Linux is a better Linux than Sun Solaris10

Posted by tadelste on Feb 28, 2006 6:45 AM EDT
Tom; By Tom Adelstein
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Sun has purportedly gone out of its way to draw Linux developers to its hardware platform. Analysts even say that Sun has finally made peace with Linux. But if you look at their web site they appear to have a different story to tell as they attempt to build community support for Solaris10. Frankly, we believe Linux beats Sun in so many categories that we don't even have a race. While Sun wants you to "get the facts" we notice that they persist in comparing Solaris10 to Red Hat's enterprise model. But that's not the only Linux out there.


Two weeks ago, IDG reported that Sun Microsystems announced that it had made another move to encourage developers to port other operating systems to its servers, notably Linux. According to the report dated February 14th, Sun released two specifications related to its UltraSparc T1 processor to make running non-Solaris operating systems on their servers easier.

Just two days ago, David Rosenberg writing about Sun for InfoWorld reported: I feel that there is a great deal of confusion and mixed messages. Just a year ago Sun was basically against Linux-I would even say that the perception was that Sun was an enemy of Linux. Now they cite statistics of new servers running Linux.

Last week, reports circulated like this one saying that :
Sun bought up Linux firm Aduva for an undisclosed sum. Aduva, an Israeli start-up, has its HQ in Sunnyvale Californian and an R&D centre in Ramat Gan, round the corner from an Intel fab.

Aduva provides Linux and Unix management services focused on reducing the total costs and risks in the lifecycle of a Linux Server and, it says, dynamically managed Solaris Servers.

Now, go to the web page which states that Solaris is a better Linux than Linux according to Marc Andreessen. And according to Marc:

  • We originally planned to use Linux on Intel commodity hardware
  • Solaris is a better Linux than Linux
  • Solaris has similar economic and OpenSource advantages as Linux
  • It's very easy to move from Linux to Solaris
  • Solaris 10 reliability is a very big deal for us
  • Sun is now riding aggressive side of the price/performance curve

  • With Sun hardware, we know everything has been tested and integrated together
  • With Solaris, we know if we need vertical scalability, we'll actually be able to get it

These are not empirical statements. You're supposed to take the word of Andreessen because he's an authority figure. To prove it, the Sun website provides you a short bio:

Marc Andreessen is widely recognized for his role in launching the Internet revolution in 1993. After his creation of the Mosaic browser while at the University of Illinois, he co-founded Netscape Communications and played a critical role in the company's massive growth and is the founder of Ning.

As one of the technology icons of our time, Marc has received numerous accolades, he was named one of the "Top 50 people under the age of 40" by Time Magazine in 1994 and graced the magazine's cover in 1996.

Historically, we might have some problems with Marc's accomplishments. First, he played a role in bringing a web browser to market, that's true. Most people would credit Jim Clark, the founder and CEO of Silicon Graphics and Netscape as the critical role player in Netscape's massive growth. Did Andreessen have the connections to pull off a marketing effort or take a company public? Clark gave Netscape the credibility it needed not Andreessen.

You might even consider Andreessen a little dated considering he launched whatever in 1993 and was named whatever again in 1996. I don't know what to expect from Sun considering their Chairman made Jonathan Schwartz president. Perhaps people around Sun suffer from amnesia. After all, they do keep hiring former executives like Bill Joy, Michael Lehman and a host of others. So, making out that Marc Andreessen is an authority on operating systems like Linux may just fit Sun's model of the world but not reality.

As far as Andreessen, it doesn't take long in the IT world to become dated. This guy didn't make it with AOL Time Warner. What has he done for us lately besides make a testimonial for Sun and buy some of their equipment? You also have to question what kind of deal Sun made Marc for his reference.

Shrewd Branding

In an area of business where empirical data has little impact, creative marketing, saying Solaris is a better Linux than Linux confuses. Marketing requires some artistic skill. But a ten year old with a set of water colors should be able to tell you that this marketing message may not make the Met. What message do these guys want to convey?

First, Sun's attempting to bring Linux users to their hardware according to their own marketing. Then they say that Solaris is Linux. Just think about Logic 101. A dog is a better cat than a cat. Or a Ford is a better Chevrolet than a Chevrolet.

Some fundamentals don't work. Rather than cite Bandler and other linguists, let's just apply some common sense. First, by using Linux as a referential index, Sun established a context called Linux. Contexts have a significant impact on content. With context Sun established Linux as the referent. So, Solaris is now content in a context call Linux.

Here's a quick example. I used to explain this to marketing people by telling them I want to say three words and have them tell me what they mean. I used the words tide, crest and mustang. Most of the time, people would answer that they were products advertised on television. Then I would add, but what if I said they were things found on a nature walk near the ocean. Well, tide became something in the ocean, crest became the top of a wave and a mustang was a horse.

Solaris10 is it ready for prime time?

If you consider this article flame bait, then I believe you're missing the point. Personally and professionally I have a problem as an analyst with potentially misleading advertising. Is this misleading advertising? Maybe not, but it's confusing and not even very cute.

  • Sun claims that ZFS is a superior file system to Linux. Since Sun considers Red Hat the only Linux, then the use of Ext. 3 as the file system for Red Hat isn't as good as Reiser, XFS, and JFS. To say that GNU/Linux in general does not have any file system innovation doesn't apply.

  • GNU/Linux may not have Solaris containers, which allow applications to run in virtual instances of Solaris, isolated from the rest of the OS, but it does have Usermode Linux (UML) which provides similar functionality using a different technique and Xen which even Sun has decided to adopt.

  • Solaris 10 costs less than Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but it's the same price as Fedora Core, Debian, Gentoo and Slackware. The later don't charge for updates. Saying that Solaris 10 has more reliability than stable Linux distributions seems like speculation.

  • Jonathan Schwartz has said that Red Hat requires a binary license per CPU. Schwartz thinking in this matter looks patently false. Red would violate the GPL if they required a binary license fee from end users. Red Hat charges for its products of course, but has neither the right nor the motivation to stop people from using it for free.

  • The Red Hat uses a GPL license and the services connected with that distribution, Red Hat Network remains only available to paying customers. Solaris 10, on the other hand, has one of the more confusing, extensive, and restrictive licenses in the software industry. It may be free of charge, but Solaris 10 lacks the freedom in the GPL with its CDDL restrictions.

  • Sun equates proprietary with interoperable within the same brand. Free software tends to use a different approach. Proprietary with regard to Linux means that the owner of the software locks away the rights to that software from others.

  • Top developers at Sun say Solaris 10 represents a collection of great, new, unique features that add up to "the world's most advanced operating system." Maybe in 2004, that was true. But Linux has matched Solaris almost feature for feature.

  • Solaris may have some advantages once installed and running, it does not have the hardware support of Linux. The developers have always worked in a limited hardware environment. They admittedly do not care about supporting an array of different hardware.

  • Take a look at their Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) and you can easily see that it does not compare to any modern GNU/Linux distribution.

  • Recent Commentary from a LXer Reader

    The following post from one of LXer's readers talks about a recent attempt to install Solaris 10.

    I have a sailing buddy that has been a Senior Engineer at Sun for well over a decade. While we were racing a couple weekends ago he asked me if I had checked out Solaris 10, as they had completely rewritten the kernel. I got bored one day and decided to download the 4 CDs and install it on an extra drive I had to check it out.

    I the words of softh in another thread: "The install was close to a trip to the dentist, the whole disk my [expletive], what a pain. The default GUI app/tool selection was abysmal. Their implementation of CDE [expletive]..."

    I echo his sentiments. It took me well over an hour to install (after a lengthy registration sign-up and 4 CD download), and the desktop was virtually unusable due to the screen resolution, lack of configuration tools and configuration files hiding in places I could not find. It might be a great server OS on hardware that costs more than a new Ferrari, but it is definitely not an end user desktop operating system. I have installed and administered scores of BSD and Linux variants on both servers and desktops. My experience with Solaris was definitely the most dissatisfying of any in my personal or professional career. I'd rather switch back to RedHat 4.1 with fvwm.

    In all fairness, though, I do not have any Solaris experience or documentation to study, so I don't know Sun's way of doing things. Perhaps I just lost patience...the newer Linux distros have spoiled those of us that used to stay up into the wee hours getting an installation configured. I do respect Sun's contributions, but their OS is not for me. Linux is light years ahead in my opinion, no matter what [Sun's] new kernel's benchmarks may show. If one were to benchmark how quickly one could have a server up and running, secured and in production, Linux would be off the chart.

    Desktop aside, I would not recommend Solaris 10 for a server on x86 commodity hardware...I'd go with Debian or a BSD variant. I would only consider Solaris if I were buying a very big and expensive Sun server w/Sun support. Which, BTW, I will not be doing.

    I have had similar experiences with Solaris. I had a difficult time getting it to work with any video cards in low-end and high-end systems. I finally got it to run with an ATI card, but when it rebooted it didn't like my flat panel. I discussed the video card problem with a Sun support person who asked me to hook up a Windows computer to a serial port and use hyper-terminal to get into the system to reconfigure X.

    Well, I don't have a Windows computer to do that and I sent my serial cables to a charity long ago. I had a similar problem with starting X in SUSE but at least it gave me text mode so I could look at X. All I needed to do was change the X windows configuration because I had originally installed SUSE with a different driver.


    Until recently, Solaris10 didn't dual boot. But Sun has added GNU's GRUB bootloader for the (x86 platform) something that has existed on Linux for years now. You can find their new features here. But watch out for the keys. They list a host of features but those features may be new, enhanced, an existing feature set, a partial feature set or unsupported. The product comparison only shows different versions of Solaris starting with 2.6.

    Sun touts and spouts lots of things, confusing things. They seem to have an explanation for every confusing message they send. I tend to wonder who would really miss Sun? Would you?

» Read more about: Story Type: Editorial; Groups: Community, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, GNU, Intel, Kernel, LXer, Red Hat, Sun, SUSE

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
The logic angle Prophasi 12 2,963 Mar 4, 2006 7:25 PM
CDDL? ahl 21 4,422 Mar 1, 2006 4:48 PM
Stop focusing on the license tadelste 0 2,247 Mar 1, 2006 1:17 PM
And You Say Sun Isn't Telling The Whole Story drgrep 4 3,158 Mar 1, 2006 12:25 PM
It's true that Solaris has a better filesystem mangoo 3 3,118 Mar 1, 2006 11:33 AM
Solaris 10 IS NOT what the world is running, Sun mistakes cjcox 1 2,957 Feb 28, 2006 11:57 AM
Solaris advantages vs Linux tbuskey 4 8,724 Feb 28, 2006 10:54 AM

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