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Sun Microsystems

Solaris 9 Support On x86 - But With A Price 241

choka writes "According to this ZDNet UK article, Solaris 9 will return to x86 platform for $99 instead of being free. There will also be a $20 early access version for testing. Support and update will cost $75 per month. However there is no mention on the Solaris web site yet." There's more than just not being free -- originally, rumor had it that Sun was not going to be supporting, in a major way, Solaris 9 on x86 at all -- that decision has now been reversed. See our past article for information about the original decision.
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Solaris 9 Support On x86 - But With A Price

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  • $20 for testing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CySurflex ( 564206 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:48PM (#4548955)
    There will also be a $20 early access version for testing.

    I think I'm going to adopt Sun's policy on this one and start charging all my QA testers instead of paying them a salary.

  • All this will do is make people buy SUN gear USED on EBay. SUN might think this will cause people to buy their overpriced new hardware, but there is a glut of nice used machines out there.

    Bad move, JMO

    • How will this make people buy used Sun gear?
      Given the choice between buying an new x86 machine (or using one of the ones I already have) and running Solaris on it, or buying more expensive, used hardware with an old version of Solaris. I'll stick with the x86 option any day.
      I think that it's far more likely that people will just move away from Sun and Solaris in favor of Linux or *BSD solutions.
      • by pmz ( 462998 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @03:15PM (#4549728) Homepage
        ...buying more expensive, used hardware with an old version of Solaris.

        You don't quite understand. New versions of Solaris, such as 8 and 9, work fine on older hardware. Sun does discontinue support for really old hardware, but they are up-front about it in their release notes. A good example: I run Solaris 8 on an early-90's-vintage SPARCstation 10.

        Also, used Sun hardware is very reasonably priced if you shop around. Some vendors are arrogant and still think they can charge like-new prices, but other vendors are very competitive. If you don't mind a little more risk, there are incredible deals on auction sites, like EBay.

        There are genuine advantages of Sun-branded hardware over most x86 hardware. OpenBoot firmware (OS-independent configuration and diagnostics), very rugged enclosures, redundant cooling fans, clean component layout, and SCSI on the real workstations (modern low-end Sun's have IDE).

        Linux, NetBSD, and OpenBSD run on Sun hardware, too, in addition to Solaris, but Solaris will consistently provide the best hardware support, except, perhaps, for a few older peripherals (24-bit 3-slot SBus graphics, for example).

        Don't forget, what I said above also applies to other used RISC-based hardware, as SGI, HP, DEC, etc. have active secondary markets.

        The only advantage of x86 is really percieved cost, but that isn't always true. I've had much more "top quality" x86-based hardware (motherboards and modems mainly) fail than Sun-branded hardware seeing similar use. Support costs for Sun hardware really can be quite low (formal Sun support is very optional; if you don't know whether you need it, you probably don't).
  • by truth_revealed ( 593493 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:53PM (#4549008)
    We can all throw out our 32-bit DOS extenders now that Sun has graced us with an x86 UNIX.
  • What? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Support and update will cost $75 per month.

    So if I purchase Solaris 9 and want to keep current as patches are released, I have to pay $75 a month? Or am I misunderstanding?
    • Re:What? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:57PM (#4549044)
      You're mistaken. You can download patches from Support is for businesses who want someone to yell at or help replace machines or something like that. Realistically, you don't need to buy the support (I never have and my system is up to date in patches at least).
      • Correct me if I am wrong but are there not some patches on SunSolve that are only available to support contract holders?

        I seem to recall that for some (non-security-related) patches, they let the support contract holders get the first crack at them.
    • I wonder if you let the $75/month lapse, and then you need support, is there a "restart" cost on the support, or do you just go @ $75/mo from there?
  • by e-town ( 582000 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:54PM (#4549021) Homepage
    I am a little disappointed that Sun has decided to charge for the x86 version of Solaris, but I guess it's better than the alternative of not having one at all. Besides Solaris is quite the advanced operating system and I for one would rather pay $99 for a copy than pay the current price for that Redmond made OS.
    Now the $25/month for updates, that worries me.
  • Wait a minute... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CptNoSkill ( 528594 ) <> on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:54PM (#4549022) Homepage Journal
    I thought the whole idea was to get people to try Solaris, and then if they like it to get them to 'upgrade' to Sun Hardware? (You know, the first hit is free...) Or is Sun going to actually support x86? I think it would be wish for Sun to get behind Hammer... Or I think it might just loss out to the lower cost x86-64 based hardware suppliers....
  • by I_am_Rambi ( 536614 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:54PM (#4549025) Homepage
    Actually, it isn't. The $99 for the initial cost is not bad, Windows and Mac OS X run for over that. The catcher is the support. Is the support for the testers or just in general? It seems to be ambigious. If its in general then it isn't too bad, that is if you know Solaris. Otherwise, its a bad idea.

    It also seems that Solaris is coming to the x86 platform alittle late. Intel is moving away from the x86, and AMD also seems to be moving that way with the bridge with their x86-64.

    The time may be wrong, and I don't think many mainstream users (non-Solaris know-how people) will attempt to start to learn it with this move.

    Who knows, there may be some network admins that go and get it for their home pc.
    • by pmz ( 462998 )
      The catcher is the support.

      Why??? It is optional. Besides, there are mailing lists and documentation available for free ( and are really very good). Formal support is really only necessary if the cost of a very quick problem resolution is cheaper than the support itself (i.e., situations where the support pays for itself).
  • I use Solaris... (Score:5, Informative)

    by xtremex ( 130532 ) <(cguru) (at) (> on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:55PM (#4549034) Homepage
    both x86 versions and Sparc (I have an Ultra and I run x86 on a Dell Optiplex). Solaris is SLOW on x86 because of I/O. But as a server, it runs like a champ. The funny thing is, It takes a lONG time to get a usable system with Solaris. A default install is practically useless. It takes hours to install GNU tools, Apache and any other tools I need. I've been using Solaris for about a decade, and I STILL forget that you need to edit 2 files to change the IP. (/etc/ifconfig and /etc/nsswitch). I always thought that was dumb. I only remember that I screwed up when CDE no longer works. Oh well. I will not upgrade to x86_9 unless it has REAL benefits.
    • I've been using Solaris for about a decade, and I STILL forget that you need to edit 2 files to change the IP. (/etc/ifconfig and /etc/nsswitch).

      /etc/ifconfig?? I've never run Solaris for x86, but as far as I know, there's no such file in the sparc version. Why would you edit /etc/nsswitch.conf to change the IP?
    • Re:I use Solaris... (Score:5, Informative)

      by CoolVibe ( 11466 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:03PM (#4549099) Journal
      It takes hours to install GNU tools

      What? You'vce never been to sunfreeware []? I'd suggest you head over there first and get the pkg's you need. Now your setup time will be shortened to mere minutes. Heck, these packages are even useable for jumpstart installs.

      • Re:I use Solaris... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Tim Colgate ( 519024 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:39PM (#4549406) Homepage
        Actually Sun now ship many of the GNU tools with Solaris, as you can see here []. They ship 2 CDs, one of software supported by Sun, and one of software packaged by Sun, but "community supported".

        Supported software includes: Glib, GTK, Apache, bind, Samba, Tomcat, Perl, bash, bzip2, gzip.

        Shipped but unsupported software includes: emacs, vim, lynx, mutt, pine, mySQL, rpm, KDE 3.0 (Gnome comes as standard, along with CDE), KOffice, qt3, gcc 2.95.3, gdb, ddd, cvs, python, gimp, autoconf, automake, GNU make, many standard Linux libraries ...

        Basically, you can now have a complete GNU development environment out-of-the-box.

    • I don't know about you but on my sparc's besides installing GCC, especially in the latest versions of Solaris, I take it as a given I will be compiling Apache to fit my needs. In fact on linux installs I choose not to install things like Apache, PHP and other applications for the same reason.

      Of course grabbing the companion cd or downloading gcc and other tools from or is a little bit of a hassle but it does not take "LONG"

      By the way, the target market for Solaris and SPARC has never been desktop users or "hobbyists", it has been corporations. As always, I'm sure you'll find exceptions to the rule...
    • Re:I use Solaris... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I STILL forget that you need to edit 2 files to change the IP. (/etc/ifconfig and /etc/nsswitch).

      What the fuck are you talking about? If you want to change the ip on a box, you need to edit /etc/hostname.if0 (where if0 might be hme0, le1, qfe3 or ge0) and maybe /etc/hosts. If you want to change the lookup policy (ie use DNS instead of NIS) you need to edit /etc/nsswitch.conf (and maybe /etc/resolv.conf). You don't need to touch nsswitch.conf when you change the ip address.

      idiot. using solaris for a decade? what a joke... you must work for boeing, or be one of those useless military contractors.
    • Uhh... have you used Solaris 9? A good bit of GNU stuff, as well as Apache and SSH, is on Software CD 2 of Solaris 9. An official GCC package is on the companion CD, as well. However, I do wish there was an official IPFilter package. So my point is, with Solaris 9 you can get a full-featured system right out of the box.
    • If you check Sun's focus on Solaris they threw in the towel as of version 2.6 to stop being a workstation OS and focusing on being a server OS. Solaris has the best threading around, its taken Sun years to perfect. But it is causes applications to load slow and single applications don't appear to run fast. But the benefit as a Sun server gets busy you don't see it bog down, it's keep running and running. That why Solaris is a great server OS.
      • But it is causes applications to load slow and single applications don't appear to run fast.

        Not only is Solaris a very kickass server OS, but the perceived problems you mention can be addressed by changing the time scheduling class of the process. There is a specific class of task scheduling designed for, say, sitting in front of the machine and doing interactive stuff. There's another for real-time scheduling, but I don't think anything uses that by default out of the box.

    • Re:I use Solaris... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I don't know where you get that Solaris x86 is slow, when I used it (before going to UltraSparc hardware at home) it rocked! I had two machines, one was all IDE and the other was SCSI. I applied the same patch cluster to both machines and the IDE box blew away the SCSI machine (both 500 MHz Dual Celeron, 256 MB RAM). The IDE box had two Maxtor 7200 RPM drives and the SCSI box had two Western Digital Enterprise SCSI drives hooked up to a Diamond Fireport 40 SCSI controller. If you made the appropriate modifications to ata.conf and another file for blocking factor and DMA performance (see the Solaris x86 FAQ) the performance improves dramatically.

      I went to UltraSparc hardware after a conversation I had with a Sales person from Sun who could not give me specific details as to the license requirements for MultiProcessor Solaris x86. The $99.00 Media Kit is for one processor and one machine ONLY. I expect the MultiProcessor version of Solaris x86 to cost much more than the Sparc version, in addition to the support costs.

      Now I expect the price of used Sun hardware on eBay to go through the roof! I wished I was lucky as the guy who found a Dual Processor Ultra 60 in a dumpster who posted on comp.unix.solaris!
    • No, you don't.

      You change the IP address by editting the /etc/hosts.[interface] file.
    • by pmz ( 462998 )
      It takes a lONG time to get a usable system with Solaris.

      No, it does not.

      A default install is practically useless.

      Not true.

      GNU tools

      The freeware "bonus" CD shipped with Solaris 8 and 9 might help you here. Oh, what about or Things come as source code, too (GCC is on the "bonus" CD).


      Solaris 8 has /usr/apache, /usr/perl5, /usr/java, /usr/ucb, /usr/xpg4, and /usr/ccs (don't forget /usr/bin!). What are you looking for?

      ...edit 2 files to change the IP. (/etc/ifconfig and /etc/nsswitch)

      What version of Solaris are you using??? This is untrue, because updating DNS, NIS, or /etc/hosts is all that is needed (/etc/hostname. can use symbolic hostnames). /etc/ifconfig doesn't even exist under Solaris 8, and /etc/nsswitch is used only for configuring datasources.

      Is your post a troll?
    • It takes hours to install GNU tools

      Won't you feel silly when you find the Software Companion CD in your media kit. Install time: oh, about thirty minutes.

      Or, you could download the pieces you want from Sun.

    • when i've had to change IP addresses, i've had to edit two files: /etc/hosts and /etc/netmasks. the latter is necessary when you're switching subnets. but that's about it.

  • Bad move... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RomikQ ( 575227 ) <> on Monday October 28, 2002 @01:58PM (#4549057) Homepage
    Solaris has always been just another argument for buying sun servers - that you get support and free updates to the os when you buy the hardware. I mean, if you make your own/buy other unix-based x86 server, what's the point of later buying solaris for it? It won't offer anything more, then, say, linux. Now sun has made their x86 servers look more expensive - that you've got to pay for the updates + service too.

    Solaris only makes a real difference on sparcs - and that's where they can charge for it, because if you already have a sparc server, then you are much more likely to pay money for a solaris update, then if you have an x86 server and the ability to switch to other OSes without losing performance or compatibility.
    • Re:Bad move... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dohcvtec ( 461026 )
      This is just my opinion - I could be wrong - but as x86 machines have gotten faster and faster, there seems to be a push to move away from big Sun machines towards x86. Well, if the suits tell you that the company can't afford another Sun box, and the suits probably won't go for Linux either, then Solaris 9 on x86 seems to be a good compromise. As far as suit-friendly OSes go, I'd take Solaris over Windows any day.
    • Re:Bad move... (Score:3, Informative)

      by buysse ( 5473 )
      Solaris is a hell of a lot better than Linux for NFS services, and a MU for 9 will include NFSv4 (ah, finally, support for ACLs over nfs -- that is, if you're using Solaris.)

      I can build a fileserver a hell of a lot cheaper with Dell hardware than Sun hardware, and this lets me run the best OS for the job in my environment.

  • LX50? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by peterprior ( 319967 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:06PM (#4549132)
    I presume sun would have to reverse the decision to support Solaris 9 on x86, seeing as the LX 50 [] uses x86 hardware.
  • by Thalia ( 42305 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:06PM (#4549144)
    I used to work in the group at Sun that promoted Solaris on Intel. There is a core group of morons that is very good at dodging layoffs, signing large contracts that don't deliver revenue, and bitching to Scott McNealy that Solaris on Intel really isn't dead. This leads to all sorts of pathological decisions.

    Solaris is an operating system, and a pretty good one. Solaris generally has oddly optimized drivers for large boxes that make it very useful for large sites. Also, Solaris is the vehicle for pushing Sun's special talent; networking more processors more effectively. Solaris on SPARC works well.

    Solaris on Intel is the bastard child of an unresolved angst over controlling the client desktop. Sun has never figured out that it has a special weakness against making a decent client. Sun has never turned around to the niche market and embraced Apple clients, or PC clients, or anyone else. The wierd waffling on Solaris on Intel is a sickness from a lack of decision.

    The problem will not go away until the group is fired. Deal with it.
    • Ah, right.

      So tell us again why everyone and their brother was screaming at us when we said we were putting x86 on indefinite hiatus (i.e. canning it) last year? There are a number of significant customers who use Solarix x86 to do real work, and there was a lot of hue and cry over that announcement; this was to correct that.

      The real problem seems to me to be communication: someone should have done an impact study BEFORE that previous announcement, and either 1) made it clear that we shouldn't have gone there in the first place or 2) made it clear that nothing whatsoever would make it cost effective to continue. While I don't *know* that no one did such a study, behavior sure leads you to believe that they didn't.

  • Perfume on a pig (Score:2, Insightful)

    by t0qer ( 230538 )
    Solaris on x86 is like putting perfume on a pig. Any IPC/IPX will run circles in IO performace next to a pentiumII. Any modern sun system will absolutely spank any x86 hardware.

    By the time you get done buying all the parts for your high end x86 solaris server with an adaptec 29160, 5 drive array, 2 gigs of ram, and a 2 gigahertz processor you could have bought a modern sun for the same price with half the ram and half the processor speed, but three times the memory and disk IO so it really evens out.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:35PM (#4549377)
      The point is not that people are actually running Solaris x86 on a high end server box. They're (me included) throwing it on one of the hundred or so old P3 500's you have in the back room(thanks to the layoffs) to add another service to an existing Sun environment. I run a small web development farm, consisting of 5 Sun Netra T1's and X1's. No big whoop. But you should hear the laughter from Up Above when I need to roll out, say, a Proxy server, and ask for $2000 + for another Netra. Why bother, when I have all those P3's gathering dust.

      Sure, I could throw Linux on them, but keeping the same OS across the board was important.

      I just got my Solaris 8 Admin I cert, and guess which platform I did the majority of my studying on? x86, right. No one cares if I kill test servers left and right. Hearing the screams from Up Above when I accidentally down the development Oracle DB (or Weblogic App server) for our $2 million dollar app is not cool. (Granted, I did have to come in on weekends to learn the OpenBoot PROM crap, but whatever.)

      So the point, (from Sun's perspective?), of Solaris 9 x86 isn't that its going to be doing hard-core production work right next to your Sun 220R screamers. No, its that you: a) use it to get more familiar / get certified with the SPARC version, b) deploy it on cheap and already available machines, for low-end projects, and proof-of-concept projects.
      • Maybe 10 years ago your statement would have been true...

        But go on e-bay and you will find a ton of old sun boxes, i've seen IPC's for 5 dollars, 5 fucking dollars for a system that was not engineered to be a "Genereal Purpose" box.

        Here's a few links randomly grabbed from e-bay. (Note this is better stuff than IPX/IPC's..)

        [] Sun []
        Ultra Enterprise 2 200 MHz 256 MB Server $61.00

        Sun []
        Ultra Enterprise 2,1024MB,2x300MHz,9GB $405.00

        Sun []
        Ultra 10 Workstation w/ 21in Monitor $575

        Yeah, 10 years ago, I would have totally agreed with you. But today, sun hardware is easy to get, and why fuck yourself with hardware that isn't going to retain it's resale value or less than server class construction? Why even bother with desktop 3 layer process motherboards that needs heatsinks up the ass for overclocked, overworked IO glue chips when you could have something that was built right the first time for the same price?

        You must buy a lotta crack with that Solaris cert you got, cause your reasoning makes me think you're crack smokin.

    • >Any IPC/IPX will run circles in IO performace
      >next to a pentiumII.

      You are seriously misinformed.

      Sun used a bus called "mbus" for the main system bus (all the cpus, the memory controller, and southbridge sat on it) which ran at a peak speed of 50MHz in 64bit mode. The sustained throughput was typically from 80-140MB/sec. The expansion bus ("sbus") ran anywhere from 20-50MHz, and even in 64 bit configurations couldn't push more than 120MB/sec. Mind you the IPC and IPX sported a 32 bit bus running at 25MHz and 20MHz, respectively.

      The Pentium II was originally introduced with a 66MHz bus which had approximately 528MB/sec worth of bandwidth, and the move to a 100MHz front side bus pushed it to 800MB/sec. The PCI bus of the time (32 bit, 33MHz) had a maximum throughput of 133MB/sec.

      >By the time you get done buying all the parts for
      >your high end x86 solaris server with an adaptec
      >29160, 5 drive array, 2 gigs of ram, and a 2
      >gigahertz processor you could have bought a
      >modern sun for the same price with half the ram
      >and half the processor speed, but three times the
      >memory and disk IO so it really evens out.

      The Pentium IV or Xeon can push 4.2GB/sec over the 533MHz bus, or 3.2GB/sec over the 400MHz bus. The Fireplane interconnect used in the new UltraSparc IIIcu systems runs at 4.8GB/sec, and the older UltraSparc II processors that are used in the more affordable systems (e.g. V100, V120, 220R, 420R, etc) max out at 1.92GB/sec.

      As for disk IO, that's a function of the expansion bus, chipsets, and drives. Even the highest end Sun machines are using the same 64bit, 66MHz PCI slots as everyone else, and their controller chipsets and drives are OEMed from the same exact companies PC manufacturers use.

      Even if your claims WERE true and disk and memory IO *were* that much higher on Sun hardware, you'd probably find performance was as slow, if not slower, than the PC with more memory. It doesn't help you to have extra bandwidth if you end up using it to shunt data back and forth to drives when you could have had it all sitting in memory in the first place.

  • by Richard Mills ( 17522 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:09PM (#4549176)
    As soon as this story was posted, this discussion forum seemed to turn into a Solaris-bashing free-for-all, filled with a bunch of uninformed attacks on the performance of Solaris and a bunch of trolling about how Linux or BSD performs so much better. These are the same kind of people who complain about Microsoft spreading lies (FUD) about Linux, but these hypocrites have no problems doing the same regarding Solaris, because it doesn't fit into their open source ideology.

    I have been a Linux user for years, and I love Linux for lots of reasons. But I make my living doing parallel/numerical computing research and I know from runnings lots and lots of performance studies that Solaris beats Linux handily in several situations. I have seen vastly better performance under Solaris (compared to Linux) with some of my codes because of better cache management, superior mmap() implementation, and better job scheduling in the presence of system memory shortages. Solaris isn't just a unix that is for people "too stupid" to use a free OS. There is a huge amount of manpower devoted to its development, and in many respects it is quite clever. For certain categories of codes, it outperforms Linux handily. I'm not saying that Solaris is better than Linux. I am saying that it is foolish and ignorant to bash the performance of Solaris simply because it is not open source.
    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @03:00PM (#4549599)
      You are right to object to FUD, and some of the broader generalizations certainly are overly-broad (and therefor not so accurate). However, you are seeing a great deal of FUD where IMHO there really isn't any. Most people's exposure to solaris isn't in the problem domain you are working on, and from most people's perspective (my own included) Solaris is big, slow, and clunky, not because it is big, slow, and clunky at everything, but because it is big, slow, and clunky at those tasks most people perform most of the time.

      These are the same kind of people who complain about Microsoft spreading lies (FUD) about Linux, but these hypocrites have no problems doing the same regarding Solaris, because it doesn't fit into their open source ideology.

      I think you'd better back that accusation up with some hard evidence, particularly the 'hypocracy' bit.

      I have worked with SunOS since before GNU/Linux ever existed, and have been using Solaris for years. I too have been a Linux user for years.

      But I make my living doing parallel/numerical computing research and I know from runnings lots and lots of performance studies that Solaris beats Linux handily in several situations.

      That is absolutely true, but there is a corrallary which is just as true: in many, many situations Solaris is clunky and shows its staid age all too well. I would go further and say, based on my own experience, that those situations, in which Solaris shows its clunkiness, and GNU/Linux really shines, are the ones that face most people far more commonly than those where Solaris shines and GNU/Linux lags.

      Why is Solaris so much slower to improve in so many ways, despite shining in some? Probably because it isn't free software, and as such has many less people working on it, and is able to leverage far less communal contributions.

      It may be ignorant to bash the performance of Solaris solely based upon its proprietary status, but it is certainly not ignorant to be critical of its greater overhead and clunky performance in most real-world cases, nor to point to its proprietary status as a contributor to that situation. Indeed, it is equally ignorant to assume people who have worked with both dislike Solaris solely out of philisophical grounds, when the Operating System (and Sun) provide ample reasons to dislike it on technical merit, behavior, cost, and lack of openness (which is often critical to fixing serious problems which occasionally arise). Indeed, with the exception of those who are working on in the kind of parallel computing problem domains you are, Solaris is in general quite slow and clunky, especially when running on intel hardware.

      That fact that it is proprietary, and one must purchase (and wait on) expensive Sun support to get issues, even critical issues, fixed, isn't a factor in Solaris' favor either, and the latter (the need to be able to fix problems quickly, and not be handcuffed from doing so) was the reason we ended up dumping Solaris in favor of Linux on the desktop years ago, a decision which has been very good for our business BTW. And no, it isn't hypocracy, it is practicality.
      • Solaris does not particularly target the desktop user any longer, and hasn't seriously for a long time. So bitching about Solaris being "clunky" in that kind of usage (which is what it appears you're talking about, ditching Solaris on the desktop), is ludicrous.

        Linux doesn't scale to any significant number of processors (oh, but you can set up a beowulf cluster of the damn things, gee, I can manage one box, or a dozen, good choice for all cases--which doesn't mean beowulf doesn't have it's necessary place, but it's not the be-all solution to scalability). This is a conscious design decision by the Junta (mostly kidding) that rules the Linux kernel. Solaris scales up to large numbers of CPUs (128 last time I cared to look at the specs, probably more today) very well, imnsho better than anyone else's Unix, also by conscious decision. Obviously this is going to cause more overhead, and a billion open source monkeys typing for a billion years aren't necessarily going to solve that problem, if you want to try using Solaris on a 2 CPU box.

        So: get off the ideological petard before you lose your appendages. Use Linux for things Linux is good at, and use Solaris for things Solaris is good at, and leave Solaris x86 in its little niche where it belongs (teaching Solaris on cheap boxes or providing OS consistency in environments that think that it's important to have that).

        Attacking Solaris as "clunky" just shows how much you are looking for something to attack. Get on with your life and do something productive instead.

        • Solaris does not particularly target the desktop user any longer, and hasn't seriously for a long time. So bitching about Solaris being "clunky" in that kind of usage (which is what it appears you're talking about, ditching Solaris on the desktop), is ludicrous.

          Tell that to Sun Marketing.

          Solaris desktop isn't the only area where solaris is clunky. It is also clunky in a number of server configurations (e.g. database server, etc.) where Linux, FreeBSD, and others shine.

          You may not like the fact that your favorite operating system isn't terribly well suited for a number of applications, applications for which it is often marketed by its seller, but that does little to change the fact that it remains less well suited than others, or that the areas where it does shine are areas that only a few specialized applications have any real use for.

          You may also not like the fact that businesses and companies, including the one I work for, have found it in their strategic interest to deploy open and free(dom) operating systems and products wherever feasable, or that the turnaround on fixing problems is typically faster than Sun (who is BTW a great deal better than Microsoft in that respect), so much so that it, more than anything else, became a deciding factor when my bosses chose which direction to go, and which operating system to deploy.

          Indeed, you may not much care for anything I've said on the subject (your rather trite post certainly seems to indicate that), and certainly Sun probably doesn't like to hear it (and when it has been brought up to their sales representatives, you could almost see their hands go over the ears and their lips begin to move in the "I can't hear you, I can't hear you" refrain), but that does absolutely nothing to negate the fact that, for the vast majority of common tasks to which computers are used in many, many corporate and small business settings, Solaris ins't nearly as well suited as other alternatives such as FreeBSD and Linux, nor does it negate the fact that Sun's unwillingness to listen to its customers on this subject has played no small role in their shrinking marketshare.

          Of course, your contention that 2-cpu unix configurations isn't relevant to the discussion shows an immense ignornace of the hardware offerings Sun itself markets, many of which are precisely the clunky, slow, and ineffecient architecture you yourself dismiss in lauding their 64 and 128 cpu solutions, which the vast majority of us have no use for.

          Finally, I recommend you look up the word 'attack', then look up the word 'criticize.' There is a difference that your idealogical adherance to Sun appears to have blinded you to, much as Sun's sales representatives have been blinded as they've watched their accounts dwindle toward zero. Hint: I was criticizing Solaris, and rightly so based on my not inconsiderable experience with the product (indeed, I work with it every day). Your interpretation of that as an attack says a great deal more about your bias than it does about mine.
          • You were attacking Solaris because you make unsupported allegations and make broad arguments from your alleged authority regarding Solaris without demonstration of the reality of your authority (only assertions of such). I conceded the point that Solaris as a desktop environment is difficult in many ways (examples: CDE sucks to configure, the scalability of Solaris as a whole causes low-end configs to suffer in interactive use), and you then proceed to attack me with straw assumptions about what I may or may not "like" which says quite enough about your bias.

            If you can give a real and documented argument of how Linux is such an obviously superior database platform across the board as you assert it to be, I might respond again (as if you care, but there you have it). Otherwise, I presume you're just a well-written troll. Kudos on your writing ability.

      • Solaris is big, slow, and clunky, not because it is big, slow, and clunky at everything, but because it is big, slow, and clunky at those tasks most people perform most of the time.

        That is half true.

        It is true in that many people have compared solaris to linux, and found solaris to be slower. However, that is because solaris comes tuned for reliability over speed, out of the box.

        If you enable DMA for the ATA drive the user is using, plus run "fastfs" on all the filesystems to turn off nice safe slow sync-to-disk in various places, it will run just as fast as linux.

        The primary drawback to solaris vs linux/etc is fewer drivers for solaris. Related to that, is that linux 3d graphics support is better. But that will change.

    • I was halfway through my SCSA cert exams before starting my current job (where our servers use Solaris 8), so I think I have some knowledge of how Solaris stacks up against Linux and OpenBSD....

      On the one hand, it does integrate some nice technology that the free systems lack. Most of the core technology is very stable.

      But on the other hand, it's about a decade behind the time on some very fundamental items. Packet sniffers, and the need to use ssh/scp instead of telnet/ftp, don't appear to exist in the Solaris world. They aren't installed by default, they aren't covered by the exams. It doesn't come with a compiler. Etc and so on.

      Sure, it's possible to install the GNU packages to add the missing functionality, but this misses the point. I would much rather use something like OpenBSD (where I have a solid system that I have to add applications to) than Solaris (where I might have an integrated environment, but then have to spend hours securing to modern practices). If I overlook something, the damage on OpenBSD will be far less than on Solaris.
      • Hrm.... no packet sniffer?

        [root@localhost]$ whatis snoop
        snoop snoop (1m) - capture and inspect network packets
        [root@localhost]$ which snoop /usr/sbin/snoop

        And thats been there since at least Solaris 7.

        Try checking your facts...
    • These are the same kind of people who complain about Microsoft spreading lies (FUD) about Linux, but these hypocrites have no problems doing the same regarding Solaris, because it doesn't fit into their open source ideology.

      Oh no! Now RMS will be spamming the Linux kernel dev mailing list about how "...Solaris is the spirit of the whip hand!"

      PS: Am I the only one who, upon hearing that from him about the BitKeeper license, pictured in my head a bunch of little kids sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories about The Spirit of the Whip Hand?
  • Oh Boy! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:09PM (#4549177) Journal

    The price of Windows, the applications of Unix. Why would I want to run it? If I want an x86 *NIX, my choice is *BSD. Now, if Solaris could run Windows apps, or even if it could run MacOS X apps it'd be more than worth it.

    Paying for maintenance or "subscribing" sucks too. That's why I won't downgrade to XP. They are trying to move people towards the subscription model. I'm holding out for MacOS X for x86, or a *NIX that can run Windows apps. Running Windows apps a major release back (ie, Win2k apps now, WinXP apps by 2004) would be just fine. If the price is one-time $99, I'm sold.

    Does anybody have what it takes to get Windows apps running in less than 2 years? Wine couldn't do it. I wager that a large company like AOL or IBM could do it if they made the commitment. They wouldn't become "the new Microsoft" but they would be like generic drug makers--not household names, but still a good business.

    • Re:Oh Boy! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BlackHawk-666 ( 560896 ) <> on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:21PM (#4549269) Homepage
      You may have missed the point of this and the target audience. Solaris is aimed at business users, not nerds sitting at home debateing why vi is better than emacs.

      For $99 you get a great OS, which is a nice start, but what all businesses really want is to know that there will be someone there providing support if they run into trouble. They can't just rely on the open source community hacking up a quick solution "once I'm done playing Quake".

      $75/month wouldn't even show up on the balance sheet of any decent business and would be well worth paying to guarantee your supplier will be there when you need them i.e. they didn't go bust.

      I develop bespoke software for a living and part of what we provide for all out clients is a service level agreement, which means they pay us x pounds a month, and we guarantee them x days of work and support on their apps each month. Without this arrangement their applications would soon become abandonware.

    • Paying for maintenance or "subscribing" sucks too. That's why I won't downgrade to XP. They are trying to move people towards the subscription model.

      That's just plain misinformed. XP is available now. It is available in the form of an unlimited (by time) license. You can buy it and use it forever and the Service Packs and fixes are free too (I believe that is covered in the license somewhere that MS is supposed to provide SPs, etc. for free).

      IIRC, the subscription model is what they want their enterprise customers to move towards.
  • Good idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jzs9783 ( 612647 )
    I like how Sun is charging - have you looked at their stock price recently? 2.87. Yup, a measely 2.87. Just 2 years ago it peaked at 64.66. What good are they if they go bankrupt? They can only help technology if they still have some sort of revenue, otherwise they will disappear like so many others.
  • Who would use Solaris/x86 ? I mean, as a previous post mentioned, a default install is basically useless, furthermore there are very few apps precompiled for it (and I don't think it does well in terms of hardware support either).

    It's usually Linux eating up Solaris' market share, not the other way around.

    The Raven

    • in terms of hardware support all equipment that Sun says works with Solaris works damn well. Putting a Linksys NIC in a Sun box is a dumb move. Stick with quality parts that are known to work with the machine.
    • Who would use Solaris/x86 ? I mean, as a previous post mentioned, a default install is basically useless, furthermore there are very few apps precompiled for it (and I don't think it does well in terms of hardware support either).

      It used to be effectively free back in the day, so it was good for providing developers with cheap workstations for building applications to run on real Sun servers. Maybe at a startup, maybe for students, etc. In many cases, it's more valuable to use platform-specific features than to code for maximum portability. But these days, you can get an Ultra 5 (I think it's being replaced by the Ultra 60 now) for the price of a PC, and it's a real SPARC, so Solaris x86 is less useful for that purpose.

      Also, I guess people could use them for EPOS applications - loads of people ran SCO on x86 for that purpose.

      The default install is "useless" because Solaris is used for so many different things. Sun's attitude is pragmatic. It's expected that anyone buying Sun kit is going to have their own strong opinions about how things should be, so there's little point in trying to shoehorn them in. You can get anything you want from the freeware CD that ships with Solaris, from, etc, then you can set up JumpStart to install all your machines that way automagically.

      It's usually Linux eating up Solaris' market share, not the other way around.

      Solaris shares the advantage of FreeBSD in that it's a known platform. People say "Linux" as if it's one thing, but there are a dozen or more distributions and they're all configured differently, all ship with slightly different libraries, all have different filesystem layouts, etc. If you are writing software that requires specific versions of specific things to be in specific places, then it's much easier to go with a known platform (even vendors like Oracle only support certain Linux distros for this reason). If you have your heart set on x86 hardware, Solaris can be a better choice than Linux for that reason.
      • But these days, you can get an Ultra 5 (I think it's being replaced by the Ultra 60 now) for the price of a PC, and it's a real SPARC, so Solaris x86 is less useful for that purpose.

        The Ultra 5 is quite a few years old, now. For the Ultra 5's market, the modern replacements are the Blade 100 (500MHz USIIe) and the Blade 150 (550MHz or 650MHz USIIi). The Ultra 60 (2x 450MHz USIIi) was marketed as an engineering workstation, which has been obseleted by the Blade 1000 and Blade 2000 (2x 1GHz+ USIII).

        The Blade 100 and Blade 150 are inexpensive ($1000 to $2000), but the Blade 2000 is the no-holds-barred version ($7000+). Regardless, even the Blade 100 is well engineered and a good workstation, but it's overall performance makes it suitable for administration and productivity tasks. For software development and real engineering work, the Blade 150 and especially the Blade 2000 are better options.

        Solaris shares the advantage of FreeBSD in that it's a known platform.

        Very true. I consider each Linux distribution to be a different operating system, since they vary down to the system startup run-control level (rc scripts in /etc).
  • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:13PM (#4549210)
    This is... bizarre.

    I don't know anyone who runs Solaris on a x86 because they like Solaris on an x86, but it's a very good platform for keeping current on your Sun sysadmin and netadmin skills or prepping for the cert exams.

    And that, in turn, affects our employer's decision on which hardware to buy when they need honking big servers.

    Microsoft, for all of its other faults, does understand that the developers and admins are key people to get in the loop. These programs can be a real pain if you're a small consulting firm, but if they think you're large enough to be throwing business their way you can get access to a lot of software so your familiarity with it may be a line item when the CIO decides which package to purchase.

    So why is Sun pissing on the SCSAs and SCNAs? They don't need to worry about the people who are already using Solaris-on-Sparcs at work, they need to worry about the people who are using HP/UX or AIX or Linux or *BSD and might not remain current on what Solaris offers unless they have that low-cost box to play with.
  • by rtos ( 179649 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:17PM (#4549247) Homepage
    This isn't exactly breaking news, but good news for all the rabid x86 fans out there no doubt.

    Here's the Heliopod blurb [] *cough*shameless plug*cough* from Oct 4:

    "Having had its
    productization deferred [] back in January, Solaris 9 x86 will now be receiving full support from Sun []. It is believed that this decision was based, in part, on highly vocal fans [] of the x86 edition. However, unlike its Sparc edition counterpart, Sun will be charging for Solaris 9 x86. Initial prices are $99 for single-processor desktop systems and some as-yet undetermined price for multiprocessor systems. Optional service is also available starting at $75 per month for desktop systems and $1,275 a year for lower-end servers."
    By the way, posted an interview with Chris Baker [], Sun's Product Manager for Solaris x86. They discuss quite a few aspects of the OS, including support, driver development, and pricing plans. If you run x86, it's probably worth checking out.
  • by Per Wigren ( 5315 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @02:18PM (#4549251) Homepage
    This is a serious question!

    What's the reason to run Solaris on x86 instead of Linux or Free/Open/Net BSD? From what I've heard it's slower and has much less support for hardware, besides the fact that it's so conservative that I often bang my head on the desk and install GNU stuff on all Solarisboxes we have at work..

    The only reason I can think of is to learn it so one can put "Solaris" on the "list of things I know" when looking for a new job...

    • The only reason I can think of is to learn it so one can put "Solaris" on the "list of things I know" when looking for a new job...

      That is, in fact, a very good reason. Keeping current with the latest Solaris releases is quite a useful thing to do.

      I also have another reason that probably won't apply to everyone here. I do freelance writing and a lot of it has to do with information security. When I need to try new tools or techniques, I never want to try them on my real computers if there's even any *chance* they might be dangerous. I use VMWare virtual machines running Linux and Windows. I'm going to be adding Solaris x86 to that mix soon, since virtually every result I'd gather from those systems will apply equally well to the SPARC systems most people have. I'm really looking forward to adding Solaris to my "virtual test lab".

    • The reason is simple; it means you can have the same OS on your cheap x86 clients as your high-end SPARC servers.

      BTW, my understanding is that most of the complaints about speed are due to two factors;

      1. Solaris isn't as friendly in low-memory machines as linux; it's optimised for n-way servers.
      2. Solaris' IDE support stinks (or at least it used to; Solaris does now support DMA if you poke the right config files); from what I understand if you run it on decent SCSI, you'll do fine.
    • The only real reason is if you are running an all-slowlaris shop (don't laugh, they are out there. Silicon Engineering (formerly Sequoia Semiconductor, now Creative Silicon, a division of Creative Labs) used to have all sparcs on desktops (SS1, 1+, 2, 5) and for servers (10, 20, Ultra 1 and 2) with a couple wintels for accounting, HR, and the CEO. If you want to stick with all solaris so that everything looks the same everywhere and all your system administration scripts work everywhere, then solaris on x86 becomes attractive.

      On the other hand, in a world where clustering is becoming more and more commonplace, and PCs are getting cheaper and cheaper, and Linux is getting better and better, it's starting to make more sense to do everything with Linux on PC, except maybe user desktops, which seem to still make the most sense as Windows. If you have a large enough Unix-savvy support staff you can get away with Linux on the corporate desktop at this point, but Windows is usually easier to support, even at this stage.

      For the record, when I worked for SEI we ended up with linux on x86 as the desktop, not solaris, because solaris 2.5.1 for intel was CRAPTACULAR. It was DEFINITELY slow and the hardware support was terrible.

    • The only reason I can think of is to learn it so one can put "Solaris" on the "list of things I know" when looking for a new job...
      You see, then, the primary reason there is interest in Solaris on x86. Setting up a Solaris box to play around with was dirt cheap, so Sun got a number of people to get familiar with their operating system and swayed a number of purchases in their favor as a result.

      Now, with the fees associated with Solaris/x86, there are few (or zero) reasons to run it. As you said, less hardware support, slow I/O, etc. Furthermore, with Sun destroying the primary purpose for this software (letting people dink around with Solaris for kicks), they only reduce their potential market share.

      All in all, a bad move. (IMO, at least.)
    • by xdroop ( 4039 )
      Linux 2.4.x nfs server performance is incredibly bad compared to Solaris x86. That's the main reason why I ditched Linux on my ide-driven PII/350. I'm not using it as a desktop OS, I'm using it as a server, and there it shines.

      And don't knock knowing Solaris resume-wise.

  • by timbrown ( 578202 ) <> on Monday October 28, 2002 @03:01PM (#4549610) Homepage
    I don't get why slashdot geeks are giving this the thumbs down. At the end of the day, it's one more choice for a hardened geek and as such can only be a good thing.

    In addition to the choice angle, Solaris on x86 is there for 3 key reasons:

    1) A proportion of us that opposed its death would be quite happy to offer payment to continue its existance - there are a reasonable number of developers & admins with time and money already invested in Solaris on x86 for one reason or another.

    2) There will be those who take Solaris on x86 as a chance to learn before they jump in to the world of Solaris on Sparc - For example, it may be better than investing in a Sparc just to pass your exams.

    3) For those who want to push Solaris on Sparc, it may be an easy way to prove to management that Solaris does have the advantages, again without buying the Sparc kit - hell you could even sneak it in in just the same way BSD and Linux advocates do, under the radar.

    Sure, Solaris on x86 isn't perfect and certainly doesn't perform as well as on the Sparc architecture but is this any great surprise - Sun are trying to hit a moving target when it comes to modern PC hardware - if you stick to whats supported you should be fine.

    The other criticism is that you need to install additional tools, but isn't this the case with any OS. These days, Solaris is supplied with most of the key open source tools. Additionally, resources like Rutgers RPM archive + apt-get bootstrap kit [] along with SunFreeware [] make getting a Solaris box up easy.

    As I see it, this news has 4 (i/c the aspect of choice) positive points and 0 negative. Having said that, the news is moot to me, I run Sparc :>
  • by barfarf ( 544609 ) on Monday October 28, 2002 @05:19PM (#4550979)
    1. Good Solaris/HP admins can make serious $$$$. If you can add Veritas software and Oracle to that, it goes up substantially from there.

    2. Solaris (SPARC version only, of course) will scale almost linearly when moved above 8-CPU's. It was designed to comfortably run on systems of 100 CPU's and above. If I remember right, x86 doesn't really scale well past 4 processors.

    3. If it wasn't for linux, there'd be no way that I could've even touched Solaris. Without Solaris x86, there's no way I would have been able to learn it without going out and purchasing a sparc machine. I will help support the Sun x86 community in this and will purchase a production release copy for $99 when it comes out.

    I use linux for just about everything I have at home (PA-Risc linux, familiar linux on my ipaq, yellow dog on my mac, linux for mips on my Playstation 2), but I also use Solaris x86 as my primary server at home.

    If I didn't like it, I wouldn't complain - I just wouldn't buy it.

    Ain't variety wonderful? It's all pretty much unix, people - can't we all just get along?
  • by mindstrm ( 20013 )
    Since when was solaris free for any type of production environment?

    Sure, you could get a personal copy and play with it.. but that's useless to the business world.
    • Solaris 7 was free across the board, for a while.
      Solaris 8 was free off and on to acquire, and always free to use on any system with no more than eight processors.
      Solaris 9/sparc is free to download, and free to use on any single-processor system. Buying a multiprocessor system from Sun implies a license to use it there as well.

      Bottom line: Sun has never in recent history charged significant licensing fees for their OS. Companies simply don't pay for Solaris.
      • Companies simply don't pay for Solaris.

        This is very largely true for small computers (and companies with many small computers). However, Sun does appear to charge a progressively higher fee on the larger computers. At least, this is how it is presented at; however, I'm sure real customers negotiate a better price.

        I do wish Solaris 9 were free up to two processors, since that would open up basic SMP experimentation to hobbyists who like Solaris.

        One thing that is nice about Solaris is that Sun ensures that there are tangible benefits to each major release. Solaris 8 had a better memory subsystem (among other things). Solaris 9 bundles lots of nice things (among other things). And Sun does it without bringing on the skepticism that Microsoft seems to ignite with each release or EULA upgrade.
        • If you look closely, they mention that buying a large machine entitles/licenses you to run Solaris on it.
          The biggest thing that Sun is charging for (besides the media kit, which you get free when you're a bigger customer) is running Solaris on grey-market machines bought on eBay. Buy a dozen sparc 10s? Sun doesn't care. Buy an F4800 from Sun? They don't care. Buy an E4500 on eBay? THEN you'll be paying for a license if Sun ever talks to you.

          But here's a secret for you: The licensing is entirely a paper entity, and doesn't impact the software you buy/download/install at all. Download the Solaris9 image from Sun, and it will happily install (and run) on any supported hardware. It doesn't count processors, it doesn't read a license file, and it doesn't email Sun. Technically if you put that on an SMP machine in your basement you're in violation, but Sun isn't going to prosecute you or care that you're doing it.

          So go download the images and install on your 4-processor Sparc20. I won't tell!
  • You've almost gotta wonder if they sat around in some board room somewhere and said:

    bonehead1:"What we really need todo is drive more unix users into the arms of linux!"

    bonehead2:"I know, we'll charge an obsurd price for our x86 version of solaris!"

    bonehead1:"Yeah! In fact we'll even charge for the crippled only one user can login, disables the ethernet after 24 hours beta to discourage people from even testing it!" (*note: I'm not sure that's true, it just sounds funny so I made it up...*)

    bonehead2:"I am in awe of you!"

    bonehead1:"What can I say, I am god.."
  • Nothing New (Score:2, Informative)

    by Josuah ( 26407 )
    The $99 for Solaris x86 isn't new. Solaris 8 x86 was also $99; I know because I bought it to upgrade my Solaris 7 x86 box (which was free because Sun was trying to get everyone to develop in Java, so they set out boxes of Solaris 7 x86 and a bunch of software like Java IDEs). And there also wasn't _any_ people-support for this unless you paid for it, as is being advertised now for Solaris 9 x86. You got free support from the web site and support sites, but not phone tech support. (Updates are no doubt free for download.) So, doesn't look like anything is new now, unless the monthly support cost has changed.

    Oh, and in case people are wondering why someone might want Solaris x86, the answer was very easy for me: it's a reference platform. If your socket code works on Solaris it's pretty much going to work anywhere else just fine. If you want the real sh in an environment that actually expects sh (instead of bash, for example) then you go with Solaris. This is extremely handy for writing OS independent sh scripts. I can't afford a SparcStation, but I can afford Solaris x86, and it means I can do Solaris development and testing (okay, not really low-level stuff that is endian-important) at home.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"