April 23, 2019

What's New Under the Sun? Sun's Love Affair With Linux - page 3

A Little Bit of History

  • May 17, 2002
  • By Bill von Hagen

Stephen DeWitt, the primary force behind Sun's Linux strategy since joining Sun as part of the Cobalt acquisition, has also announced his departure from Sun, but even this doesn't detract from Sun's obvious commitment to Linux. Sun's strategy for embracing Linux is complex without being Machiavellian. The high points of Sun's arranged marriage with Linux are:

  • Expand the use of Linux on low-priced, scalable servers, augmenting and expanding the current Cobalt servers with more powerful edge servers that are scheduled to be released later in 2002.
  • Support Linux binaries running on Solaris systems and simplify compiling Linux code on Solaris systems. Sun provides a Linux runtime environment for Solaris called lxrun that enables a wide range of Linux binaries to run without modification on Solaris systems. Sun also provides a Linux compatibility tool called the Linux Compatibility Assurance Toolkit (LinCAT) containing tools and documentation that simplifies developing applications that are source code compatible across Linux and Solaris systems.
  • Invest in selected Linux technology companies that can help Sun sell high-powered, non-x86 hardware. This is clearest in the embedded market, where Sun has invested in companies such as TimeSys and Lineo. TimeSys is a vendor of embedded and real-time Linux that provides Linux for Sun's Netra hardware (designed for network equipment providers). (Disclaimer: I am an employee of TimeSys.)
  • Support Linux on Sun hardware. The current versions of both SuSE (www.suse.com) and Debian (www.debian.org) Linux are available for SPARC hardware. Red Hat missed the boat here by dropping Solaris support with Red Hat 6.2, but Sun's new commitment to Linux might cause that to change in the near future. Sun has also committed to providing their own version of Linux on their new server hardware.

On the hardware front, Sun's high-end hardware still has a significant performance advantage over x86 systems, which still can't touch the SMP support provided by Solaris. On the desktop, the story is quite different. It's no secret that Sun's Solaris for the x86 platform has never caught on (even after licenses became free), while Linux is an obvious success story.

Sun's most recent desktop systems are not only inexpensive, but have also been moving toward the use of off-the-shelf hardware through their use of the PCI bus, their use of ATA IDE disks, and so on. By moving towards Linux on the desktop and its lower-end server environments, Sun can guarantee easy integration of Linux systems with their high-end servers and continue to focus on the development of advanced hardware such as their StorEdge storage systems, Netra hardware, and related software.

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