FRAMINGHAM (10/17/2003) - Sun Microsystems Inc. this week detailed an initiative to make Solaris on x86 more attractive to users by broadening application support.
Company officials said Sun is working with as many as 150 key business application vendors, including BEA Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. and Sybase Inc., to ensure that their applications are optimized for Solaris on x86.
John Loiacono, vice president of operating platforms at Sun, said it's critical that Solaris on x86 has up-to-date support from mainstream business application vendors. "Without applications, the platforms aren't very useful," he said.
Solaris on x86 is getting backing from users such as Gerry Vest, a systems administrator at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research in San Antonio. The foundation is running Solaris on a cluster of 700 dual-processor Intel-based servers.
"The code base for Solaris x86 is based on Sparc Solaris, which is rock-solid," said Vest. "In that respect, it's Linux that has to play catch-up."
Matthew Leeds, vice president of operations at Gracenote Inc., an Emeryville, Calif., company that produces systems used in music recognition, evaluated both Solaris on x86 and Linux. It opted for Solaris on x86 because of its better transaction-processing capability, Leeds said. Though Linux was attractive for its off-the-shelf cost, long-term support costs mitigated the initial pricing differences, he said.
Sun has hired developers to support Solaris on the 64-bit Opteron processor from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Loiacono said Sun has no plans to do likewise for Intel Corp.'s 64-bit Itanium because it doesn't see customer demand for it. The Opteron support may be ready by the middle of next year, he said.
Sun's efforts to boost Solaris on x86 began in earnest in May, when it released servers running Intel's Xeon processors.
The company maintains that Solaris.Next -- what might otherwise be called Solaris 10 -- will offer strong incentives for companies to opt for Unix on Intel over Windows or Linux. The next version of Solaris is set for release in the fourth quarter of 2004.
Solaris.Next will include self-healing capabilities to deal with problems created, for instance, by application memory leaks; file systems that scale to handle terabytes of data; and security capabilities already available in Sun's Trusted Solaris version that allow access control at the root level.
Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said Sun's x86 strategy has been hurt by the perception that the company isn't as willing to embrace the Intel platform as its competitors. To convince users otherwise, Sun will have to take measures such as porting all its tools to the x86 version of Solaris, he said.