Oracle launches Solaris 11.2: Exadata, OpenStack fueled relevance?

Oracle wants to make Solaris more of a platform instead of an operating system. Whether Solaris succeeds may depend on traction in engineered systems as well as OpenStack integration.

Oracle on Tuesday launched the second version of its Solaris Unix operating system in three years, but its impact largely depends on the success of Exadata and the company's engineered systems as well as OpenStack.

On the surface, you'd have to wonder what the Solaris hubbub is about. Solaris is a Unix-based operating system and the Unix server market has tumbled. According to IDC data, Unix server share was 13.6 percent of the market in the fourth quarter. Windows has 45.7 percent market share with Linux at 28.5 percent. Oracle has 4.7 percent of the server market overall.

In other words, Solaris is battling in a shrinking market for a vendor who aspires to be a high-end computing player and watches its market share fall. IDC also said Oracle Solaris UNIX servers accounted for $1.4 billion in revenue globally in 2013, or 21 percent of the global UNIX server revenue. That tally was flat with 2012. Oracle SPARC accounted for 18 percent of the RISC+EPIC revenue globally in 2013 ($1.3 billion), up from 16% in 2012, according to IDC.

Oracle President Mark Hurd said Solaris is critical to the company because it's an engine for Exadata and engineered systems. Oracle is hoping these engineered systems will power the cloud---and sell a lot of database licenses and applications with the maintenance fees attached. For good measure, Solaris 11.2 includes a full distribution of OpenStack.

But Solaris is more about a layer of an integrated system than an operating system. Hurd said Oracle will be No. 1 in high-end computing systems "in a reasonable time frame." "This isn't a three year vision," he said. 


Hurd said Oracle just sold its 10,000th engineered system. Those engineered systems run on two operating systems Linux and Solaris. In many respects, the Solaris launch revolves around positioning its own operating system as a better choice than Linux. Oracle's argument is that if it can deliver workloads better, more efficiently and cheaper its hardware strategy will pay off and Solaris will be a natural choice.

John Fowler, executive vice president of systems, said Solaris 11.2 has more than 500 enhancements including:

  • Integrated virtualization.
  • Software defined networking.
  • A full distribution of OpenStack. 
  • Fast patching with secure boots and archiving. 
  • Virtual machines compliant with regulations.
  • Integrated hypervisor for Oracle’s SPARC and x86. 
  • Backward compatibility.

Fowler talked about the deep integration with OpenStack and Solaris' hooks into Oracle's processors. "We're building it out to be a complete platform and to make this more than an operating system," said Fowler.

Hurd added that enterprises don't want to integrate hardware and operating systems. "Who wants to glue an operating system to a server?" asked Hurd.

"This is a big deal for us. We're trying to lead in each layer of the stack," said Hurd.