December 06, 2000, 10:18 AM — SUN MICROSYSTEMS' latest version of Unix, Solaris 8, is now essentially "free"
software, as in free beer.
Well, strictly speaking, it isn't quite free. It will cost you $75 to get the
Solaris 8 run time and another $75 if you want the source code. (Sun says the cost is
for the media, but that's awfully pricey plastic.)
You'll have to pay more if you plan on using Solaris on a machine with eight or
more processors. You also have to register with Sun and track your usage of Solaris.
So for $150 you get the safety of having the source code plus unlimited client and
server licenses as long as you run Solaris on fewer than 8 processors per machine.
That's a pretty fine deal. And it's not too difficult to guess the motivation
behind this extraordinary move. Sun is pointing a big gun squarely at Microsoft Windows
In particular, Sun hopes to prevent Windows 2000 from ever getting a foothold in
the ISP or ASP (application service provider) markets. That should be a fairly simple
task, considering the fact that Solaris is already well entrenched as an Internet
I'll bet a lot of folks jump to the incorrect conclusion that Sun is making Solaris
nearly free in order to derail the ever-growing popularity of Linux in the ISP market.
Bzzt. Sun isn't that stupid.
If anything, Scott McNealy should send a bottle of Dom Perignon to everyone in the
Linux has revitalized interest in Unix. That has led to increased sales of Sun
Sparcstations and Solaris, and spawned a whole new generation of administrators who
know and prefer Unix to Windows.
It is also in Sun's best interest to validate Linux rather than Windows 2000 as a
midrange operating system. If an ISP decides to add high power to his Linux server
farm, it is a very short hop from Linux to a multi-processor Sparc machine running
Solaris (or running more Linux, for that matter, because Linux runs on Sparc
architecture). It is a much larger hop from Linux to Windows 2000. More important,
however, is the fact that it is a very big hop from Windows 2000 to anything running on
a Sparc machine. Sun knows that if Windows 2000 gets too entrenched, Sun can kiss its
Sparc hardware sales good-bye.
By making Solaris nearly free, Sun also fills a big hole in the Linux strategy to
rule the world. Linux may be more robust than Windows, but it still isn't fully
So a large contingent of IT managers are still afraid to trust Linux. These same
folks may have avoided Solaris until now because it was perceived as being more
expensive than the alternatives such as Windows NT.