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A Bridge Too Far? - Linux Apps on Solaris 10

August 10, 2004 article by Zsolt Kerekes editor and publisher of the SPARC Product Directory
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Editor's intro:- Sun's muddled past policies on Linux and x86 Solaris means that their OS roadmap announcements can't be taken at face value any more. We've seen the headless beast of Sun's marketing strategy planners spinning, twisting and diving for cover too many times in recent years. But reading the runes right is still important for users and ISVs who have to live with the reality of Sun's past failures of execution.
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Sun's recent August 8, 2004 - announcement that Solaris 10 will be able to run Linux applications natively on x86 platforms at high performance has some interesting historical precedents.

In 1988 - Sun's first x86 Solaris computer - the Sun 386i - was one of the market's best integrated Unix boxes featuring an Intel processor - the 80386. In order to make this workstation and server more "attractive" to customers - the OS included Microsoft DOS emulation in software. So users could run native PC applications unmodified and even see the results on a DOS window. Gee whiz! Unfortunately this "DOS on SunOS" feature ran like a dog - and was the sort of thing you only tried once. "Yes it works - how clever. But why is the window so small? And why can't we make it bigger? And why does it run slower than on a 10MHz 286?" The feature got Sun workstations into some companies - but as Sun dumped Intel and Motorola soon after to concentrate on its SPARC workstations products - any marketing advantages - if any - were short lived.

In the early 1990s - IBM's OS/2 - "A better windows than Windows" - promised users the treat of running Microsoft Windows applications more reliably and maybe even faster on IBM's "reliable" true multitasking OS/2 than on a native Microsoft PC. That didn't work too well either - because the internals of OS/2 kept changing so fast that ISVs were being delivered a new box of disks containing the OS every month. That was before we were all wired up to the internet... And when you did install a working version of OS/2 - it was slow - and rubbish in comparison to the buggy but more attractive Microsoft Windows. Like a vampire which has been walking the earth too long - OS/2 finally got a kindly stake in the heart by IBM - and was put out of its misery.

So - what should we make of Sun's proposed plan to let you run Linux applications - unmodified on Solaris 10?

Sun's press release about this - promised that the applications would run fast... Maybe - that remains to be seen. But apart from showing that Sun's software developers can turn their hand to complicated problems - so what?

What will this do for users and the market?

If adding Linux compatibility to Solaris makes Solaris more attractive to users - then maybe they should just buy a Linux box.

I can't imagine that this feature will make Solaris more attractive to existing Linux users. "Why not buy a proprietary OS from Sun - just so you can run applications from your open source OS." - That doesn't sound like an attractive proposition.

The feature will appeal to some systems integrators - who maybe started on Solaris - and have now moved their main development over to Linux - but still have some legacy Solaris code... Maybe. And to some tinkerers in university labs.

I think the main benefit of the new so called - Janus project - which offers this dual running will be that it gives Sun's Solaris developers some hands on experience with Linux. That will be a useful precurser to the big job that Sun's really scared of - releasing a full blown Sun supported Linux across the whole SPARC product range...

And before you say it - I did get a reliable report from a neighbor that he saw a pig flying past his window this morning. I'm checking that out later.

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Remember Xenix? - No Not the Warrior Princess
Editor:- take a look at the article - called - Surviving the Solaris x86 Wars.

Sun's commitment to making Solaris open source means the phony marketing war for Solaris x86 is over. It lasted 18 years and Sun retreated 3 times. The real marketing war will take place during the next several years. the article, SPARC Product Directory
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