technology, the GNOME (GNU Network Object Model Environment) user interface, Evolution mail and calendaring, and Gaim instant messaging. Mad Hatter will interoperate with Microsoft Office and Exchange and Lotus Notes productivity and communication tools. In beta release now, Mad Hatter is due to ship later this year.

Also at the conference:

* Sun cut the prices of its Sun Fire V65x systems, which run Intel Pentium processors. The V65x 2U rack-optimized server with a single 2.8GHz processor has been reduced in price from $2,650 to $2,550. The V65x with dual 3.06GHz processors now costs $3,995. It had been selling for $4,595. The cuts are intended to ensure that Sun stays "with the industry in terms of costs," O'Brien said.

* Sun said that on Aug. 19 it plans to ship the Sun Fire V60x, a 1U rack-optimized Intel x86-based server with dual 3.06GHz processors.

* Sun said its online global community has gained more than 16,000 registered users since its launch in June. Located at, the site features projects including jinux, which is a Java operating system on top of the Linux kernel, and wirelessvoip, a Linux gateway and PDA via 802.11.

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