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Solaris Gets the Linux Touch

SAN FRANCISCO -- Janus is known as the Roman god of beginnings and the guardian of gates and doors, which may be why Sun Microsystems chose the name to help bolster its Linux strategy.

The network computer maker previewed a new feature of its Solaris 10 operating system, codenamed "Project Janus." First introduced back in April 2004 to Solaris Express subscribers, the new technology will let customers run Linux binary applications unmodified and un-recompiled on Solaris without having to acquire extra x86-based hardware. The technology was released during this week's LinuxWorld here.

Critics have accused Sun of being lukewarm in supporting Linux. At LinuxWorld three years ago, Sun went public with its first low-cost Linux server -- the LX50 (now discontinued). After shunning Red Hat back in the boom times, the company has spent considerable time and effort trying to convince the open source community of its assurance of hardware and software support for not only Red Hat products but for SUSE Linux, as well.

With that in mind, Sun said it has given the Project Janus platform a test run on a number of applications, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, Oracle 9.2.i, SAS, BEA WebLogic and others. A complete list of tested applications is expected to be available when Sun releases Solaris 10 later this year.

With an interoperable Solaris OS/Linux environment, Sun said developers can use a single workstation/server to develop, test and install programs for both environments. In addition, system administrators can transfer common administration skills between platforms; and when used with N1 Grid Container software, Sun said customers can create a virtual Linux environment on a Solaris OS system, isolating Solaris OS and Linux applications from each other and from system faults.

"Our strategy has always been to provide the very best interoperability for heterogeneous environments," John Loiacono, Sun's executive vice president for software, said in a statement. "Now customers can leverage all the breakthrough attributes of the Solaris 10 operating system with existing investments in the Linux applications at a price lower than what they are paying for Linux. There is no longer a reason to make sacrifices when choosing between Linux and Solaris."

While Sun said Project Janus is 100 percent compatible with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 (RHEL 3), the company did not say if or how it would support Novell's SUSE Linux or other enterprise distributions.

Beyond just supporting Linux applications, Sun said with Project Janus, customers can run benefits from Solaris 10 features, including its analysis and diagnostic tool (Dynamic Tracing); online error detection and auto recovery software (Predictive Self Healing); and a self-managing OS file system (Dynamic File System).

Janus is the latest in a string of maneuvers by Sun to curry favor with the Linux and open source sector. Earlier this week, Sun previewed its inaugural Linux port of its Ray Server Software. The software now lets companies host Sun Ray thin clients running on Novell's SUSE Enterprise 8 or Red Hat Linux 3.0 servers. Previously, Sun Ray systems were only available on servers running the Solaris OS and SPARC semiconductors.