Sun slams brakes on Red Hat open source claims

Sun Microsystems has responded to claims it is being left behind by an industry increasingly embracing the open source ethos by pointing out that a massive 420,000 people have applied for a licence to freely download and use Solaris 10 since it was released on January 31 this year.The figure was revealed in Sun president and chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz's blog this week and confirmed by James Eagleton, Solaris product manager for Australia and New Zealand.

Sun Microsystems has responded to claims it is being left behind by an industry increasingly embracing the open source ethos by pointing out that a massive 420,000 people have applied for a licence to freely download and use Solaris 10 since it was released on January 31 this year.

The figure was revealed in Sun president and chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz's blog this week and confirmed by James Eagleton, Solaris product manager for Australia and New Zealand. And 65 percent of downloaders wanted to use the software on an x86-based system rather than one based on Sun's own SPARC processors. Eagleton said performance enhancements as well as the operating system's new features such as dynamic tracing, predictive self-healing and Solaris containers have caused the wave of interest.

Speaking with ZDNet Australia this week, Eagleton also commented on Tuesday's release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (RHEL), which includes several security enhancements and the Linux 2.6 kernel, as well as software additions to the Red Hat Network (RHN) that will give the systems management tool the ability to manage Solaris systems. The release is squarely aimed at putting Sun out of business.

But according to Eagleton, the news from Red Hat may not be anything that new to the market. Eagleton said of the RHN additions: "We've had capabilities in the marketplace with our Sun N1 service provisioning server and also our Sun management center that have allowed us to provision and manage heterogeneous server environments for quite a while now. A variety of different operating system environments are supported, from Unix to Windows to Linux".

And Red Hat's decision to incorporate the US National Security Agency's Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) into RHEL also came under fire. Eagleton said of SELinux's ability to restrict programs' access privileges that "Solaris has had this feature for a number of years already. In many ways Red Hat via the inclusion of SELinux is trying to bridge the gap that Solaris has already enjoyed in the marketplace. Solaris 10 is certified Common Criteria EAL 4+, which is the highest security certification in the marketplace. Red Hat are only applying for certification now, so they're not certified yet".

Responding to comments made this week to ZDNet Australia by Red Hat Asia-Pacific director of engineering Paul Gampe that "the open source train has left the station and Sun has been left behind," Eagleton was very clear what he thought about his competitor. He said: "Maybe they're [Red Hat] not looking at who's driving the open source train, rather than the people on board. With the large number of open source projects that we support, he [Gampe] may not be recognising Sun's long involvement in open source going back, far longer than Red Hat's been around".

According to Eagleton, Sun has a strong commitment to open source that goes back to 1984. "If you look at Sun's history, we're the second-largest single contributor to the open source movement in terms of contribution of lines of code, second only to the University of Berkeley. I mean, we came directly out of the university open standards, open source environment. Sun stands for Stanford University Networks," he said.

"As far back as when we used to run on a BSD version of Unix, we incorporated innovations such as NFS, and also contributed to the first working versions of TCP/IP stacks that allowed computers to network. So as far back as 1984, Sun has been contributing to open standards and open source and still very strongly believes in that, and this is only confirmed by our announcement of open sourcing Solaris".

Eagleton was also enthusiastic about setting the record straight regarding Sun's decision to eventually make all Solaris 10 code available to the community. He pointed out that "there already is a strong community around Solaris. Opening Solaris is really just placing the source code for Solaris under a licence model which makes it very easy for people to contribute and give their input and see their changes incorporated back into Solaris.

"Before Open Solaris, over the history of Solaris there has been a big group of external community around Solaris, people that have written third-party tools, or made improvement enhancements. Prior to Open Solaris, those suggestions have always come back to Sun for us to incorporate into the source code. This [Open Solaris] is just going to facilitate that and the community is only going to grow larger".

And the financial and telecommunications industries that Red Hat is targeting still belong to Sun, according to Eagleton, with 43 percent of Fortune 100 companies in the US running Solaris as their operating system of choice, compared with 26 percent for Microsoft Windows and only 12 percent for Linux. Eagleton said: "Sun is clearly leading in terms of its usage in the large enterprise".

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