Sun Microsystems Inc. rolled out the final test version of Solaris 9 Tuesday, offering a peek at new management, security and Linux-friendly features that will be included when the final version of the operating system is released, expected to happen mid-year.
Sun released an early access version of Solaris 9 at the end of last year, giving its testers a chance to uncover bugs and other kinks in the software. On Tuesday, Sun released the final beta of Solaris 9 on its Web site, allowing users to start running applications and familiarizing themselves with its new features, said Bill Moffitt, a Solaris product line manager at Sun.
Sun has decided to integrate its Solaris Resource Manager software directly into Solaris 9. The software allows administrators to set the amount of processing power and memory that they want allocated to certain applications and users. For example, a company could dedicate a fixed number of processors to its financial database in order to ensure the software performs well. If applications are sharing processor resources, an administrator can rank the applications in order of importance, making sure the financial database gets priority over a Web server application, for example.
The Solaris Resource Manager will continue to be offered as a separate product, but will also be bundled with Solaris 9 at no additional cost, Moffitt said.
Sun has also started the first wave of its plan to bundle middleware from its iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions subsidiary into Solaris. With the latest Solaris beta, users will receive a copy of iPlanet's Directory Server. Sun has said the Directory Server will be the first place that it adds tools for verifying a user's identity to use Web services. Sun is working with other vendors and service providers in the Liberty Alliance group, which is creating standard protocols for authenticating users. The protocols will be supported in the Directory Server, according to Sun officials.
Sun has said it will bundle other iPlanet software with Solaris, including the iPlanet Application Server, although it has yet to offer a time frame for those moves.
Including the iPlanet Directory Server with its operating system should provide Sun's customers with a more complete platform on which to build and deploy business applications, according to one analyst.
"All of that middleware plays in a space that is incredibly competitive," said Tony Iams, an analyst at Port Chester, New York-based research company D.H. Brown and Associates Inc.
Iams said that Sun's bundling of the LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) directory and the company's support for version 5 of the Kerberos protocol in the new OS, also revealed Tuesday, gives Sun a response to competitors such as Microsoft Corp. in the middleware market.
"You put Kerberos together with the iPlanet Directory Server and it is a full-blown response to what Microsoft is doing with Active Directory," Iams said. "Sun is going after large enterprise networks with lots of users hitting different servers and also individual Web servers that handle large amounts of traffic."
Microsoft also includes an LDAP directory and Kerberos support in its Active Directory product for the Windows 2000 Server operating system.
Sun is also forging closer ties between Solaris and Linux, another Unix derivative. For example, with the release of Solaris 9, users will be able to use both Solaris commands and Linux commands. In addition, users will find support for Linux shell scripts, Moffitt said.
Mark Uris, head of distributed systems at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), has been testing Solaris 9 and was trying to decide if Sun is moving close enough to Linux for his company to use Solaris on its desktop computers.
"I want to see how Solaris converges with Linux, especially on the desktop," Uris said. "We're trying to make the call as to whether or not we should go with Solaris or something like Red Hat (Inc.) Linux."
Sun will include the latest version of the GNOME desktop interface with Solaris 9 at some point, Moffitt said. If Sun can create a GNOME-based GUI (graphical user interface) similar to what users enjoy with Linux, Uris said he would consider choosing Solaris for his desktops.
The ties between Solaris and Linux are likely to get closer over time, Moffitt said. "We consider it part of the natural evolution of how things go," he said.
The beta of Solaris 9 is available now for download at http://sun.com/solaris/programs/solaris9ea/. It can be downloaded for free for an unlimited number of systems with a capacity of eight or fewer CPUs.