Solaris exec touts Unix platform's strengths

Company is undaunted by Linux momentum, claims many users switch back

McHugh: I think you're comparing an end-user consumer desktop versus administrators or Web guys, so there'll be a different level. There will be a different approach to how they deliver their messaging. If you follow when there are comments online, there is a devoted following of Solaris users who get up there and post things and clarify statements that are made. I don't think they'll be dancing in the streets like you would say [about] Mac OS products.

InfoWorld: Or protesting in the streets.

McHugh: Or protesting in the streets. But I will say when you look at who's the real community that we're looking at, it's the open source operating system community. It's broader than the traditional Solaris users. OpenSolaris has actually taken us into a space where people are saying, and we have people defending and supporting and coming to the aid of Solaris in discussions because they're experiencing OpenSolaris and what it can do and the newness in what's taking place. So I always find it really interesting conversations to watch when you have someone from a certain Linux community who comes after OpenSolaris or Solaris, and they tend to [get] met with someone else who's saying, "Why are you so passionate and strongly feeling against Solaris? What is the issue?" And that's really what comes up. This happens at conferences all the time.

It really boils down to there's a group of people that weren't traditional Solaris admins or Solaris users who are looking at OpenSolaris and saying, "Hey, this is good stuff, take it seriously." Maybe that's why we're seeing more activity where people feel a need to come out really strongly and make strong statements against Solaris, because there's a growing base of supporters of Solaris who are defending it.

InfoWorld: I did have one user at a Solaris-to-Linux site mention there are more people available who can administer Linux than Solaris. Do you see that as a problem? Do you have any plans to remedy that?

McHugh: We definitely have a very strong system admin community. I don't know if you've ever visited our big admin site, but it's a site that exists just for the Solaris administrator and some of the other components at Sun. But you have to keep in mind what we're doing. By adopting the Gnome look and feel and the standard open source user interface, it's just as easy to administer OpenSolaris as it is any Linux distro because you're using the same components. You're using the same user interface. You're using the same packaging system approach for getting software and updating software.

InfoWorld: With Solaris being a 16-year-old platform, has Sun looked at possibilities for a successor platform or are you just going to keep doing Solaris 11, 12, 13, whatever? Any plans for a follow-up?

McHugh: If you look at the innovation that's coming in Solaris, I would say it continues to go really strong. Because of its commitment and its maturity as an operating system, we're able to guarantee things like binary compatibility. It's why you'll find more applications available on Solaris 10 than any other component -- because of the binary compatibility. It's always easy to bring things forward.

That is a challenge in some of the Linux spaces, and I do know that's one of the things that the Linux Foundation is trying to push to is more standardization and helping people through it so that you don't have to worry about -- between Red Hat, Suse, Ubuntu -- being able to run applications. And that is probably the value-add they offer to the broader Linux community. Whereas because of our strength of the maturity, we are able to not put that burden on our customers.

InfoWorld: What's happening with Intel Solaris and desktop Solaris?

McHugh: Solaris x86 continues. So Solaris running on x86 chip set is really what you're asking for. OpenSolaris actually is really strong on the x86. The involvement from Intel is really great; they're one of the big contributors in our OpenSolaris community. Our relationship with AMD continues to be really strong in this space. If you're looking for an OS where a chip manufacturer can get their innovations included really quickly, OpenSolaris is probably the leading OS from that standpoint.

InfoWorld: What about Solaris on the desktop?

McHugh: You can take OpenSolaris and run it on the desktop. As we continue to add these user interfaces, it becomes what people would expect to use in a desktop component from that standpoint. Traditional Solaris on the desktop was really, really strong in the workstation space, but now OpenSolaris is certified on over 3,000 machines. So if you think of it from that standpoint, the availability to be on a desktop is growing faster and faster. We're constantly working with not just only the chip manufacturers, but we're talking to certain computer manufacturers and laptop manufacturers that will be putting out in public soon [systems] that have OpenSolaris.

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