And You Say Sun Isn't Telling The Whole Story

Story: Linux is a better Linux than Sun Solaris10Total Replies: 4
Author Content

Feb 28, 2006
8:25 PM EDT
I am a Linux guy. I've been one for seven years now. And while I understand some your hatred for Sun's cheesy marketing, you simply haven't told the whole story, or worse, you haven't done your homework.

Had you done some real digging, you would know that Sun's CDDL and their open source efforts have allowed for the birth of open source derivatives of Solaris, one of which is called Nexenta, which if you would have even bothered to try it, you wouldn't be spending your whole article dumping on Sun. Nexenta is simply amazing. It is server and desktop friendly Solaris a la Ubuntu.

I will admit that I had the exact same experience you (and your friends friend or whoever) had with Solaris. It plain sucks. The Solaris installer makes the Windows installer look good. And as a Linux user, the Solaris environment is plain awful, partly because of my unfamiliarity, partly because it simply doesn't have the polish that many Linux distributions have. It has a stale, stagnant, commercial feel.

Neverthess, the Solaris kernel is engineering at its finest. It leaves the Linux kernel in the dust. The Solaris kernel is what Linux has been imitating all these years. SunOS is what inspired Linus to write is own OS rather then use DOS in school.

So let's agree that Suns marketing is cheesy, pathetic, and perhaps less than honest. But that's marketing. Microsoft's, IBM's, Novell or Red Hat's marketing is no different. But at the end of the day, Sun has released the Solaris source code under a BETTER license than the GPL, is actively working with the open source community that is growing up around it, and letting that community flourish on its own terms. Sun has given a fantastic gift the open source community -- perhaps the greatest operating system kernel to date. Sun's marketing attempts are designed to get the word out and help bring in the money they are LOSING by giving their fine software out for free. And this doesn't stop at just Solaris. Their compilers are now free, their clustering file system is free. Their Java enterprise server is free. They are in the process of releasing ALL of their software for FREE. They are offering commercial support for PostgreSQL. All of this is a gamble to say they least, and they are making HUGE adjustments to their business model, and they are doing their darndest to try to make this new model work. They are letting competing Solaris derivatives (Nextenta, Schillix, Belenix) exist in the process.

So if you don't like half truths, why don't you start by telling the whole story yourself, because you've conveniently left out more than HALF of it here.


Mar 01, 2006
2:21 AM EDT
drgrep: I appreciate your concern for wanting a broader picture. I deplore pompous journalists who don't do their homework myself included.

Mar 01, 2006
6:39 AM EDT
drgrep - are you related to egrep? Forget that, on to more important questions. While I really liked some of your comments and thought many were right on target, I fear you too are making some fundamental logically flawed arguments. Though few they carry much of thrust of your entire premise, hence, they must be highlighted.

First one comment that was so true:
Quoting:... It has a stale, stagnant, commercial feel ...
reminded me of my experience looking at an IBM utility in the late 80's. At the time I was an inexperienced computer consultant, nonetheless, this piece of code struck me as as being extremely sub pare to have been put out with a company having an exalted reputation. Here right on target.

I agree too that at times in Sun's case they have contributed greatly to free software, hence, I still give them a residual higher regard than I do for others for both their past contributions and potential for giving in the future. Despite that foregoing statement, I do not accept your assertion that it is the marketing we hate and not the company. I will show you by example how and why your belief can fail.

As a child I was troubled when a teacher took a historical figure and said you should not hate the person, it is the actions you hate. If you buy into the premise that the individual is completely separate that was a hard argument to counter. Another example is of an official that breaks the same laws s/he sends others to prison. Or what of representatives of a religious order that attack behaviour they stealthily practice. Or take my brother who told me, do what he says not what he does. First I will grant all make errors in their actions that are not consistent with either their inner beliefs or usual behaviour.

With this mix of examples, how does one assert the individuals are distinct from their repetitive behaviour traits. Some religions do so, but a tyrant, murder of millions may be happily accepted as the bringer of national unity (see Hero with Jet Li) and as implicit support for the current corrupt regime (CCP) many others would have severe problems making such distinctions. The other cases are the belief in individual entitlement and the consistent acts of hypocisy. In the end, it is simpler and easier to see the acts of a person as the best indicator of the individual. Hence, I do not accept that one can write off the terrible actions of companies to only the crass, under educated and lacking ethics business types. In the war on IBM when it was trying to make its OS competitive with the recently released, flawed Windows 95 many of the active saboteurs had to be technically proficient, yet were active in nefarious deeds. Sometimes the PR and marketing types are the more ethical or a better reflection of the company beliefs.

Next saying:
Quoting: ... Sun ... [licensed] ... Solaris source code under a BETTER license than the GPL ...
that's an assertion. There seems to be agreement that Linux cannot use the Solaris code, but from what I have read the inverse is possible, Now how is CDDL better, for Sun? That I will grant you, not much more.

Now lets get to doing the home work - in an associated thread under this same article I joked about the BSD in theory being the freer license. Read the responses where others had more than a quibble with this view, the best stated while appearing free, that freedom can be negated for all other subsequent users by a single user's changing the license on their product. Very interesting view.

Now google this on the exchange the author you are criticizing: tadelste and TxtEdMacs in the comments section that happened back in late 2004 or early2005. Key words: Sun, schizophrenic and the aforementioned aliases. You should find the latter criticized Sun and expressed profound distrust, it was the former that came to Sun's defense. Now tadelste had an up close business relationship with Sun, the critic said he was writing from intuition alone. Why has the latter altered his view of that company so radically? I would guess you do not even know half the story.

Suggestion: dr start grep(ing) or whatever tools you prefer to learn a bit more.

Mar 01, 2006
11:53 AM EDT

I read the thread as you suggested, and I don't believe it changes anything, other than perhaps the author at one point defended Sun in the ongoing Solaris vs. Linux debate. I also read the article again. I reread Mr. Andreessen's statements - twice - and honestly, I don't see anything wrong with them, except for two of the assertions:

1. It's very easy to move from Linux to Solaris (vague) 2. Solaris is a better Linux than Linux (vaguer)

So, I understand what may have triggered the author's article. 1 is complete hocum, and 2 is just pure marketing. But the others are completely reasonable:

1 We originally planned to use Linux on Intel commodity hardware (true) 2 Solaris has similar economic and OpenSource advantages as Linux (true) 3 Solaris 10 reliability is a very big deal for us (true) 4 Sun is now riding aggressive side of the price/performance curve (true) 5 With Sun hardware, we know everything has been tested and integrated together (true) 6 With Solaris, we know if we need vertical scalability, we'll actually be able to get it (true)

I don't want to turn this into more than it is, but the thing I think people should remember is that Sun, like Red Hat, is also a business, not just an endless resevoire of free technology. They have to make money somehow. Their engineers don't just live on rice and beans producing quality software. And despite their past, if you look at their business model, they have a good idea that seems to work for everyone:

1. Give developers the software and code, let them do what they like. This way, the people who know how work with the code can do or make whatever they like with it. Sun also benefits because these developers will ultimately contribute back. And if you keep up with the OpenSolaris mailing list, you will see that Sun has been very good about working with developers to change Solaris. One of the big things recently was the ksh88 dependencies in libc and many shell scripts (something like 500 in the system). People hate this version of ksh, and despite how big of a pain in the a** it is for Sun to change, enough people complained about it (and enough people volunteered to help) that Sun allocated resources to undertake the change.

2. Offer commercial support. For most businesses, they will want to know the software is supported. They will pay a reasonable price for that support. Right now, Sun offers support for Solaris and PostgreSQL on a single machine starting at something like $100 a year. That's a pittance. I would pay the $100 just for the PostgreSQL support, without blinking.

3. Sell good hardware. Sun has a reputation for overpriced hardware. I've heard the Sun diehard wax on about how great it is, but it's always been beyond my buget, until this year. We bought our first Opteron server this year from Sun. It was perhaps a little more than what we could have gotten elsewhere, but of all the servers we have bought, Sun's was by far the best designed. It was a thing of beauty. The other admins I work with kept talking about how good a job Sun did on the server. I agree. It's nice to see quality like that, especially in a (low-end) server. We then proceeded to install Gentoo on it. And it works great.

What Sun needs to make this model work is volume, major volume. And that I think is the reasoning behind the marketing - an attempt to get as much as the open source community behind them as possible, as soon as possible. And that's not easy to do quickly. But they are taking all the required steps. They are walking the walk. They have the source out there: 9+ million lines. And there is nothing wrong with Sun competing in the marketplace, even with vague marketing statements like "Solaris is a better Linux and Linux." If anything, statements like this aren't going to fool Linux users, nor businesses that are set on Linux.

Again, I understand the authors point of view. I understand the nature of the article. But there is plenty of good to be found in what Sun is doing right now, and it does the Linux camp no good in the "us verses them" point of view. I see the reverse sometimes on the OpenSolaris list -- the "people who use Linux do so because they are too stupid to appreciate Solaris". This is the minority of course, there are only one or two regulars on the list and engage in this. But that's all it takes.

The truth is, Linux people should start looking at Solaris technology, and Sun needs to start looking more seriously at what Linux has done well, such as package management. Likewise, the Linux kernel, while great, does not match Solaris 10+ feature for feature. Solaris ZFS is something I did not expect to see during my career in IT. If it proves stable, there is simply nothing like it in the industry. Linux does not have Solaris containers, nor anything that it worthy of comparison. Linux does not have an equivalent of Solaris Service Management Facility. Linux has nothing close to DTrace -- nobody does. The Solaris kernel has features that as an enterprise OS blows the pants off of any other OS. I am saying this as a tried and true Linux user. I am calling it as I see it. I have tried ZFS. It's amazing. I've also tried Solaris zones, and I've seen DTrace in action. These are things that will help me and my company. This is real, honest to goodness open source software that Sun has made available for free. At the same time, we've all talked about how lame the Solaris desktop is for a Linux user, how many of the Solaris userland tools are just strange. Sun could stand to look more to Linux in this regard. And they have. It's getting better.

A perfect example of a group of developers that have managed to get past dogma and looked at the technology merits is Nexenta. They looked that Linux as saw that the userland, (Debian) package mangement, and desktop are better than what is in Solaris. Likewise, they saw that the Solaris kernel offered things the Linux kernel did not. And they have taken the best of both to build one great operating system. The net result is something everyone stands to benefit immensely from. The sad thing is they have taken a good measure of crap from people in the Linux camp in the process over things that have turned out to be completely frivolous.

Perhaps I reacted too strongly. I understand the author's concern. I have nothing against the author, and I do understand his sentiments. Really I do. And perhaps this article was directed specifically at Sun's marketing and nothing else and I read too much into it. That is probably more likely. However, I believe that Sun's marketing simply doesn't matter. What matters is what Sun is really doing. And so far they have released 9 million lines of code and counting, have created a real open source community, are actively working with it. And most importantly, they have made it possible for people to take out of Solaris what they like -- to create their own Solaris that works for them. I probably will never use Solaris in production. I will end up using Nexenta or some other OpenSolaris derivative. But I will buy Sun hardware as much as I can, and probably end up paying for support I'll never use. It is the least I can do for getting ZFS, DTrace, Zones, SMF and the rest of the system the way I want it. Perhaps Sun may someday even end up supporting some OpenSolaris distros as well. Then they will really get my money.

Bottom line: I would just rather the Solaris and Linux communities look at what they have in common -- great technology -- and see that rather than just Linux or just Solaris. It is so much more valuable than anything some marketing people have say.

Mar 01, 2006
12:25 PM EDT
drgrep: I appreciate your time. You post took much effort and I appreciate that also. Obviously, we have different positions. But, that's important imho because otherwise the planet night not need us both eh.

As editor-in-chief, I invite you to put your thesis into an article for publication.

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