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Sun executive vice president for software Jonathan Schwartz said the company has considered allowing users to access Solaris in an open-source format, noting that the recent early release program for Solaris 9 on the Intel Corp. x86 platform has generated about 1.4 million downloads for the $20 offering.
"The question is, if we open source it, do we double that?" Schwartz asked. "What does it do to the [Solaris] adoption rates?"
However, he maintained that open-source availability of software is not a panacea, because enterprise-level support and scalability needed by many companies is not provided for in open-source products. Schwartz likened open source to getting a free puppy. "It's great the day you get it, and then you have to maintain it."
Nonetheless, Sun is looking "really closely" at the possible use of open source to increase the user base for Solaris on the x86 platform. Users can access Solaris source code now for a fee.
Forrester Research software analyst Ted Schadler questioned the kind of foothold Solaris could gain in an open-source format given that Linux already has a substantial head start on the Intel platform.
"Nobody tells me that Linux is failing in some significant way on Intel, so it would [have to] be failing in some significant way for there to be traction," he said, adding that Linux is rapidly gaining the software support it needs to succeed.
Sun offers Linux as an operating system for its LX50 entry-level server.