VNU Net: Sun Microsystems Solaris 8Aug 22, 2000, 01:44 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ian Murphy)
By Ian Murphy, VNU Net
As users struggle to migrate their existing infrastructures to Microsoft's Windows 2000, Sun Microsystems has been on the offensive with Solaris 8, the latest version of its rival operating system.
Inside Solaris 8 there are some interesting technological and directional changes that seem to underpin Sun's belief in itself and in Unix. The company is still embroiled in a bitter court battle with Microsoft, and has failed to take advantage of the possibilities that Java provided. On the defensive over claims of proprietary behaviour in its Java licensing mechanism, Jiro, Jini and other Sun initiatives are not core to the first release.
Under the bonnet
Sun has also provided hot patching of the operating system (OS) without a reboot. There are enhanced utilities providing a major aid for debugging critical errors and for analysing crash dumps and core files. Error messages received before a reboot or crash of the OS are saved for later viewing.
The imminent arrival of Intel's Itanium processors sees Solaris extending the Intel port. Unfortunately, this creates something of a problem. Inside the core, or Sparc, version of Solaris 8, both 32-bit and 64-bit are supported, allowing developers to take advantage of faster execution but with hugely increased memory addressing. For large data-oriented applications, this is a critical issue. Until Itanium finally ships, the Intel port is only 32-bit, with Sun yet to commit to a 64-bit delivery schedule. It may therefore lose momentum against Microsoft, as the Redmond company ships its first 64-bit beta version of Windows 2000 during the third quarter of this year.
There is a new Admin Pack with improved administration available through third-party products and multi-OS environments. This sees Sun moving to full support for the web-based enterprise management standard. The Management Console is an example of this. Available from a range of OSs or through integration with products from other vendors, it uses a Windows interface. Despite efforts to position its products as departmental and enterprise servers, this perhaps shows that Sun recognises it is seen more as a high-end solution administered by people with limited Unix experience.
The introduction of a dual internet protocol (IP) stack allows access to both IPv4 and IPv6, so that network administrators can look at extending existing network infrastructures, taking user demand for access into account and implementing additional features.
The introduction of devices like personal digital assistants and mobile phones means a potential shortage of IP addresses. As Voice over IP becomes a requirement within organisations, the joint IPv4/IPv6 stack will enable administrators to migrate fixed devices across to IPv6. A component that Solaris 8 has failed to deliver is support for mobile IP, but this is also promised in the first service pack. IPSec, which is a key requirement for designing virtual private networks, is available for the IPv4 stack, but Sun has yet to incorporate it into the IPv6 stack. Again, this is expected with the first service pack.
Embracing open source
LXRUN allows Linux binaries to run natively on top of the Intel port, letting Sun take advantage of the growing Linux applications environment. But it would have been more interesting if Sun had developed a tool that allows the code to be executed directly on top of the Sparc implementation.
Close, but no cigar
Sun has also failed to include its Jini or Jiro technologies, even though it will be including relevant components in the future along with new hardware. There should be Jiro management components in the first service pack, and it is hoped that Sun will not miss the opportunity to include this Java-based technology.