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Sun staff give birth to 64-bit Solaris on Opteron

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"It's alive!" was the cry issued this week by the Solaris grunts at Sun Microsystems. For the first time, the engineers managed to get a true 64-bit kernel up and running on an Opteron box. This is a key milestone in Sun's ambitious plan to make Solaris a preferred operating system in the x86 world.

The Solaris staffers sent word of their achievement straight to the two-headed monster running Sun - McNwartz.

"We are on the network, mounting file systems, can log in remotely, can run some simple 64-bit programs, and are reasonably stable," a report said. "We can't yet run Java, and we don't have a window system since we don't have the 64-bit graphics drivers. Yet we can run X programs displayed on a remote system, which is pretty significant.

"Most important, we are ON SCHEDULE - "Multi User 1" hit its target of mid-July. Congratulations to the team on this huge milestone!"

Sun quite clearly has a lot of work to do, if it wants to meet the December goal of having a 64-bit version of Solaris 10 fully operational on Opteron processors. Being able to run Java, for example, would be nice. The company, however, has met the original July goal of running in multi-user mode with full network connectivity. Hitting these types of targets isn't exactly Sun's forte, so we're sure the hardware team is encouraged by the Solaris group's efforts.

Sun will likely provide more information on Solaris x86 when it launches Solaris 10 on August 17 at an event in New York. Although, as we understand it, the OS won't actually be generally available until January of next year.

There are many out there who doubt Sun's ability to extend its Solaris franchise to the x86 market. Windows and Linux have proved more than adequate on the one- and two-processor servers that dominate the segment of the server space.

Sun, however, is banking on the idea that corporate customers are starting to realize the limitations of Linux from a security and scalability standpoint. Even the biggest Linux fan knows that Solaris enjoys a much more prominent, trusted placed in the data center for business software and databases. Sun wants to make Solaris x86 the top choice for customers looking to run this type of code on x86 boxes as opposed to RISC systems. And, if this strategy pays off, neither HP or IBM has an answer.

That said Sun has to make up for years of slack Solaris x86 support and convince customers that it is as serious as serious gets about the operating system. In addition, Sun has to counter an immense amount of Linux momentum.

We'll likely have to wait more than a year to have any idea how Sun's bet is playing out. Until then, it's back to the labs, boys. ®

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