UPDATE: Sun to Ship Solaris 8

BOSTON (01/26/2000) - Sun Microsystems Inc. unveiled its Solaris 8 operating system today during a New York press conference, and said that the new OS will ship in early March.

Sun officials touted the forthcoming OS release as historical, with President and Chief Operating Officer Ed Zander proclaiming, "there is no Unix marketplace anymore. It's a Solaris marketplace," and insisting, "this is the platform to bet your future company on."

The 64-bit Solaris 8 Operating Environment, as Sun calls the software, is aimed at so-called "dot-com" companies that rely on the Internet to do business and therefore can't abide downtime. Solaris 8 is intended to provide service levels that help such companies avoid taxing their traditional IT infrastructures because of the technological requirements of having an Internet presence, which requires frequent upgrades and application installations, according to Sun.

Sun also announced that it won't charge licensing fees for Solaris 8, and that it will offer free access to Solaris source and end-user binary code. While the software and copackaged code will be free, Sun is charging a US$75 media fee that covers receiving the OS in 10 languages and a companion CD.

"Good operating systems are a lot like good wine," Zander said. "New is not necessarily good. ... The longer you've been testing it, the longer you've been applying it in applications, the better it gets."

He took a passing swipe at Microsoft Corp.'s upcoming release of Windows 2000, referring obliquely to another operating system that will be out soon and asserting that it is based on technology that is several years old.

Internet-based companies instead need up-to-date technology in operating systems that can handle "monumental" scale, said Anil Gadre, vice president and general manager of Solaris Software. The Solaris announcement, he said, opens a year of what will be "dot-com mania" for Sun, which plans announcements related to its Ultra Sparc chip line, storage and software.

"We're going to make history here," he said. "We're going to change how you think about operating systems."

These are some of the Solaris 8 features that Sun executives say will alter user thinking:

-- Clustering for up to four 64-processor systems now and up to eight later this year. The Solaris 8 will run on Sparc and Intel Corp. processors.

-- A network cache accelerator that boosts improvements for serving Web pages.

-- Java HotSpot technology enabling speedy Java 2 platform performance.

-- IPv6 support, allowing what Sun says will be a "near-infinite number of IP (Internet protocol) addresses, a number so large that it approaches the number of molecules on the planet," the company said in a written statement about the software.

-- Integrated iPlanet Directory Server, an electronic-commerce LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) directory.

-- Expanded hot patching that allows modification of the OS kernel for mission-critical systems while the system is running. Solaris 8 also will allow installation and configuration of new OS versions while the system is running.

-- IP multiplexing for multiple network connections.

-- Mobile IP support, allowing use of IP addresses anywhere that users have Internet access.

-- Solaris PC Netlink software, allowing interoperability with Windows systems and networks.

-- Built-in firewall, network encryption technology and access control for security.

-- Sun Management Center Technology, enabling Sun systems management from a central site.

-- Web-based ability to install and upgrade the operating environment over multiple servers from one site.

The Solaris 8 further will ship with a range of packaged software applications, including an office productivity suite, Oracle8i database, Oracle Migration Workbench and four iPlanet offerings.

Analysts said the Solaris 8 will be popular with Internet-based customers seeking a heavy-duty operating system. But Sun is exaggerating when it predicts the demise of most other systems, they said.

"If you look at the overall Internet, there is a mix of operating systems," said Dan Kuznetsky, director of operating environment research for International Data Corp. (IDC). Linux, Windows and other Unix operating systems will continue to be sold by a variety of companies and used for a variety of purposes, he said.

Sun is hoping to capture IBM Corp. customers by portraying Solaris as the only viable Unix OS, said Anne Thomas Manes, senior analyst for Patricia Seybold Group. "Of course, Sun is trying to slice IBM customers away, saying, 'If you want to do e-commerce, you have to do it on Solaris.'"Zander's swipe at Windows 2000 was classic Sun hyperbole, Thomas said: "The Windows market is huge," she said. "But Sun is not capable of putting out a press release without taking a jab at Microsoft."

Sun, based in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at +1-650-960-1300 or at http://www.sun.com/.

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