BUSTED! 11 Myths about Solaris on X86/X64 platforms

Most Sun employees and Solaris fans know that Solaris has run on X86 platforms since 1994  However, in my visits to customer sites as an OS ambassadors I hear these questions frequently.  Today, I'd like to dispel some of the most common myths about Solaris.

Myth: Sun is not serious about the X86 market.

At this time, Sun is the 3rd largest server vendor in the world and #5 in the x86 server market. We have a variety of hardware platforms using the Intel and AMD chips from under $1000 to complete blade server systems.  We have two OEMs for Solaris signed up (IBM and Intel) with more expected to come in the near future. Intel recommends Solaris as the enterprise OS for their Xeon processor family. We have also agreed to become an OEM for MS Windows server software. We can sell, train, support and take your trade-ins on our complete line of SPARC and X86 systems.  We are QUITE serious.

Myth: Solaris on SPARC and X86 platforms are different OSes.

There is only one Solaris source code base.  You can see and contribute to it at the OpenSolaris web site. 95% of the code is common.  Examples of code that is NOT common includes chip specific features such as memory management, cache, hardware features, boot proms and virtualization technologies.  Features such as Solaris containers, SMF, ZFS, Trusted Extensions, resource management and more work the same on Sparc, X86 or virtualized platforms such as VMware.

Myth: Sun's support organizations are different for SPARC and X86 platforms

The same engineering and customer support team is used to design, develop, test and support Solaris.  You can call 800-USA-4-SUN and get support for Solaris whether it is on Sun systems or any of the over 900 systems on our hardware compatibility list.  Many of our engineers actually do their development work on PC hardware. 

Myth: Solaris for X86 platforms is not on the same schedule as SPARC platforms

Solaris updates and patches are released at the same time for each platform.  The only exception to this is when a patch ONLY applies to a specific platform, such as an Intel memory management fix that does not apply to AMD or SPARC chips.

Myth: You can only get Solaris from Sun

IBM recently announced that they will be selling Solaris for their blade and rack mounted servers.  We anticipate more companies to announce OEM agreements in the future.  Intel has also announced that Solaris is its preferred OS for enterprise deployment on Xeon platforms.

Myth: Solaris only runs on a few X86 platforms.

The hardware compatibility list has hundreds of platforms from Sun, HP, Dell, IBM and others.  It includes the latest Quad-core Intel and AMD chips, blade servers and more. Of our 10 million Solaris registrations, 63% of them were on non-Sun platforms.

Myth: Solaris doesn't work on VMware

Solaris 10 is a supported platform in the VMware support matrix. VMware is also listed at the Sun hardware compatibility list. Pre-built Solaris vmware images at the Sun Download Center

Myth:  It's too hard to move code from Solaris 8 to 10 or from SPARC to X86 platforms.

Solaris is guaranteed to be binary compatible moving forward from Solaris 2.5.1 on each platform.  This means that a binary running on an Ultra 2/2.5.1 can be transferred to Solaris 10 on Sun's latest T2000 and is GUARANTEED to run.  In addition, Solaris is source code compatibile between the two instruction sets.  If you need assistance on the best compiler practices for building 64-bit applications or using the proper performance options see the huge collection of white papers at our Solaris developer's portal.

Myth:  Only Solaris Nevada, OpenSolaris or Solaris Express run on X86 hardware.

Our production ready distribution of Solaris (known as Solaris 10) was first released in March 2005 with complete support for SPARC and X64/X86 platforms just as it has since 1994.  Available for Solaris 10 is enterprise level support and a long life cycle.  Our development for the next version of Solaris (known as Nevada) is currently ongoing as an open source project at www.opensolaris.org.  Periodically we produce binary versions known as Solaris Express community edition or developer edition for users to try out new features. Download Solaris 10 now for free for both SPARC and X86 platforms.

Myth: Solaris is hard to install

If you've heard this before, please check out our latest Solaris Express Developer's Edition.  It has an updated installer, improved wireless networking support and simpified networking setup. Our Flash archive, Live upgrade and jumpstart technologies simplify data center practices for patching and upgrades.

Myth:  You have to dedicate an entire PC to test out Solaris

Solaris works quite well in multi-boot or virtualized environments.  The vast majority of Sun system engineers run Solaris either on a Windows or Linux-based PC or in a virtual machine such as VMware Fusion or Parallels on MacOS X. Solaris include the GRUB boot loader to allow you to choose between multiple OS images to boot. We make virtulization easy with pre-built Solaris vmware images at the Sun Download Center

Bonus Myth (thanks to Bob for Suggesting)

Myth: There are no open source or ISV applications for Solaris on X86 platforms.

You can find a prepackaged and easy to install repository of the most common open source applications from blastwave.org.  Solaris on X86 has more ISV packages than Red Hat and other competitors.  Many freeware packages like PostGreSQL, gcc, gmake, perl, apache, webmin and more are built into Solaris or included on the companion CD.

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About

Jim Laurent is an Oracle Sales consultant based in Reston, Virginia. He supports US DoD customers as part of the North American Public Sector hardware organization. With over 17 years experience at Sun and Oracle, he specializes in Solaris and server technologies. Prior to Oracle, Jim worked 11 years for Gould Computer Systems (later known as Encore).

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