Can OpenSolaris become an alternative to enterprise Linux?

Can OpenSolaris become an alternative to enterprise Linux?

Summary: Sun's "open source road map" is to make OpenSolaris a viable alternative to enterprise Linux through a simpler install package and alliances in the enterprise open source space.

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Sun logoSun's "open source road map" is to make OpenSolaris a viable alternative to enterprise Linux through a simpler install package and alliances in the enterprise open source space.

The featured speaker for yesterday's open source summit at the Santa Clara headquarters was Debian founder Ian Murdock, who joined Sun earlier this year in part to make the OpenSolaris install process simpler. He also spread the word that Sun is Linux-friendly.

Murdock's bailiwick is Project Indiana, an OpenSolaris binary. The idea is to get something basic you can give away on a CD, with users adding additional capabilities from the network. He's also working on an Image Packing System that lets you roll-back an upgrade.

Another special guest was Josh Berkus, the project lead for PostgreSQL. PostgreSQL has always sold itself as a more mature, robust, enterprise-ready alternative to mySQL. Berkus said his program's biggest problems lie in support, training and knowledge, all areas where Sun stands out.

An alliance with Sun makes special sense for PostgreSQL given the fact mySQL is now aiming its pitch toward CIOs.

The attitude toward Linux was best exemplified by the OpenJDK, which is supporting a Red Hat project dubbed Iced Tea aimed at making it easier to run under Linux. (Now that all the good coffee names are taken, I'm looking for Project Egg Cream.)

Simon Phipps was master of ceremonies for the day, and made all the right noises about what open source is, how Sun supports open source, and yada yada yada. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The question now is how much of the enterprise Linux market can Sun grab, and will that be enough to keep Wall Street happy with Sun's open source direction? Or will they make Jonathan Schwartz cut his hair?

Topics: Software, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Oracle

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  • Sun Could Have Some Success

    And quite frankly, may have already had some in stemming the Linux tide.

    Linux pre-installed on servers had some interesting hickups in the first two quarters of this year:
    - in 2Q, Linux's percentage of pre-installed servers declined from the previous year.
    - in 1Q, Windows server revenue grew faster than Linux server revenue, per IDC that was the first time that had happened since IDC started tracking those numbers in '98.

    So, something's up with Linux adoption. Could it be that Sun is successfully keeping customers on Solaris that might have otherwise moved to Linux? Sun's earnings (http://www.sun.com/aboutsun/investor/earnings_releases/earnings_pr.jsp) have improved significantly in the last 12-18 months.
    SwashbucklingCowboy
    • Missing facts.

      Growth in Microsoft server sales is calculated from a much higher base than Linux server sales. So Microsoft grows substantially more than Linux even when Linux had a higher percentage growth.

      Give you an example:

      Microsoft grows 10% from 100 units to 110. Linux grows 20% from 10 units to 12. Linux's percentage growth is twice as large as Microsoft's. But Microsoft's growth in unit sales is 5 times Linux's growth.

      That Microsoft has recently had a higher percentage growth as well is remarkable.



      Then Sun has recently been producing hardware that has sold much better than the models they replaced. Hence the improvement in revenues.

      There's an issue whether the profit on these less expensive servers is sufficient to support the company over a period of time. I haven't seen even confident speculations.

      In addition, the sales increase of hardware had to cover the disastrous revenue loss resulting from open-sourcing Solaris. Whether Solaris adoption has increased (and whether Sun has seen any revenue from a hypothetical increase) is unknown.

      My suggestion is that the best way to tell how well Sun is doing is to watch the number of announced layoffs.
      Anton Philidor
      • That's Nice

        But not relevant to what I was saying.

        Windows went from 65.1% to 67.1% of server shipments. Linux fell from 23.1% of 22.8% of server shipments. (http://www.thestreet.com/_yahoo/newsanalysis/itmanagement/10376540.html?cm_ven=YAHOO&cm_cat=FREE&cm_ite=NA)

        There's no way to spin that in a positive way for Linux.
        SwashbucklingCowboy
        • Linux is still doing well.

          Linux server revenues grew 19% year over year.
          Linux is growing, at the expense of Unix, but gains no ground on Microsoft, which is growing faster.


          Before quoting the numbers, an observation worth quoting from the article:

          One consideration possibly putting a damper on Linux is the perception that committing to open source means paying higher staffing and management costs to support it.
          "In broad, sweeping, general terms, you can find a way to configure Linux cheaper than Windows, in terms of acquisition cost," says IDC analyst Al Gillen. "But that's only one cost" to the larger issue of maintaining software systems over the three- to four-year life of a server.

          [End quote.]

          The facts have been gotten.




          On to assembling quotes from the article linked:

          Servers

          Microsoft picked up 2 percentage points, bringing its market share to 67.1% of servers shipped during the second quarter...

          Linux accounted for 22.8% of server shipments, down from 23.1% the year before.

          Unix gave up 1.2% of market share, shipping nearly 20,000 fewer servers than the same quarter of the prior year and holding just 7.6% of the market, according to Gartner data.


          Revenues

          According to IDC, Windows worldwide server revenue grew 18.7% to $5 billion in the second quarter. (Operating systems account for only a portion of that revenue.) The Microsoft OS gained 4 points of market share by revenue. Windows servers accounted for 38.2% of all revenue.

          Compare those figures to $1.8 billion for Linux-based server revenue in the second quarter, which had 19% growth year over year, according to IDC. Linux servers now represent 13.6% of all server revenue.

          Unix took in $4.2 billion in revenue in Q2, according to IDC. By revenue, Unix had 31.7% of the server market, reflecting the higher prices that mainframes capture.

          Revenue for z servers grew 4% year-over-year during the quarter, to $1.2 billion. System z accounts for 9.5% of all server revenue and was the only platform outside of Linux and Windows to see revenue growth in the quarter.
          Anton Philidor
      • Hmmm, could it be a case

        Where Linux has reached the saturation point with people willing to invest/try an OS that doesn't have any big name backing behind it? (Sorry guys, Red Hat is a timy minnow in the pond.)

        If you ask knowledgable IT admins "what is the best *nix available" the answer is going to be Solaris 9 times out of 10. (I happen to agree with them.)

        Seems to me that most IT folks looking to run some form of *nix would compare Solaris and Linux (both now free) and it would be a no brainer selecting Solaris. (Scalability alone sets it above Linux.)

        Will it in some magical way create revenue for Sun? I think we will have to wait and see...
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • That sound about right to me! - NT

          NT
          raycote
        • saturation point?

          I don't see either Linux, OpenSolaris, the BSDs and OSX as anywhere close to a saturation point. OpenSolaris will become much more valuable as more device drivers are ported to it. It seems to me that CDDL will coexist quite nicely with BSD licenses so that we will see an increasing number of device drivers that work for OpenSolaris and the BSDs. The nice thing about this is that the open source OSes really don't need to 'compete' in the same way the they must 'compete' with Windows. Most open source projects, and commercial UNIX products for that matter, are portable. Java apps are portable, the 'write once debug everywhere' are pretty much over, except for making sure that you have a compatible generation of Java (e.g. 1.5 vs 1.4.2 are different generations). OpenSolaris and Linux and the BSDs are are reasonable alternatives for many roles. The OS is only one layer in the 'stack' and these OSes are largely interchangeable. (This is in strong contrast with the MS stack which is strongly coupled to one platform.)

          I would expect that the biggest issue for most companies would be the in-house expertise. You will probably stick with what your staff knows.

          The long range question that I have is this: is David Heinemeier Hansson correct when he says, 'The stigma of being a Web programmer still using Windows will increase.' LAMP (and its evolutionary descendants like RoR) and Java coexist more easily than either LAMP and .Net or Java and .Net. Developers have a choice of one really well integrated platform that ties then to one platform. They also have a choice of moving to tools that are largely cross-platform. If he is right, then there will be plenty of room for OSX, Linux, OpenSolaris and the BSDs. If he is wrong, there will be one solution for every IT decision.
          shis-ka-bob
      • Let's look at the "facts"

        The Gartner figures refer to major branded servers shipped during the period with
        an OS installed. Given the enterprise don't buy servers with an OS, the figures
        largely reflect the SME market, and yes windows dominates this market with
        windows SBS, the other version bought because of ISV requirements.

        "Microsoft grows 10% from 100 units to 110. Linux grows 20% from 10 units to
        12. Linux's percentage growth is twice as large as Microsoft's. But Microsoft's
        growth in unit sales is 5 times Linux's growth."

        True, however of interest to many is the percentage growth because it can identify
        a trend. Linux growth on shipped servers is growing faster than hardware growth
        which is extremely positive.

        The true measure of success of Linux in servers is reflected in the revenue growth
        for the two major commercial Linux offerings, RHEL and Novel's SuSE - both
        exploding.

        Linux has had great success in server, HPC and embedded where it's growth has
        outpaced the alternatives from MS. Desktop Linux hasn't performed well, but the
        positive ABM story is Mac sales have been very encouraging.

        "In addition, the sales increase of hardware had to cover the disastrous revenue
        loss resulting from open-sourcing Solaris"

        No evidence of "disastrous revenue loss", also no mention of potential cost
        savings by moving to an open source model. Long term profitability is what
        counts.

        "My suggestion is that the best way to tell how well Sun is doing is to watch the
        number of announced layoffs."

        Personally I'd be looking at margin and profitability;-)
        Richard Flude
        • Observations

          The Linux server growth percentage has been slowing.

          Both RHEL and SuSE have been doing well, again on a small base. SUSE has benefitted from the sales expertise of... Microsoft.
          Speculation, but Microsoft may be considering Linux a waystation between Unix and Windows.

          Mac sales have increased, but so have the sales of other varieties of pc, so the percentage has stayed approximately the same. There was an article in the NY Times recently by a Mac fan wondering fiercely what it would take to increase Apple's market share. Maybe Leopard and the decline in the frenzy for Vista will change the situation.

          Sun doesn't release the numbers to show how much money has been lost from open-sourcing Solaris. But it's indicative that Sun was selling the software as a priority right up to the day of the announcement. And that Sun's PR tries to justify the move by reference to recent increases in hardware sales.
          The continuing interest by analysts in how well that bet is doing would give Sun a motive to report success, if there were success.

          The "potential cost savings by moving to an open source model" means layoffs. I can never consider that a reason to applaud.

          And looking at "margins and profitability" can be affected by a new product. Will Sun's recent profits be enough to overcome all those quarters of losses? Will Sun be able to continue to produce new products the market approves? The continuing layoffs shows a belief on Sun's part that the answer to both questions is No.
          Anton Philidor
          • One interpretation, let's try another

            "The Linux server growth percentage has been slowing."

            Shipments of servers bundled with a Linux OS shipped from major brand name
            manufacturers is slowing.

            Subscription revenue at major Linux providers growing at industry leading levels
            and is not diminishing.

            "Mac sales have increased, but so have the sales of other varieties of pc, so the
            percentage has stayed approximately the same."

            No Mac sales have outpaced PC growth for at least two years. Today:

            "Apple Inc.'s share of the U.S. personal computer market for the third calendar
            quarter of 2007 was 8.1 percent, up from 6.2 percent during the same period one
            year ago, according to results released from Gartner just minutes ago."
            http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/07/10/17/
            apples_u_s_mac_market_share_rises_to_8_1_percent_in_q3.html

            "Maybe Leopard and the decline in the frenzy for Vista will change the situation."

            Right a NYTimes technology article;-)

            There has been no "frenzy for Vista" with PC sales continuing the long term trend.
            Several PC manufacturers has expressed their disappointment a Vista's reception.

            "The continuing interest by analysts in how well that bet is doing would give Sun a
            motive to report success, if there were success."

            Sun was at a cross roads given the rise of open source *nix. Like Novell sales at
            Sun were already declining from their proprietary offering, they've chosen a
            different tactic. You fail to see any success because you dismiss them (e.g.
            increasing hardware sales).

            "The "potential cost savings by moving to an open source model" means layoffs. I
            can never consider that a reason to applaud."

            Or relocation of resources into other areas. Companies change labour
            requirements all the time, sometimes laying off people.

            "Will Sun's recent profits be enough to overcome all those quarters of losses? Will
            Sun be able to continue to produce new products the market approves? The
            continuing layoffs shows a belief on Sun's part that the answer to both questions
            is No."

            If you tie layoffs to future viability of a company you'd be wrong.
            Richard Flude
      • Sun is scraping by ...

        Solaris was one of the most prominent versions of UNIX. Every university I'd visited from the late 1980's through the mid 1990's had Solaris labs. It was in widespread use in businesses as well. Then Microsoft started to push server software (on NT1.0 .. NT4) - it was absolute rubbish, but much cheaper than any solution from Sun. People started moving from one costly proprietary solution (which worked pretty well) to one which was much cheaper but gave you the blue screen at regular intervals. Year 2000 - Sun hardware + software still very expensive. People are throwing away AIX, Solaris, SCO and others and replacing them with Linux - or for non-critical use, WinDos. Around this time we see the end of many big names in industry, including Digital Equipment Corporation. SCO sees a future in systems running Linux. SGI almost goes under as costly UNIX systems are replaced by WinDos and Linux. Sun's still alive - but struggling. SCO shoots itself multiple times - Darl's a really crappy shot and just can't kill them fast enough. Now to the present day - Sun is still around, but the cost of big servers has got to come down more to take back what WinDos has clawed away. What better way that to open up the source code and let other people work on improving the system as they've been begging Sun to do for almost 20 years - Sun programmers can concentrate on more interesting things while other people fix the numerous little bugs that have been annoying them all the time. Tech support from Sun still costs $$$, but with the system being free, more people may try it, help fix it, and pay Sun for support. Now you don't even have to buy Sun hardware (even though they still make excellent hardware) - you can have Sun support for your boxes - you know, the ones that are running the BSOD operating system.
        zoroaster
    • I don't see what you see

      In terms of revenue, of course MS is the big dog, but they charge 3-4 times as much as the most expensive Linux solution. People equate $s = # of sales. In any case, Dell, for one is seeing a different trend.

      http://www.techspot.com/news/27451-Dell-sees-large-growth-for-Linux-servers-less-so-for-Windows.html

      I can't comment on OpenSolaris, none is in use at our company. We are still Solaris and Linux. My personal opinion is Sun waited too long, Linux has the Open Source community momentum, so at least in the short term, I don't see it displacing Linux.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
  • RE: Can OpenSolaris become an alternative to enterprise Linux?

    Surely OpenSolaris over Linux is a no-brainer in the enterprise market.
    Scrat
    • I agree. (nt)

      .
      No_Ax_to_Grind
    • 3 years ago yes

      But Linux has the momentum and carrier grade Linux is approaching Solaris reliability. I think Sun waited too long, and now that Linux is completely enterprise ready, it will be harder for OpenSolaris to compete. Long term, the best (usually) rises to the top when you eliminate the embrace and extinguish factor that some companies can't use against open software.

      TripleII
      TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
      • Disagree completely

        There are far more current installs of Solaris than Linux. I see nothing that indicates that will cahnge.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
  • One critical point, the license

    If they keep their current license Solaris can easily replace Linux in the enterprise. If they make the horrible mistake of moving to the GPL-3 license they may as well close the door on it.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Well, not really

      Sun's OS share in the enterprise is static, though, as some have mentioned their new hardware offerings are excellent.

      As for licensing the Linux kernel will remain at GPL v2 as long as Linus has anything to say about it. There haven't been many projects adopting or changing to GPL v3 yet, certainly no enterprise ones that I'm aware of.

      Other than your near religious hatred of all things GPL (and anything that's been within a star system of Richard Stallman) your argument is a non-sequitor.

      Actually in most enterprises I deal with Solaris is being kept till end of life and then being replaced by Linux, usually RH, something like CentOS or, depending on the enterprise's resources a roll-your-own.

      Anyway, at the moment GPL v3 doesn't even enter into the enterprise equation in Linux.

      ttfn

      John
      TtfnJohn
  • Could be

    "Where Linux has reached the saturation point with people willing to invest/try an OS that doesn't have any big name backing behind it?"

    I would generalize that to Linux reaching a saturation point with those willing to use it. That would mean that Linux would only grow organically from now on.

    See the UBS survey results that hinted at this. Nearly half were not using Linux at their company (or at least they don't know they are) and the vast majority of them had no plans to deploy Linux in 2007.
    http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2007/09/04/is-linux-adoption-slowing-down/
    http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=201804059

    While not enough information was made public (at least that I saw) to gauge the quality of the survey, it shouldn't be quickly dismissed as wholly inaccurate as some open source advocates have done.
    SwashbucklingCowboy
  • Huh?

    Can you please tell us why you think an enterprise class user cares whether the license is CDDL or GPL?
    SwashbucklingCowboy