Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Apr 2007 23:18 UTC
Sun Solaris, OpenSolaris "Sun's CEO Jonathan Schwartz loves to splatter the media with the line that Windows, Red Hat Linux and Solaris stand as the only operating systems of significance in the server kingdom. We've spent the last few years struggling to appreciate the seriousness of that claim. Sun's declining system sales failed to inspire much optimism about the company conquering the data centers of tomorrow with a deflating 'venerable' OS. A couple of recent items, however, have tweaked our view of Schwartz's favored claim. It could well be that Solaris - of all things - provides the 'iPod moment' Sun seeks." In the meantime, Sun upped the speed of some of its SPARC chips.
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RE: The turning point
by butters on Wed 4th Apr 2007 01:11 UTC in reply to "The turning point"
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Sun is the first major platform vendor to rediscover the fact that although investors and analysts mostly care about the whiz-bang hardware that drives the revenue for the vendor, developers and IT professionals care about the less glamorous operating systems that drive the revenue for the customer. Expect other major platform vendors that have traditionally been hardware-oriented to place more emphasis on their operating systems going forward.

What we have had in the recent past is hardware that was literally running away from the software--hardware that was getting too wide and too big for software that was designed to manage scarcity. Today the high-end is topping 128 hardware threads and 1TB of memory. The question isn't how to give each process its fair share of the resources, but how the heck we're going to keep those pipes busy and what in the world we're going to cache in that ocean of memory. How to we let software take advantage of these beasts, and how do we make them easy to manage?

As soon as CIOs began using words like utilization instead of bandwidth, the OS became arguably more important than the hardware. Mediocre OS vendors (i.e. Microsoft) began to lose market share (slowly but surely), and the hardware vendors that outsource their OS (Dell) became weaker. It's a whole new ballgame today, and the OS is on the pitcher's mound.

Solaris has a lot of things going for it, but Linux is going to be a challenging competitor unless Sun can expand the scope of Solaris to encompass more of the market. They need an attractive desktop OS and a powerful workstation OS to go along with the the server OS that sells the hardware and services. The OS is not a niche product that can be targeted to a particular market segment. It's a brand that is central to the vendor's systems strategy and a set of technologies that must be widely used and supported throughout the industry.

Consider the three major UNIX variants today. Linux runs on damn near anything, they give it away to whoever wants it, and it's equally suitable for everything from cell phones to mainframes and everything in between. Every qualified administrator and developer coming out of school today is familiar with Linux and its customary set of tools. Solaris runs on commodity PC hardware and a midrange server architecture, they have free and proprietary versions, and it's suitable for servers and workstations. The vast majority of admins and devs coming out of school are aware of Solaris and many have used it. AIX runs on midrange to high-end proprietary servers, it's licensed as a part of the hardware purchase and support contract, and it's suitable mainly for databases and high-performance computing. Many admins and devs coming out of school have never even heard of AIX and learn it on the job.

Linux followed the strategy of flood the low-end of the market where most of the mindshare is developed and hope the larger accounts follow, and they've been very successful. Solaris wants to appeal to the middle of the market where most of the server volume is positioned and hope the mindshare follows, and they're been pretty successful. AIX wants to lead the high-end where the profits are the biggest and hope the competition stays off their heels, and they hold onto a small lead in UNIX revenues.

What we have here are three distinct approaches, although Solaris keeps drifting closer to the Linux strategy as mindshare seems to be more important than revenues and as Linux is quickly gaining enterprise-friendly features such as virtualization. Now that HP-UX and the late Tru64 are falling by the wayside while SPARC is becoming weaker in the high-end and stronger in the low-midrange (Niagara), AIX and System P are basically competing with IBM's resurgent mainframe systems.

I think the "turning point" is not specific to Solaris but general to the entire IT industry. Before, there were various levels to the market that you could target individually. Today, you're either ubiquitous and driven by mindshare or a committed niche vendor driven by high margins. Sun found itself in no-man's land with Solaris, deciding to challenge Linux on its home turf (de facto standards) instead of challenging IBM's strength (technical leadership). They've got a long road ahead of them, but at least they stopped and asked for directions.

Edited 2007-04-04 01:16

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