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Solaris Enterprise - A New Free Alternative

  • December 6, 2005
  • By Dick Wall
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Therefore, free is an important part of the equation, but so is quality, ease of use, clear direction (good documentation and resources), and focus on a problem that actually needs to be solved. I believe that this is common sense, but it doesn't hurt to say it from time to time anyway.

While I have yet to download and experiment with the Solaris Enterprise System myself (the announcement was only made yesterday after all), the things I would look for in a system beyond being free would be:

  • How is it packaged - Can I download a DVD ISO or two, boot a spare machine from the DVD, choose a few simple options (with sensible defaults) and pretty much click my way through to a working enterprise server which covers a sensible average of what most small groups or companies would need from such a system?
  • What are the tutorials and how-tos like? Am I going to spend a lot of time staggering around without a flashlight, and hitting Google and forums to try and work out why it can't connect to this server, or why the client can't connect to the new system?
  • Longer term, assuming I invest the time and get all of this working, what plan is there to support me if I approach my group or company with the proposal of moving to this system? For example, what are the options for transferring over emails, scheduling, authentication and other settings and configuration from the system that the company or group are already using (if any)?

I intend to find answers to these questions, and maybe even write a follow up article with what I find. The fact that I am asking these questions does not mean I am complaining or being ungrateful, it means that the free software has made a compelling enough case for me to take the concept of perhaps using this stack seriously, and that raises these kind of questions.


The continuous process of Sun freeing it's software is a good one for consumers, and a brave move for Sun. It means they think they can make money on support, hardware and merit, and you have to respect that position. I am not going to speculate on the effectiveness of it, merely to say that it is a model I like to see, and I wish more companies would adopt.

I do believe that there is still room for another model, particular with regards to this level of enterprise software, and that is the rent rather than buy and manage model. Sun certainly would seem to have the software and the infrastructure to support this, their utility grid system would seem to provide a backbone upon which to offer enterprise system rental for small groups and companies, and as long as the privacy policy was suitable, and the security was good enough, I could see a lot of companies wanting to go this route for the right price point. Certainly Microsoft seems to be aiming at the same sort of thing with it's Windows and Office Live services. Whether Sun will do this or not I have no idea, but I certainly believe it would be a value add.

Sticking to the subject of the press release though, the Solaris Enterprise System makes a very compelling argument. A full enterprise stack, client agnostic, zero install cost, and with many features the Microsoft stack does not offer (certainly not in the standard package anyway) like grid computing, all able to run on the hardware you probably have available right now (if not, I am sure Sun will be happy to sell you some Opteron boxes...). I hope it is rewarded with the market share Jonathan Schwartz and Sun are hoping for.

About the Author

Dick Wall is a Lead Systems Engineer for NewEnergy Associates, A Siemens Company based in Atlanta, GA that provides energy IT and consulting solutions for decision support and energy operations. He can be reached for comment on this and other matters at dick.wall@newenergyassoc.com. He also co-hosts the Java Posse with Tor Norbye and Carl Quinn, a podcast devoted to Java News and Interviews, which can be found at http://javaposse.com.

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