Linuxworld: Sun shows Linux server and resurrects Solaris on Intel

Sun Microsystems has responded to user demand by announcing its first general-purpose server to run Linux and has promised to...

Sun Microsystems has responded to user demand by announcing its first general-purpose server to run Linux and has promised to bring back a version of its Solaris operating system that runs on Intel chips.

The hardware maker used Linuxworld to unveil the Sun LX50 - a dual-processor thin server that runs the company's new Sun Linux distribution of the Linux OS.

The system will start shipping at the end of this month and is the first non-appliance server from Sun to run Linux on chips from Intel. The vast majority of Sun's servers use its own Solaris flavour of Unix on proprietary UltraSPARC processors.

Linux is not the only operating system that will run on the Sun LX50. The company said it would support special versions of its Solaris 8 and the newly released Solaris 9 operating systems on the new Intel-based servers.

This move reverses a decision made by Sun in January to not release Solaris 9 for Intel chips and to stop downloads of Solaris 8 that support the chips.

Scott McNealy, Sun's chairman, chief executive officer and president, is expected to discuss both announcements in his keynote speech at the Linuxworld conference tomorrow.

The Sun LX50 - codenamed Big Bear - targets at a variety of computing tasks such as file serving, print serving and caching files.

The system will come bundled with a large software portfolio, including the Sun One Application Server, MySQL database, Sun Grid Engine software, Sun One Developer Studio, Sun ONE ASP (active server pages) and Sun Streaming Server software.

Users will be able to order the server with either Sun Linux or the Solaris operating system. While Solaris 8 is supported on a wide range of Intel-based hardware, Sun will only support Solaris 9 on the new server.

The decision to bring back Solaris on Intel back came after months of lobbying by angry users.

Gordon Haff, an analyst at research company Illuminata, said the move was aimed at satisfying a small but vociferous number of customers.

"I wonder why Sun could not have done this as a low-key professional services offering," he said.

Dell already sells Solaris on Intel to select customers as a custom software install package but does not highlight the practice.

"To resurrect Solaris on Intel and include it as an official operating system and talk about it the same breath as Linux could, potentially, cause some confusion about Sun's direction," Haff said.

"It will probably raise questions in peoples' minds about Sun's commitment to Linux. They are probably not valid questions, but they will be raised."

Sun is distributing its own version of Linux designed for corporate use and could be hoping to use that backing Solaris has from independent software vendors to strengthen Sun Linux.

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