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Sun updates Solaris 10

As it tries to reclaim former Sun worshippers

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Comment Sun has announced a series of updates to its flagship Solaris operating system. Solaris 10 11/06 OS enhances efficiency, safety, and reliability.

New security features include Solaris Trusted Extensions, which protects sensitive data and applications using labeled security technology. Secure By Default Networking automatically configures a system to be impervious to network attacks by disabling many unused services, thus reducing the network exposure, while leaving the system fully functional for typical use.

Solaris 10 11/06 is currently in process for Common Criteria Certification at EAL4+ with Controlled Access, Role-Based Access Control, and Labeled Security Protection Profiles (CAPP, RBAC, LSPP) for SPARC and x64/x86 servers.

Virtualisation improvements include Logical Domains, whereby customers can now dynamically provision and run up to thirty-two OS instances on each UltraSPARC T1-based system, and enhanced Solaris Containers within Logical Domains that allow the isolation of applications and services to enable the creation of multiple private execution environments within a single instance of Solaris. The company indicated that it plans to add additional virtualisation technology to Solaris 10 during 2007, including the Xen Hypervisor.

Separately, Sun announced new support plans, remote systems management capabilities, migration assistance, training, and professional services to enhance Solaris 10's position as a strategic alternative to commercial Linux distributions. The company noted that Solaris 10 runs on 700+ x64/x86-based systems from vendors including Sun, HP, IBM, and Dell, among others.

The new Solaris Support Subscriptions include indemnification, binary and source code compatibility, and provide access to free updates and upgrades. Subscriptions range from $49 per-incident support to the customised site-wide Solaris Everywhere Plan.

In addition, Sun also announced a series of migration support programs including the Web Tier Advantage Program focused on web-tier deployments, and the Global Migration Program for a broad range of OS platforms including AIX, HP-UX, Tru64, VMS, Red Hat, and Novell SUSE Linux.

It is fascinating to watch Sun's current approach to the marketplace and see how in a relatively short time the company has changed its focus from a proprietary high-end hardware supplier to an open source, x86, x64-friendly, services and solutions-fixated zealot. Not that Sun has forgotten the high end by any stretch, but the behaviour of the company is so much more accessible to mere mortals than a few years past.

The improvements to Solaris for high-end computing are evident here and Sun's application for Common Criteria Certification for its latest Solaris release is indicative that the firm has not forgotten its core strengths. However, despite this technical ability, which we almost take for granted from Sun, what strikes us as most interesting is the focus on the lower end of the Linux marketplace.

Bringing Solaris for x86 back to life was one of Sun's smartest moves in recent years as it allows the company to have a substantive conversation with the volume marketplace. Further, by shifting to an open source model, the company is mirroring the buying expectations of this market segment, while providing some creative financing options for its hardware.

Sun's latest service/support offerings only reinforce its positioning as a viable alternative to commercial Linux distributions and help the company to look much more like a penguin, as opposed to an elephant sporting tattoos of a penguin, to the target audience.

Direct support for 700 different computer systems is a non-trivial achievement and is a credit to Sun's relentless purpose in reinventing its relevance in the high-volume marketplace. Its stated intentions of integrating the Xen Hypervisor is also a plus for the company as virtualisation remains a hot topic de jure, but increasingly a strategic deployment decision for organisations as well. We are pleased to see the company continue down this path. Nevertheless, Linux is the torchbearer in this market segment, and Sun is clearly the follower.

Ultimately, the support of ISVs and channel partners will determine whether Sun's initiatives will prove successful. This is what helped make Sun successful in the 1990s, and what the company needs to reclaim from the Linux faithful, many of which used to be Sun worshippers, in its quest to play in the volume workstation and server marketplace.

Copyright © 2007, The Sageza Group

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