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Sun's Solaris x86 customers see the light of day

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After a couple of months of being nudged, prodded and begged, Sun Microsystems has forked over some Solaris x86 customer wins to prove the OS has plenty of backing.

The customer list is impressive. You won't find any massive enterprises picking up Solaris x86 for equally massive rollouts on the list, but you will find a diverse set of smaller customers, ranging from gaming companies to financial services. Sun is holding up five new customers as proof that their renewed backing of the OS is paying off.

"We have over 300,000 registered licenses for Solaris 9 x86," said Ann Wettersten, vice president of software marketing at Sun. "We are tripling our investment in the OS, and customers are seeing it as a viable alternative."

It's a bit hard to keep track of all the ins and outs surrounding Sun's relationship with the Solaris x86 OS. The company once kept it around as a play thing for Intel server users who wanted Unix on their kit. It turns out there were more of these types of users than expected - or at least more vocal ones - because when Sun later cut the development budget for Solaris x86 a massive cry was heard. Sun insisted that lean times required focus on the money making Solaris for Sparc chips, but the users said, "We don't really care."

So Sun decided to bring Solaris x86 back in force and over the last year has promised that customers are interested in the OS. The software has also taken on a more important role at the company now that Sun has Intel and AMD kit of its own.

Sun is pointing to current Windows NT users and Linux types as prime candidates for a Solaris x86 overhaul.

GetMore Securities is one company that made the switch from Windows NT. The online stock exchange has moved part of its operations onto Solaris x86, citing improved security and uptime as a reason for the switch.

More impressive is the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research's use of Solaris x86 on a cluster of 700 dual processor AMD Athlon systems. The researchers are also use Sparc-based servers on the back end to complement their high performance computing operations. Sun points to this customer as one example where a company can save on training costs. The Solaris admins can go back and forth between the Sparc and AMD servers.

Maya Online is a gaming company that is using Solaris x86 on Sun's own hardware. Maya says it can support 30,000 simultaneous players running Solaris x86 on 50 of Sun's LX50 servers. We've always wondered if anyone bought the LX50 - which has since been replaced by new kit - and now we know that at least one customer did purchase the kit.

Sun has a couple more customers that tout the threading ability of Solaris x86 as a perk. Sun has long tuned Solaris for multithreaded SMP systems, so customers with software than can take advantage of that may see some nice performance gains.

Sun is working to tune Solaris x86 for various Intel and AMD - Opteron included - servers to try and beat out Linux and Windows on overall performance. Sun, of course, already claims leads in security and scalability given Solaris' impressive track record on RISC boxes.

Sun is offering Solaris x86 at a few different prices. Later this year, customers can purchase it as part of the Java Enterprise System for $100 per employee. This price includes Solaris along with most of Sun's suite of infrastructure software such as the Sun ONE application server, web server and directory server. Or customers can buy a one processor license for $99, a two processor license for $250 or a four processor license for $1500.

Taking the two processor price as an example, Sun is saying it can beat Windows by 13x - 19x on cost of acquisition. Sun pits the $250 unlimited user license against $2,799 for Microsoft Windows Server 2003 or $4,999 for the enterprise edition of the OS.

Beyond the 32bit kit currently in action, Sun is tuning Solaris x86 for AMD's Opteron processor. The company put up a few job requests seeking Opteron help, but Sun representatives would not say what the folks will be working on. Sources have, however, confirmed that Sun plans to roll out an Opteron-based system. Sun said to "stay tuned" for more Opteron related news at its upcoming Sun Network conference to be held in Berlin in December. ®

Related Stories

Sun searches for a few good Opteron engineers
Sun releases low end kit - Opteron box on the way
Sun ashamed of Solaris x86 past
Sun gives Solaris x86 a nudge with new test suite

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