Solaris and OpenSolaris – do they still have a viable future?

The latest buzz around Solaris has whet my appetite for a Sun technology again. With the massive mind and market share that Linux – now virtually mainstream – enjoys, OpenSolaris’ seemingly hopeless position as being #3 behind an already distant second placer (BSD) on the open source OS front made me think that Sun might eventually just decide to throw in the towel. This is not to say that the ubercool technologies in Solaris like ZFS would vanish – heaven forbid – but that Solaris the OS would slowly be left to fade into oblivion. It seems however that Sun has a lot of fight left in them whether it be Java versus .NET or Solaris versus Linux/BSD.

In the “What’s New in OpenSolaris ?” podcast referred to above, I find Dan Roberts summary of exactly what is lacking in the way OpenSolaris is distributed and how it needs to improved to be by far the most amazingly honest and straightforward presentation I have yet heard coming from a corporate person. In the past, I have always found Sun’s marketing and positioning of its technologies (I have Java foremost in mind here) to be done rather halfheartedly and less than 100% forthright.

For example, many years ago, even while trumpeting Java as a write-once-run-anywhere technology, Sun was obviously wary of Linux cannibalizing Solaris sales and totally dragged their feet when it came to making Java (Swing in particular) run well on Linux (or Windows for that matter). Hence, Java-based client computing never really took off. Now that Eclipse, .NET, Mono, Flash and a host of other competitors have arisen, Sun has belatedly seen the light. But of course, they had essentially already shot themselves in the foot. Java never took hold of the desktop (still trying though, bravo…) and handed Microsoft a golden chance to catch up with .NET.

We have historical reasons for worrying that Sun might get cold feet again, but the uniquely cool features found in OpenSolaris are compelling enough, at least on paper, for me to invest time learning a Sun technology again. I’m looking forward to downloading OpenSolaris and trying it out on a spare machine soon. And finally, with the way they have been going at it lately, it seems that Sun’s marketing have finally started waking up and doing (or at least realizing and saying) the right things. Whether they can sustain this or fall back into their old habits of growing complacent after a taste of initial success remains to be seen.

Interesting Solaris related stuff:

Solaris engineers offer personal source-code tours

One thought on “Solaris and OpenSolaris – do they still have a viable future?

  • November 15, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Interesting analysis of the successes and failures of Sun’s strategy. It does seem like OpenSolaris is starting to gain mindshare. Consider how Debian’s founder is now part of the OpenSolaris team.


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