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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Sun Microsystems Inc is still facing protests from unhappy Solaris x86 users despite announcing the resurrection of the Unix operating system for Intel Corp-compatible processors at last month's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo,

Matthew Aslett writes

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Santa Clara, California-based Sun has fought a running battle with Solaris x86 users since it canceled the development of Solaris 9 x86 in January, citing development costs and market economics. The user community has come together to launch a web site, www.save-solaris-x86.org, and has run advertisements protesting against Sun's plans in several newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News, the Boston Globe, the Australian Financial Review, and the UK Guardian.

The latest, and largest ad appeared in the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday September 3, and comes just weeks after Sun announced the return of Solaris x86 with plans to support version 9 on its new LX50 general-purpose Intel-compatible server. Despite that announcement, the user community is still unhappy that Solaris 9 x86, due for release in early 2003, will initially only be licensed for use with Sun's own LX50 server.

"The customer community will not be satisfied until Solaris 9 x86 is available as a stand-alone product at reasonable prices and until management fully engages us as partners who share the same goal for Sun to be the leader in the technology industry for another 20 years," reads the ad, which is entitled "Shame on you, Scott," and challenges Sun's CEO Scott McNealy to meet with community members and technical press to support his company's actions.

With previous versions of Solaris x86, Sun had only made the software available for users to install on their own servers. Talking to ComputerWire last week, Sun's global head of product development, volume sales, Peder Ulander said the change had been made to ensure that the company could provide a consistent quality of service to its users. However, it also means that existing users, who have been campaigning for Sun to bring back Solaris 9 x86, have to buy new Sun hardware to get support for it.

In announcing the return of Solaris x86 to the user community, Sun's director of Solaris product marketing, Graham Lovell, noted that a new licensing program designed for use by the Solaris x86 community is under development and will be announced before the end of September. With no announcement yet made, some members of the community are getting itchy feet and are asking questions about the program's existence.

In conversation with ComputerWire, Ulander certainly seemed unaware that any kind of licensing program is under development, but maintained that Sun is actively engaged with the x86 user community. Despite the doubts, Lovell has maintained that the licensing program is still in development in a recent posting to the Yahoo Groups SolarisonIntel user forum. He also stated that the Solaris x86 community's elected representatives, know as "the secret six", are assisting Sun in the program's development.

Last week Ulander also noted that Sun is looking for OEM partners to license Solaris x86 for their own hardware. He would not name names, and Sun's choices are thin on the ground after a period of consolidation in the hardware industry, but Ulander stated that partnerships would be in place by the time Solaris 9 x86 ships in early 2003. Sun has also made a commitment to the community that any further x86 servers will run Solaris x86 as well as the company's own Sun Linux 5.0. Details of Sun's expanded strategy for the x86 line are expected at the SunNetwork user event later this month.

© ComputerWire

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