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Sun gives Solaris x86 a nudge with new test suite

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Not too long ago, Sun Microsystems had a confused relationship with its version of Solaris for Intel and AMD chips, but these days company staffers plug the OS every chance they get.

The latest addition to the Solaris x86 fest is a hardware certification test suite (HCTS) that Sun will give to ISVs, device makers, OEMs and end users for free. The test takes about one day to run on a pair of servers and qualifies x86 kit as Solaris 9 compatible. Sun's obvious goal here is to expand the list of supported hardware for Solaris x86, and it has pledged to service and support any hardware that passes the test.

Sun once made the mistake of relegating Solaris x86 to the position of a neglected platform. Sources indicate that a variety of internal squabbles about the cost of maintaining the OS and the rise of Linux led to this decision. The user outcry, however, was so profound that Sun decided to bring the OS back with better support than ever before. Unix fans everywhere rejoiced.

Sun is looking to prop up its Linux business, but doesn't deny its preference for Solaris. The company bills Solaris x86 as the most mature, secure and reliable OS available for Intel and AMD hardware.

Over the past four months, 250,000 users have registered a copy of Solaris x86. This adds to millions of downloads in the last couple of years. Sun also boasts 1,000 applications for the OS, 100 new supported third-party systems and 100 new components - all HCTS certified.

Despite this momentum, you don't see a lot of customer win announcements coming out from Sun for Solaris x86. Marketing teams salivate when a customer win release hits the wire, so this is cause for concern. If there is so much Solaris x86 action, why aren't we hearing about it?

Sun's official position is that some deals will be announced at its Sun Network conference next month. The customers are there; they just don't like to talk publicly about their OS decisions.

What would be even more impressive is a deal with a major OEM. Dell, for example, has admitted to having a modest Solaris x86 business. With Sun's new found love for the OS, it could conceivably tempt a rival to give Solaris x86 a shot, and executives have hinted a deal with a Dell or IBM may be in the works. We have our doubts.

While large hardware makers such as IBM do a lot of business on Solaris, they have little to gain by promoting Sun's OS over Linux. Should a customer make a large order for custom machines, IBM or HP's services organizations will rush to make the deal go through. But they will not become a major HCTS user.

With that reality in mind, Sun has turned to Electronic Business Solutions (EBS) and Xoriant for help. EBS will begin qualifying and supporting HP's Proliant servers with Solaris x86. Xoriant will help customers go through the certification process for a wide range of hardware.

Taking a peek over the certified hardware list, it's clear that laptops are a major point of interest for Solaris x86 users. What Unix admin doesn't enjoy bringing some work home?

The server list still runs a tad thin. The top level certification or "Sun certified" chart shows five systems. Three of these are Sun's own x86 kit of which one is the LX50 - a box Sun no longer sells. Surprise, surprise, there is Dell's PowerEdge 2650 ready to go as well.

The second level or Test Suite certified list has nine servers from the likes of Dell, Intel, RackSaver, IBM and HP. The Reported to Work list has close to twenty more boxes.

We'll keep an eye on this site over the next few months to see how well the HCTS helps push things along. ®

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