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Audience: Newbies
Last Updated: 2/25/2007 8:49:28 PM
Original Creation Date: 2/25/2007 8:49:28 PM
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The Sun Solaris OS

By Erik Rodriguez

This article provides a somewhat opinionated view on Sun's Solaris operating system.



What is Solaris?

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of Solaris. I am and always will be a Red Hat fan. With the increasing popularity of Linux distributions in the market today, it's hard to think people are still running Solaris. However, it's still very much alive, and because of that, I decided to put together a little information on it. So here it goes:

Sun Microsystems. Who Are They?

Let me also start out by saying I've tried to learn Solaris since version 8. Every time I dig into it, I get lost. With that being said, I'd like to give a little history lesson on where Solaris got it's roots from. SUN (Stanford University Network) Microsystems was founded in 1982. Bill Joy was the leader of this project and he had previous experience with the release of BSD 4.1. The first OS released by Sun Microsystems (SMS) was SunOS in 1983. After it's initial release, some merging went on between SMS and AT&T. The product was then blended with some other UNIX systems and was released as SunOS 5.x in 1992. This was the first OS from SMS that was referred to as Solaris. The table below shows its corresponding dates and releases.

Year Release
1992 Solaris (SunOS 5.x)
1994 Solaris 2.4
1995 Solaris 2.5
1997 Solaris 2.6
1998 Solaris 7
2000 Solaris 8
2002 Solaris 9
2004 Solaris 10

Hardware and Software

SMS has two flagship products: Solaris and Java. I'm not a fan other either one, but who cares what I think? Anyhow, you should know that older version of Solaris required special hardware. This is because SMS used hardware based on SPARC CPU's. Unlike x86 CPUs which we use in desktops and workstations, early versions of Solaris would not work on x86 hardware. Therefore, you were stuck buying one of the SPARC machines that came with it's own funky connectors for things like monitors, mice, keyboards, etc. Hmmm... No wonder why it wasn't the most popular thing running in people's garages and basements...

Watch Out for The Hoopla!

SMS does a very good job of making Solaris sound like the most important and advanced OS in the world. They might be fooling some people, but they aren't fooling me. While Solaris 10 does have "advanced security" it's nearly the same thing as SE Linux offered in any 2.6 Linux kernel. They claim they have the largest install base of ANY UNIX or Linux OS. That I don't believe. In my book Solaris is right next to Novell as a company that is slowly going out of business. If you take a look at their stock prices (which have sucked for years) you'll see what I'm talking about. The latest efforts from SMS include:

Selling CPU Time

What else are they going to do with the huge overstock of enterprise mainframes they have sitting around? SMS now offers to sell the CPU time to research organizations that require large amounts of cycles for number crunching.

Overpriced Hardware

SMS has also introduced a new line of overpriced servers. These remind of the apple xserv servers. Why does a manufacturer sell a server without a hard drive? Even worse, the word SCSI isn't seen anywhere on the website. Last time I checked, the jury was still out on SATA vs. SCSI. The nail in the coffin... SMS claims the servers are compatible with Microsoft Windows. Thank GOD! Let's all stop and think about the big picture. If M$ suddenly entered the hardware area, and started producing servers, do you think they would offer Linux and UNIX supported hardware? Let's just call that a rhetorical question.

Conclusion

If you were fortunate enough to get your hands dirty and conquer this beast we call Solaris, then my hat goes off to you. There are a good amount of jobs that call for Solaris admin experience. This is because there are still a lot of large companies that started with Solaris early, and now are more or less stuck with it because a migration to something else would be difficult (in most situations) and costly. In my opinion, Sun Microsystems is a futile enterprise. They are running out of ideas (fast) and the changes they make are too little and/or too late.


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