Oracle Solaris, Linux, and OpenSolaris

Oracle Solaris, Linux, and OpenSolaris

Summary: Some people have been speculating rather wildly about the fates of both OpenSolaris and Oracle's Linux support now that the company is lining up solidly behind SPARC/Solaris. The nay prayers are all wrong here: support for both will get stronger, not weaker, as Oracle responds to its markets.


As the pennies start to fall in the Oracle/Sun merger we're seeing a lot of fear and ignorance getting expressed as corporate confusion, insensitivity, and general silliness - the company's websites, for example, now generally refer to Solaris as "Oracle Solaris" - naively falling in line with the IBM community press's use of "Sun Solaris" in an apparently deliberate effort to ghettoize its user community.

Meanwhile lots of other people are happily spreading FUD about OpenSolaris or disguising attacks on Linux as speculation that Oracle will downgrade its Linux support.

Although much of this is deplorable, most of it is also just par for the course, effectively collateral damage as the players in two big organizations merge interests, the PR folk get left behind, and the winners and losers in each organizational sub-group slowly get sorted out.

The most difficult and mission critical component of this merger will, I think, come with respect to sorting out the two support organizations. Both were pretty good, both had enormous internal complexities and dis-satisfactions arising mainly from the reality that support picks up the pieces every time sales ventures into new territory - through acquisitions, product expansions, or simply in response to customer pressures.

On the former Sun side, for example, identity management represented a customer necessity they simply couldn't say No to - just as customer demand for Lintel forced the former Oracle to periodically grab and freeze a Red Hat release for long enough to make applications support on it affordable for the customer.

The customer pressures driving these things won't change, but the new Oracle can offer better solutions at lower cost: shifting, to continue the example cited above, OS level Lintel support to the people who came from Sun, and recreating identity management as a unitary applications product that plugs into the appliance computing stack when needed.

This kind of organizational shuffle, in which responsibilities move to those closest to the mid point between customer and technology and the outliers get trimmed off, is a logical fit with Oracle's overall corporate strategy: sell what's selling to those who want to buy it, but direct business development dollars toward a revenue shift from licensing to support through an increasing focus on delivering highly reliable, functionally "deep", application services to customers.

Basically what this means is that if an Oracle customer wants to spend an extra few million shareholder dollars running Peoplesoft in client-server mode against DB2 under zOS, Oracle will take the money and do everything it can to help him make that happen - but the guy doing it has to be prepared to see his bosses reading Oracle ads offering to replace all that 70s stuff with a SPARC/Solaris based application appliance for less than five cents on the infrastructure dollar and no new application support cost.

It's this interleaving of long term strategic focus and short term customer response that places Linux and OpenSolaris in the merger crosshairs - not as things to cut, but as places meriting some additional senior management time and budget dollars.

On the Linux side this happens because Linux provides entry to the x86 market dominated by Microsoft. Tens of thousands of small to mid range businesses use Windows servers to run Windows applications - and every single one of those is a sales target for an Oracle guy armed with Lintel applications and a safe upgrade spiel guaranteed to deprive the Wintel clone driving that company's IT decisions of the forklift argument against looking at the Oracle offering.

Thus, the bottom line on Oracle's commitment to Linux is, I think, that it will gradually increase support for Linux until sometime after Microsoft switches to Unix for its business class server software.

Notice, however, that a commitment to Linux isn't a commitment to make or sell x86 hardware - on the contrary the only thing Oracle can possibly find attractive about this business is Sun's HPC position and relationship with AMD - assets that could leverage an interesting partnership arrangement with somebody like HP or Dell.

OpenSolaris is both different and the same. Most obviously, there are no significant organizational conflicts because Oracle's previous commitment to OpenSolaris was paper thin. Least obviously, but most importantly, OpenSolaris was a project with enormous promise that got decapitated when Sun posted a Linux guy at its head and went off to pursue its near death misadventure with x86 - a fate, and a direction, from which Oracle has now rescued it.

With that mistake soon to be safely in the past, the OpenSolaris group can stand on its own and can be expected to make the obvious decision that will give it immense strategic value to Oracle: stop trying to be a better Linux, and go be a better AIX instead.

The reason for that is both simple and complicated. On the simple side, OpenSolaris on x86 is a solution without a real problem, because there just isn't much you can do on x86 that you can't do with Linux - so sure containers, crossbow, zfs, dtrace, and all the rest of it are just as cool on x86 as they are on SPARC, but the limitations you run into between x86 hardware and the people you can get to make it work, mean that the real gains companies can get from using OpenSolaris instead of Linux on x86 are both too small and too unlikely to warrant the additional effort.

On the complicated side the fact is that IBM has nowhere to go but Linux - and if Oracle can help get OpenSolaris accepted as a valid alternative on IBM's hardware, it will open up a lot of accounts. Basically, where IBM account penetration is the goal, OpenSolaris is the obvious answer because a lot of IBM shops have somebody who can understand and champion what the technology offers: and once it's in the door - even if its only on x86 stuff - its value and availability on IBM's larger scale SMP hardware will create internal conflicts whose net effect will be to eventually break that account wide open.

So the bottom line on all this is simple: the forces that drove Sun to support Linux and open source Solaris haven't changed - and we can expect Oracle to sort itself out accordingly with solid support for applications on Lintel and for OpenSolaris and its applications on IBM's hardware.

Topics: Hardware, IBM, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Oracle, Processors, Software

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  • Open Solaris got decapitated when...

    By the way Rudy my company has recently employed a ex Sun employee who had been with them since 2000 and it has been fascinating talking to a technical insider about Suns complacency and average employees technical competence. Resting on their laurels does not come close to describing what went on there.

    Sun did not have a clue about open source and no real idea on how to pitch open source. They should have spoken to Red Hat who know how.

    Tried buying communities cos they had none except Java

    Murdoc is a geek not a business man and Sun wanted him
    to take that job so again they are stupid.

    The CDDL licence Ha Ha Ha. So funny to see Sun F**k up again. If your OS is not GPL/BSD licenced than just keep it closed source you won't be able to compete and severley limit the cross pollination of Ideas. Remember the UNIX wars and all the good it did in the end. Sun did not learn which is why they no longer exist.

    Oracle should just dump Open Solaris and let the SPARC/Solaris combination become an Itanic type curiosity.

    If ZFS got GPL'ed then the need for Solaris and it's slow/overpriced hardware vanish. I hope Oracle keep the price of the the SPARC hardware high and enjoy watching it die a slow death.
    • ZFS and GPL

      If ZFS is GPL'ed, I'd love to see ZFS be put in a Linux kernel and I'd like to see this in Ubuntu 10.10.

      Ext4 is okay, but it'd be nice if I could get an extra performance out of ZFS while still have data integrity when it comes to rejecting errors.

      I could move to OpenSolaris, but I've got MythTV and Asterisk running in Ubuntu Server 9.10.
      Grayson Peddie
      • ZFS on nix

        I agree it'd be nice to see ZFS on linux, but i doubt anyone in the community is in much rush to make this happen. Linux has LVM / ext4 which most will argue is good enough.

        As an alternative, you can use FreeBSD 8, which now has full support for zfs. There is a good how to on the freebsd wiki to install and boot it on zfs's a bit involved, but I followed it step by step and now have a pretty sweet FreeBSD system :) But if you wait until FreeBSD 8.1 it will probably be included in the installer itself.
  • RE: Oracle Solaris, Linux, and OpenSolaris

    hey paul, where's the snow???
    sparkle farkle
    • Across all 48 contiguous states?


      plus all of Canada except the BC lower mainland - it's great here in Sunny Lethbridge too.

      not to mention that Moscow got its biggest recorded 8 hour fall last week.. and most of western europe is freezing.

      Remember, tho, a hot day in July proves human caused warming, but a cold winter is just weather because cold winters happen fairly often ...this one is no worse than the lead up years to the last maunder minimum.

      (Seriously, it proves nothing.)
      • How high is the hurdle for proof?

        Global warming completely explains all of this. The warming makes the weather more extreme - hot AND cold. Your knee-jerk reactions and derision of the theory does not affect the truth one little bit.
        Roger Ramjet
        • hey Roger, please go read

          When Prophecy Fails

          and then lets talk some more.

          Meanwhile, hey, how about them oracle rumors, eh?
          • Any rumor is good at this point

            Many of the jobs that I have applied for lately have had Solaris containers experience requirements. Seems that the business world hasn't abandoned Sun.
            Roger Ramjet
          • containers

            are great - and trivially easy to use.

            However.. if you want to give yourself an advantage wrt to containers, go study crossbow.
          • The only Crossbow I know about wrt Sun

            is the Crossbow mouse! I bet you even have one . . .
            Roger Ramjet
          • Solaris is one thing, but Sun wasn't turning a profit.

            but the question is, has the business world abandoned Sun hardware. Sun had a big problem turning a profit... losing 9 figures in each of it's last 6 quarters... They went from 33% server revenue market share to 8% over the last decade. If Oracle(or IBM) didn't buy them, they were headed for bankruptcy within 2 years. Solaris is not a major profit center... and never will be. Also the UNIX server market, as a whole, is shrinking rapidly.

            What Paul doesn't seem to get is that the status quo at Sun was definitely not working... and something BIG needed/needs to change... especially since Oracle is coming in with high financial expectations...(adding $1B to their bottom line within the first year, due to Sun). The only part of Sun that he has bad mouthed is the x86 line... but I don't see how jettisoning that will turn over $2B in cost.
        • He is so in denial

          He can't even admit that the NW passage is open despite overwhelming proof.
  • That's a distro I would like top try.

    Of course, it should be based on Ubuntu with the brown wallpaper and themes. Would the cellphone OS version be called Hemroid?

    Using his Karmic Koala
  • Congrats Rudy you got spammed

    Finally they got to the blog with the least posts ;-)

    Pity about the popularity of Windows Server isn't it? It's time to leave the 1990s behind Rudy and come to terms with the absorption and digestion of Sun.

    I used to like DEC, but I got over their demise - which stage of grief do you think you are at? Surely you've passed denial?