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Solaris 'Next' Gets Closer to Launch

While hammering out plans to become compatible with Windows, Sun Microsystems is advancing its own Solaris server operating system.

The Santa Clara, Calif., network computer maker Wednesday released the sixth update to Solaris 9 and previewed pieces of Solaris 10 for developers and partners to test in their systems. Sun has been supplying a steady stream of software builds for the next generation OS on a monthly basis as part of its Solaris Express program. Sun plans to release Solaris 10 later this year.

On the horizon, Sun's software platforms are expected to get an influx of input from its latest partner. The company inked a landmark 10-year, $1.96 billion deal with longtime rival Microsoft last week to build a framework to provide server-to-client, server-to-server, between Solaris and Windows.

But for now, Solaris is pure Sun, which is a happy place to be in, according to John Loiacono, Sun's new executive vice president of software.

"As the only enterprise-class UNIX available on the x86 platform, Solaris 10 is uniquely positioned as the logical alternative for HP/UX and AIX customers that have been abandoned by their vendors on AMD Opteron processor-based and Intel systems," Loiacono said in a statement.

With the Solaris 9 update, Sun has improved its volume manager and performance enhancements due to the architecture-specific optimizations such as SSE/SSE2 instruction support in both the kernel and the Java Virtual Machine. The company has also added fully implemented support for Hyper-Threading for Intel's Pentium 4 Xeon processor. In addition, the Solaris 9 OS has support for Sun's own Throughput Computing utilizing the chip multithreading (CMT) architecture of the UltraSPARC IV-based processors, multithreaded applications and corresponding Sun software.

Because of the improvements, Solaris 9 can now support Sun's latest push into volume servers including its AMD Opteron processor and UltraSPARC IV processor-based systems from the Sun Blade 1500 and 2500 workstations and the Sun Fire V20z Opteron based server to the new Sun Fire E25K server.

For the Solaris "Next" launch, Sun officially introduced its N1 grid containers, which let administrators divide a system into more than 8000 software partitions per single instance of the OS.

The containers also allow for predictive technologies (previously code-named FMA/Greenline) that enable isolation, diagnosis, and self-healing of software and hardware faults; process rights management technology for new levels of security; and a new suite of dynamic tracing capabilities (known as DTrace) for analyzing and diagnosing elusive problems in real-time.

New to this round of features found on Software Express include a browser-based Web interface for installing and patching software, new technology that reduces SPAM e-mail as it arrives from the network, and automatic file system logging.

While Sun is working hard to publish benchmarks showing Solaris x86 matching, and in some cases beating Linux on identical hardware, the company said it does continue to see growth and increased demand for its Solaris x86 products. Sun said there are more than one half million registered licenses for its Solaris 9 x86 and approximately 200 compatible third-party hardware systems. That number is expected to grow with the advance of Sun's alliance with AMD. Sun also recently expanded its Solaris Ready program to the x86 platform to help Independent Hardware Vendors (IHVs) certify their products for the Solaris OS.

One eager customer is Rackable Systems, which inked a deal with Sun Wednesday to distribute the Solaris Operating System for x86 platforms on its Opteron and Intel Xeon-based servers. Interest is also high in Solaris 10, according to Sun, which is boasting more than 10,000 downloads of Software Express for Solaris.

The latest upgrades for Solaris 10 and beyond are available for download for both SPARC and x86-based platforms. The April release will be available after April 12th. Sun said not all of the features on Solaris Express are guaranteed to make it into future releases, but all will be considered.