Sun hopes for Linux-like Solaris

Looks like Ian is already making a difference at Sun. From the article:

In an effort to spur adoption of Solaris, Sun Microsystems has begun a project code-named Indiana to try to give its operating system some of the trappings of Linux.

The project is one of the items on the to-do list of Ian Murdock, founder of the Debian version of Linux and, as of March, Sun’s chief operating systems officer. Though he wouldn’t confirm the name of the project, Murdock — who’s from Indiana — discussed the project’s essence at the JavaOne conference in the US this week, and Sun spokesman Russ Castronovo confirmed the name.

Sun has been trying for years to restore the luster of Solaris, a version of Unix that peaked in popularity in the late 1990s, but that since has faced a strong challenge chiefly from Linux. Sun has worked to reinvigorate Solaris by boosting its performance, offering it as a free download, making it an open-source project called OpenSolaris, and pushing a version that runs on servers using Intel’s and AMD’s mainstream x86 processors.

Linux and Solaris are cousins that stem from the same Unix heritage, if not from the same source code. But Linux fans simply have a hard time trying Solaris, Murdock said on Tuesday.

“It’s too unfamiliar. There’s a gulf,” Murdock said in an interview. “We need to make it familiar to people who know Linux inside and out.”

The Solaris userland has historically been quite painful for the average Linux user. It’s easy to take the niceties of the GNU tools for granted, until you have to live without them. Solaris 10 has changed some of this, but most of it involves either installing additional packages or messing with your PATH. There are some really compelling things about Solaris 10 (ZFS, Dtrace and zones to name a few). Getting the userland issues sorted would be a big win for Sun. Whether they will be able to do it while still keeping the backwards compatibility that Solaris is known for remains to be seen. Will Solaris turn into an ABI-stable version of Linux? Time will tell.

–jeremy

Disclosure: During a recent market dip I decided it was worth while to take a small position in SUNW. It certainly won’t change my opinion or how I blog though.

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