A small brouhaha is occurring in the business blog space with Sun Microsystems CIO Jonathan Schwartz complaining that IBM is acting in a nasty, proprietary fashion by not immediately jumping on the chance to port its WebSphere, DB2, Tivoli, Rational and MQSeries products to the new Solaris 10 operating system.
But Jonathan, you aren’t looking at the big picture here. The big picture is that IBM has already aggressively embraced the open standards world — indeed they’re doing more now to promote it than Sun Microsystems is — and their open source platform of choice is the industry standard Linux OS. Not Solaris 10, a Johnny-come-lately in the open source world.
What I find so ironic about this situation is that for all its trumpeting of being the “dot in dot com” and “the network is the computer”, Sun Microsystems has fallen progressively further and further behind the state of the industry. I did a Webcast interview about my best-selling book Wicked Cool Shell Scripts and was candid that the only Unix that causes readers trouble is Solaris 9, which still doesn’t use a standards-compliant shell. Even Apple‘s Mac OS X is more standards compatible, and they’re a newcomer to the Unix scene (we’ll all generously forget A/UX as a research project gone horribly wrong, okay?)
I know and have always admired the technological innovations of Sun, first as senior editor at SunWorld Magazine, then more recently as the author of Solaris for Dummies, but I just have to say, the OS is far, far behind the state of Linux. I also remember how hard it was for Sun Microsystems to decide that Solaris 9 for Intel would ship. It was on again, off again, for months as the entire industry continued migration to low-cost Intel-based Linux platforms, eating your lunch. Finally, at the last minute, the Intel port was announced. Odd behavior for a company that oh, so many years ago, bought Interactive Unix so it could have something on the Intel platform.
Ironically, even the Sun Microsystems Weblog system that you’re using for your own blog, Jonathan, is behind the times, without any trackback system, with internal link problems, no tool to deal with comment spam (see “blah” for example. And don’t forget to view the ‘referers’ links), and, my favorite, email comment notifications that include a “delete this comment” link!
Finally, I’m glad to see Solaris 10 moving into the Open Source world, but I really have to say that I’d rather — for once — see the Unix marketplace embrace less splintering, not more and have Sun Microsystems drop Solaris for Linux, as IBM has done with its wholehearted embrace of Linux instead of AIX. What we don’t need in the Open Source world is yet another operating system. Don’t we already have enough Linuxes, NetBSDs, FreeBSDs, Darwins, etc etc etc floating around without your muddying the waters further?
Should IBM port its database, web, and management software to the Solaris platform? Maybe. But maybe Sun should be offering to pay for the privilege of having this world-class software suite available on its dark horse new “open” operating system.
By the way, yes, I know that Solaris 10 is Linux compatible, but after spending years in the Sun camp, I’m just skeptical that it’ll prove a smart move to have a different OS with ‘backwards compatibility’ rather than just embracing the brave new world of Linux and its spawn.