It's not that Sun is killing off Solaris on Intel, it's simply that the company isn't planning yet to move Solaris 9 to the Intel family. Graham Lovell, Sun's director of Solaris product marketing, explains that Sun isn't making any further investments in Solaris on Intel for several reasons and that the company may yet port Solaris 9 to Intel.
Sun resellers doubt that this is the case. One anonymous Solaris network integrator from Florida said flatly, "It won't happen. Solaris on Intel was always meant to tempt people into buying high-profit margin SPARC systems. With the BSDs and Linux taking most of the Unix on Intel market, there wasn't any business reason to continue Solaris on Intel."
As Stacey Quandt, an analyst at Giga Information Group, puts it, "Solaris on Intel was no longer leading to any revenue capture for Sun."
Solaris 8 on Intel, which Lovell claims has had more than a million downloads, will still be available for the next two years and then get limited support for five more years. For device drivers and similar needs, though, users will need to look to the BSD Open Source community. Still, there can be no question that Sun is moving slowly away from the Intel chip family.
But is Solaris' move away from Intel an opportunity for Linux vendors? Quandt doesn't think so. "I haven't seen a significant installed base for Solaris on Intel. Where I've seen it has been mostly in education and research institutions. I think it unlikely to impact enterprise companies." And, in any case, she thinks Solaris on Intel customers may find the structurally similar BSD operating systems "the better answer."
Ransom Love, CEO of Caldera, thinks that Sun's move away from keeping Solaris on Intel up to date does represent an opportunity, but not for Linux, but instead for Caldera's Open Unix, its cross between UnixWare and Linux. He noted, "Caldera has a strong relationship with Sun. Sun is a partner and investor in Caldera, and we are very interested in continuing our work with them." But he also thinks that "Sun's decision demonstrates the consolidation happening on Intel, and essentially makes Caldera the only alternative for Unix on Intel."
But Mark deVisser, Red Hat's vice president of marketing, thinks that Sun's move out of the Intel platform does represent an opportunity for Linux. "We have long stated that our greatest market share gains have come from the Unix camp, so it is no surprise that the real opportunity for Red Hat is in the Unix-to-Linux migration. Amazon is one such customer who migrated from Unix to Linux at considerable cost savings, and we're seeing much more momentum in this direction."
The marketplace will decide whose vision of the future turns out to be the clearest, but one thing is for certain: Open Source wins. Whether it's BSD, pure Linux or Linux -elated operating systems like Open Unix, or Pentium III and IVs or the Itanium, the only significant Unixes running on Intel platforms in the future will be Open Source.
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