Hot skills: Solaris open source move opens up multi-platform opportunities

Unix implementation is not just confined to Sun systems

What is it?

Early in 2005 Sun began to make core products such as server operating system Solaris and the Java Enterprise System, and associated developer and management tools, available in no-cost, open source form. Sun explained that this was to get more people trying out its products. "More software adoption means access to more customers, which in turn means more opportunity for Sun and Sun partners to sell supported products and services," it said.

Sun's main motivation, as the supplier of the leading Unix implementation, was to fight off the growing dominance of Linux. But, pointing out that Linux was the flagship of the open source movement, ported to more than 80 platforms and with widely available skills, UK analyst Robin Bloor commented, "Solaris is a heavy-duty operating system that has many capabilities that Linux currently aspires to but does not yet deliver.

"However, it is probably too late in the day for Solaris to take the wind out of Linux's sails." A year later, Sun is making moves to enable Solaris to coexist with Linux rather than oust it.

Where did it originate?

Sun was founded in 1982. Solaris gradually took over from the proprietary Sun OS during the 1990s.

What's it for?

Solaris 10 was a major release of Sun's Unix implementation, with features such as containers to isolate applications and services, a dynamic tracing framework (DTrace) for troubleshooting system problems in real time, a major upgrade of the filing system (ZFS), and predictive self-healing.

Also available under a no-cost licence is the Java Studio, a drag and drop integrated development environment, with an Enterprise version that includes the unified modelling language. The Solaris Enterprise System includes a bundle of open source products like Apache Tomcat, the Perl and Python scripting languages, Gnome and Mozilla for the desktop, and the Postgres database.

What makes it special?

Making Solaris open source has succeeded in extending the range of platforms it can be used with. It has been ported to IBM's PowerPC, and Sun also claims the Solaris kernel has been used to replace the Linux kernel. Sun claims to be "the only industrial grade Unix" for x86 systems, and is targeting other low-cost hardware.

How difficult is it to master?

The move to open standards means more people should be able to work with Solaris more easily. Training remains a major money-spinner for Sun though, with a five-day course required for existing Solaris professionals to move up to Solaris 10.

What systems does it run on?

Sun Sparc, Intel and AMD processors. The open source community is making other ports independent of Sun. Sun's Java Enterprise System runs on Solaris, Red Hat Linux, Windows and HP-UX, and some Sun software is also available for IBM's Aix.

What's coming up?

The Solaris Linux Application Environment, which which will enable users to to run Linux applications natively on Solaris.

Rates of pay

Junior Solaris administrators and Java and C++ developers with Solaris experience can look for a salary of 」23,000 to 」30,000.ハRates for more experienced staff can be much higher, especially in the City.


Solaris and other open source products can be downloaded from Sun's website, along with details of the company's classroom-based and online training. Some free modules are available. There are also several community sites with free tutorials and code.

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