Sun Microsystems dealt a double-blow to its users last week by ending the Solaris download program for Intel-based computers and saying it won't support Intel with its upcoming Solaris 9 operating system. The moves have angered some Solaris fans, who offered to start paying for the software if Sun would keep its support for Intel alive.
Sun has since agreed to meet with users in the coming weeks to discuss ways that the Solaris-on-Intel program could be reinstated, said Graham Lovell, director of product marketing for Solaris. Senior Sun executives will attend the meeting, he said, including Anil Gadre, vice president and general manager for Solaris, and Andy Ingram, vice president of marketing for Solaris.
"We will share with them some of our concerns and frustrations so that they can better understand our decision, and hear their proposals as to how they can help reduce the costs," he said. "It is very rare that a customer comes to you and says, Please charge me more."
Users who downloaded Solaris for use on a limited number of Intel systems had been able to obtain the software free of charge.
Sun announced Tuesday that when Solaris 9 is released later in the first half of this year it won't be available for computers based on Intel's 32-bit processors. Sun said it may reinstate support for Intel's 32-bit chips at a later date, but that supporting the Intel platform in the current economic climate is too costly.
Sun also cancelled its download program for Solaris 8 on Intel-based systems. It pulled the plug on the Intel download site Tuesday, though users can still purchase the software in a kit for US$45.
Some users at corporations and universities prefer to test Solaris applications on Intel-based servers because they are generally priced lower than computers based on Sun's proprietary Sparc processors. The operating system has also attracted users because of its reputation as a stable platform.
Solaris advocates flocked to various user Web sites this week to voice their dissatisfaction over Sun's moves.
"Another example of classical bean-counter thinking; no concept of how Solaris on Intel in universities has helped fuel the Solaris-proficient crowd in business now, thus influencing buying decisions," wrote one user on a Google Inc. message board.
"(Sun's) main concern is 'the bottom line,' yet they are alienating themselves from a significant portion of the market," complained another user.
One IT consultant who runs Solaris on both Sparc- and Intel-based servers said in an interview that he would be willing to pay for Solaris if Sun would continue the Intel development work.
"I am willing to pay for the product because I think it is valuable," said Timothy Lorenc, a consultant with Lorenc Advantage Inc., a provider if IT consulting services in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "I know that I am one of many that would be willing to pay for it."
Lorenc and others said Sun's support for Intel allowed them to use one operating system on all their computers systems, making it easier for IT staff to support. In addition, Lorenc said his company sometimes tests applications on low-cost Intel servers before rolling them out on more expensive hardware.
Solaris users started a Web site this week to promote their cause, at http://www.save-solaris-x86.org, and have posted an open letter there to Scott McNealy, Sun's chairman and chief executive officer. The letter reaffirms the users' willingness to pay for Solaris if Sun will maintain support for their platform.
Sun has issued more than 1.2 million licenses to users who have either downloaded Solaris from its Web site or ordered the operating system on CD, and the vast majority of those downloads were for Intel-based computers, Sun's Lovell said. The figure does not include Solaris licenses that come with the purchase of new hardware from Sun.
Sun has also battled with Intel over support for Solaris on Intel's 64-bit Itanium architecture. Sun started work on a version of Solaris for Itanium, but the project was later cancelled. Both companies have pointed fingers at each other for ending the work.