Sun doggin' w/Solaris 8

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From: Sally Khudairi (
Date: Fri Jan 28 2000 - 00:37:38 PST

Comptuergram Int'l
Section: 04. Barbed Wire

IBM Says Sun Will Be Dogged by Solaris 8 Incompatibilities

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

IBM Corp poured cold water on Sun Microsystems Inc's open source Solaris 8
announcement yesterday, warning customers to expect incompatibility problems
if they decide to move to the new operating system. Big Blue pointed out
that Sun has a track record of compatibility problems when shifting through
its OS gears and, just for good measure, suggested Sun's effort is not
exactly up to par with the open source religion of the Linux and FreeBSD

Prior to this week's announcement, Sun has said that approximately 90% of
existing Solaris applications are binary compatible with the 64-bit Solaris
8, which supports all but the crustiest 32-bit Solaris code, going right
back to Solaris 2.4. And even when applications are not exactly compatible,
then code changes in typical Unix applications are restricted to about 5% of
the code.

Jeff Bernard, Sun's director of marketing for Solaris, claims most problems
stem from some application software developers using documented but
unsupported APIs that are no longer part of Solaris. To counter this, Sun is
offering a guarantee to customers who have written applications for Solaris,
promising that if their Solaris application fails because of a bug in one of
Solaris 8's APIs, Sun will tweak Solaris to make it work. Conversely, if
applications don't work because application developers are using unsupported
APIs, Sun won't tweak Solaris, but it will work with the vendor to help them
move to supported APIs.

There is still no official word on how many applications are affected, but
only three vendors - Oracle, iPlanet and Veritas - have guaranteed that
their software will run on Solaris 8 when it comes out on March 5. While
dozens of Sun's biggest software partners have pledged support for Solaris 8
this year, the exact roll-out dates and the extent of their use of
unsupported APIs remains a mystery.

Rod Adkins, general manager of IBM's RS/6000 Division and champion of the
AIX Unix variant at IBM, says that "he would describe Sun's situation as a
customer transition nightmare since Solaris 8 is not really backwards
compatible." IBM also says that Solaris 8 includes a host of new
capabilities that AIX has been shipping for several years, including support
for IPv6 and the ability to upgrade to new versions of UNIX without taking
down the server. IBM also says that future Full Moon clustering with Solaris
8 will support up to eight server nodes in a cluster, which is exactly one
quarter that which AIX supports.

As for free and open source Solaris 8, IBM correctly points out that Solaris
8 is not free on Sun servers with more than eight processors, which is a
fairly large portion of its business by revenue but probably a tiny portion
of yearly Solaris license shipments. Adkins also says that IBM will continue
to embrace Linux and to help to drive open standards. Although that point is
countered by Sun's old Java czar, Pat Sueltz, who says that Sun, through its
relationship with the University of California at Berkeley, is the largest
contributor of code to the open source community already.

However the real bottom line of IBM's argument that the Sun Community Source
License is a thinly veiled attempt to confuse the Linux open source movement
which meets none of the criteria to be considered open source. Sun, after
all, maintains all control over updates and improvements to Solaris, and Sun
will charge a license fee to actually use the source for commercial
purposes. In effect, says IBM, this is a read-only license offering little
to no value to developers, customers or anyone for that matter.

As a counter-punch to Sun's correct observation that IBM does not and will
not offer open source AIX, IBM says that the real issue is that AIX has been
included for free on all of Big Blue's IBM RS/6000 servers for several years
at no additional charge. Expect the bickering to continue.

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