License change leaves Sun Solaris users at a crossroads

Oracle's decision to limit Solaris 10's free usage to 90 days could be a boon for Linux vendors

Recent changes to Solaris licensing could further encourage Solaris 10 users to consider Linux -- and result in fewer new users considering Solaris at all. If you're a Solaris customer, don't overlook this license change.

While the "Linux versus Windows" competition is often played up in the press, the reality is that Linux workload overwhelmingly comes from Unix migrations. Being the largest Unix platform, Sun Solaris has faced stiff competition for lower-end workloads against Linux for the better part of a decade. As Linux usage and features have grown, so too has the applicability of Linux in more mission-critical distributed environments, an area historically associated with Unix and Sun Solaris. Sun tried to slow, and even reverse, this trend in 2005 by offering Sun Solaris 10 free of charge. To make money, Sun expected to sell subscriptions to customers seeking support and defect fixes.

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How it used to be -- and what Oracle has changed
The Wayback Machine documents the Sun Solaris 10 license as it was offered back in May 2005:

Obtaining an Entitlement Document is simple. On the Solaris 10 Get It page, select the platform and format you desire from the drop-down menus, and then click the Download Solaris 10 button. When you arrive at the Sun Download Center, either sign in or register, ensuring that a valid e-mail address is part of your Sun Download Center account to receive the Entitlement Document. Fill out the Solaris download survey, specifying the number of systems on which you are installing the software. Once you have completed the survey, you will be redirected to the Solaris 10 download page for downloading, and your Entitlement Document will be sent to your registered e-mail address.

Simply put, register with a valid email address, download Sun Solaris 10, and receive an Entitlement Document to use Sun Solaris 10 without support and for as long as you wish. The terms and conditions were unchanged until at least June 2008, the final copy of the license found on the Wayback Machine.

Now, with its acquisition of Sun finalized, it seems that Oracle has appended this sentence to the license paragraph above:

Please remember, your right to use Solaris acquired as a download is limited to a trial of 90 days, unless you acquire a service contract for the downloaded Software.
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