Sun Microsystems released an update to its widely used Solaris 8 operating system Monday, adding several tools designed to simplify the management of large numbers of servers.
Solaris, a flavor of the Unix OS developed by Sun, sits on many of the high-powered servers running the Internet.
The additions to the Solaris OS come on the same day as the unveiling of IBM Corp.'s new version of its own Unix software. IBM's AIX 5L Version 5.1 is an attempt to bridge a gap between AIX and the Linux OS. IBM has now made Linux software more manageable and easier to use on AIX, according to an IBM spokesman.
Among the features announced today for Solaris were improvements to its Web Start Flash technology. The most important is the capability to transfer single server configurations onto other machines. Administrators can replicate a reference server configuration onto multiple servers in less time than is currently required, according to a Sun statement. The base configuration can include not only the Solaris OS but also an application stack and system configuration. The Web Start Flash tools also allow users to roll out needed updates or changes across a number of servers in one, consolidated action.
Sun has had Web Start Flash for a few years, but this version is the first to give users the ability to make changes across multiple servers. One analyst saw the move as an effort to improve upon the company's systems management tools, which he said are somewhat lacking.
"Historically, Sun has not focused a lot on ease of use," said Tony Iams, senior analyst at D.H. Brown Associates in Port Chester, New York. "They are beefing up Solaris in stages and decided to focus on software installation."
With Web Start Flash, users will find many of the software installation features that typically appear on a desktop, including installation wizards that help guide a user throughout the process of installing new applications.
The new version of Solaris also comes with several tools for working with mobile IP (Internet Protocol). Sun has added reverse tunneling technology to make it possible for remote workers and telecommuters to access and transmit information securely. Sun has been active with bringing wireless add-ons to both its software and hardware for some time and is ahead of the curve in the mobile space, according to Iams.
"Sun has a head start of several years over its competitors," Iams said. "IBM has made some good strides but will still have to play catch up."
Some Sun customers agreed that while a company like Microsoft Corp. may provide cheaper, easier to use software, Sun's advantage over Microsoft's operating systems is in the stability of its products.
"If you look at the tools that are available on a Sun box then clearly their software is not as easy to use as NT," said Desikan Jagannathan, vice president of engineering at online food and beverage service provider ecFood.com. "But compared to what Sun had three years ago, they have made tremendous strides."
Jagannathan added that ease of use issues would not convince him to move from Sun, as Solaris provides far better stability than NT.
"The damn thing is stable and gives a predictable response, and that is the bottom line," he said about Solaris.
The startup is also attempting to use Sun's Java programming language with most of its software efforts and finds that having Sun hardware helps with these projects. In addition, ecFood.com will begin rolling out more mobile commerce services to its customers and looks to use some of the wireless technology Sun is adding to Solaris.
Users can download the Solaris software at no charge for eight or fewer CPUs (central processing units) at Sun's Web site.