January 28, 2002

Solaris on Intel out? Does that mean Linux is in?

Author: JT Smith

- By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols -

It's not that Sun is killing off Solaris on Intel, it's simply that the company isn't planning yet to move Solaris 9 to the Intel family. Graham Lovell, Sun's
director of Solaris product marketing, explains that Sun isn't
making any further investments in Solaris on Intel for several
reasons and that the company may yet port Solaris 9 to Intel.

Sun resellers doubt that this is the case. One anonymous
Solaris network integrator from Florida said flatly, "It won't
happen. Solaris on Intel was always meant to tempt people into
buying high-profit margin SPARC systems. With the BSDs and
Linux taking most of the Unix on Intel market, there wasn't any
business reason to continue Solaris on Intel."

As Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group, puts
it, "Solaris on Intel was no longer leading to any revenue
capture for Sun."

Solaris 8 on Intel, which Lovell claims has had more than a
million downloads, will still be available for the next two years
and then get limited support for five more years. For device
drivers and similar needs, though, users will need to look to the BSD
Open Source community. Still, there can be no question that Sun
is moving slowly away from the Intel chip family.

But is Solaris' move away from Intel an opportunity for Linux
vendors? Quandt doesn't think so. "I haven't seen a significant
installed base for Solaris on Intel. Where I've seen it has been
mostly in education and research institutions. I think it unlikely
to impact enterprise companies." And, in any case, she thinks
Solaris on Intel customers may find the structurally similar BSD
operating systems "the better answer."

Ransom Love, CEO of Caldera, thinks that Sun's move away
from keeping Solaris on Intel up to date does represent an
opportunity, but not for Linux, but instead for Caldera's Open
Unix, its cross between UnixWare and Linux. He noted,
"Caldera has a strong relationship with Sun. Sun is a partner and
investor in Caldera, and we are very interested in continuing our
work with them." But he also thinks that "Sun's decision
demonstrates the consolidation happening on Intel, and
essentially makes Caldera the only alternative for Unix on

But Mark deVisser, Red Hat's vice president of marketing thinks that Sun's move out of the Intel platform does represent an opportunity for Linux. "We have long stated that
our greatest market share gains have come from the Unix camp,
so it is no surprise that the real opportunity for Red Hat is in the
Unix-to-Linux migration. Amazon is one such customer who
migrated from Unix to Linux at considerable cost savings, and
we're seeing much more momentum in this direction."

The marketplace will decide whose vision of the future turns out
to be the clearest, but one thing is for certain: Open Source wins.
Whether it's BSD, pure Linux or Linux -elated operating
systems like Open Unix, or Pentium III and IVs or the Itanium,
the only significant Unixes running on Intel platforms in the
future will be Open Source.


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