Clueless Sun complains IBM isn’t porting apps to Solaris 10

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.

16 comments on “Clueless Sun complains IBM isn’t porting apps to Solaris 10

  1. Clueless Sun complains IBM isn’t porting apps to Solaris 10

    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 a…

  2. I am curious, you comment about IBM wholeheartedly embracing Linux instead of AIX. I work in a shop that has AIX servers and Linux S390 Partitions. I install and support all the IBM products you mention on both AIX and Linux and as a systems admin I see places where I prefer AIX over Linux. Your comment sounds as though you do not feel they are still supporting AIX. I am migrating many of my servers to AIX 5.3 and I in no way feel I get less support for AIX than I have received in prior years. Also while talking to many at IBM they echo that AIX is better than Linux for many things and that they are not replacing AIX with Linux. Am I missing something?
    Great post and I agree with your thoughts on Solaris 10. Regards,

  3. You’re right, Scott. I’m speaking too strongly when I insinuate that IBM is leaving AIX behind in favor of Linux. For lots of reasons, I think we’ll continue to see IBM, HP, Sun, and other Unix vendors continue to have their own proprietary Unixes while also jumping on the Linux bandwagon, more or less.

  4. Why is it that supposed Open Source proponents get all bent out of shape about the Solaris open source plans? Isn’t the open source world about winning on your merits, rather than shutting out competition and winning marketshare for Linux?
    The argument with IBM isn’t that they’re not supporting Solaris 10. They’re definitely doing that, it would be commercial suicide not to. What the beef is that they’re not doing the simple recompile to port their software onto Solaris on the x86 platform, thus reducing choice on operating systems with x86 hardware.
    Of course, if IBM open sourced WebSphere, Tivoli, etc, we could make our own decisions on how and where to port the software.
    The software is Roller (Open Source Java based), and Sun hired the author specifically to fund his development of the software, which will remain Open Source (see ) . I guess that’a clueless attack on movable type or something.
    The shell in /usr/xpg4/bin/sh is Posix compliant, which might be worth mentioning to your readers if your scripts require specific Posix compliance. However, if there are specific problems that you are having, file a bug or post a blog entry about it so it can get addressed.
    Finally, the process of Open Sourcing Solaris under the CDDL (a modified version of the Mozilla license) has started. Check out It’s going to be interesting to see the cross pollination of the best aspects of BSD, Linux, and Solaris, which is really what the “Cathedral and the Bazaar” was all about. I will grant you that the Open Sourcing of Solaris comes late, but it’s happening.

  5. Thanks for your note, Craig. Glad to see you step up and join the dialog. Let me try to address your points in order:
    1. I’m surprised to hear you say that IBM definitely is supporting Solaris 10, because that’s not at all the tone I got from Jonathan’s “Open Letter to Palmisano”. Honestly, it’s a whole new world – a good world – in the Unix space when companies like Sun and IBM work on supporting each others proprietary software.
    2. I don’t see any reason why IBM should open source WebSphere. I’m a fan of open source, but also understand the value of retaining the intellectual property of a market leading software technology. And that holds true for Sun and IBM, of course.
    3. “clueless attack on movable type” doesn’t make much sense to me in the context of your post. Whether or not an application is open source, surely it needs to offer competitive features or run the risk of being compared unfavorably? The specific concerns I mentioned are issues across the entire blogosphere, and Roller needs to address them as does every other software solution. Indeed, being open source, it should address them faster anyway.
    4. Finally, I don’t dispute that the shell in /usr/xpg4/bin/sh is Posix complaint in Solaris. What proves a pain for the customers I’ve worked with is that the shell in /bin/sh is NOT the Posix-compliant shell, and that’s the core of the problem my readers have with their shell scripts, etc. Solaris 9 didn’t come out in the late 1980s, and I just cannot understand the rationale behind Sun having the “XPG4” branch of their binaries in the first place. The entire industry’s moved to Posix-compliance, except for Sun. I can only hope that Solaris 10 has finally remedied this problem.
    Anyway, whether we agree or not on these issues, I’m pleased that you’ve popped by and added your thoughts, Craig. Things progress through open and collegial dialog.

  6. It’s not clear in Schwartz’s open letter exactly what he is eferring to. However, in the eWeek articles,1759,1753494,00.asp and,1759,1751651,00.asp it’s pretty clear that the issue is about releasing software on the x86 platform.
    My real issue with your article is that it seem designed to ridicule, as opposed to be a considered commentary. Perhaps that’s the nature of weblogs, but it doesn’t make it right. You state that Solaris is “far, far behind” the state of Linux, but other than the shell scripting issue, you don’t cite any examples. Is Solaris behind in stability? In scalability to large SMP servers? I’m not an OS internals expert, so unless there’s some glaring performance or stability issue I don’t know, for example, which threading model is better. But without examples, your argument is nothing more than the typical “if it’s not Linux it’s garbage” argument. which is unhelpful.

  7. Craig, I was responding to Jonathan Schwartz’s letter, not the eWeek articles, so I’m not as interested in them, per se. In terms of whether my writing is “considered commentary”, I again cite that I’ve been a part of the Solaris community for decades, and that after using various flavors of Linux and NetBSD, I was shocked by how many commands and command flags were missing in Solaris 9 when I started working on the system. Can I enumerate? Unfortunately, I cannot, at this point, two years later.
    But let’s step back and look at the overall point here. The point of this discussion is that the open source community advances faster than any corporation can, simply by the nature of the open source process. Whether that’s Linux, Debian, NetBSD, FreeBSD, or whatever, programs and systems advance and evolve faster. That’s one big reason that Linux is growing at such a fast clip, particularly when compared to proprietary Unixes like Solaris, AIX and HP-UX. And that’s why Sun has been forced to open source Solaris 10 in the first place: to avoid obsolescence and irrelevance in the industry.
    Whether all software should be open source is a different question that I’ve already addressed, but the gist of this whole thread is whether Sun can reasonably complain that IBM isn’t porting key proprietary software applications to the suddenly-open-source Solaris 10 platform or not. I believe that it IS disingenuous for Jonathan Schwartz to write an open letter to IBM complaining about the situation, and you don’t. Okay.
    Perhaps Jonathan could pop over and add his two cents here too? It’d be very interesting to hear what his response would be to our discourse…
    Finally, let me loop back to the comment about “the nature of weblogs” being to ridicule. I think that weblogs allow raw unfiltered analysis and writing, and with some writers it unquestionably errs towards the more aggressive, if you will. Is that bad? I don’t think so. I surmise that we’ve just been trained to read more neutral analysis by authors who aren’t particularly passionate, just “doing their job.” (I want to say “pablum” but I won’t. I’ll just note that for every strongly opinionated journal like Mac Addict and TheRegister there are a thousand boring publications)
    I like the enthusiasm of the blog crowd, actually, and think that my own analysis pieces are quite tame compared to a lot of what I read. Do I use rhetoric to stir up passion in my readers? Of course. I aim to be controversial and *interesting*. Don’t you?

  8. My point is simple – Solaris 10 is open source (and way improved over S9), and to the extent IBM is an open source supporter, then we (and their customers, stay tuned) would like them to make their products available. SAP, Oracle, BEA, Veritas – everyone else has, why are they sitting on their hands? To stifle competition.
    Second, to suggest “linux is better” really misses that linux is no longer just one thing: it’s Red Hat, SuSe, Debian, etc., a world in which Red Hat now effectively dominates – and given that RHEL is incompatible with SLES, the market’s already splintered. There is no one linux (and that’s not a bad thing, given that there’s no “one” customer).
    So, if you’re waiting for Sun to do what IBM has done, effectively end of life Solaris (or, in their case, AIX) for Red Hat (AIX doesn’t even run on their new Power servers), you’re going to have wait for a long time. That’s a step toward irrelevance, not innovation. If you want to know the future of linux, who would you talk to: IBM?
    or Red Hat.

  9. Jonathan, first off, many thanks for adding your comment to my Weblog discussion. Communication is the essence of good management, and in that regard I can see that you’re a definite leader!
    Further, let me reiterate that I’m delighted Sun has open sourced Solaris 10, that it’s an improvement over Solaris 9, and that Sun has also released 1600 of its patents to the open source coummunity to help foster further innovation and offer an even more viable alternative to the Wintel monopoly. These are all milestones from a company boldy moving into the future, and well done.
    But let’s be frank. The industry passed Sun by when the dotcom implosion occurred and the company didn’t really notice (though the market certainly did). I can remember the amazement I felt when I was working on the Solaris for Dummies book that the impending move from the Common Desktop Environment to GNOME was a Big Deal and had to be kept under wraps until S9 was shipped. I had been using GNOME and KDE for years and years on other platforms, and actually thought it was a joke when I noticed CDE was the default desktop manager.
    Today I got email from a reader saying “I am Sun Solaris sysadmin and really liked your book, “Wicked Cool Shell Scripts”. I don’t seem to find the “rev” utility on any of my Sun servers running Solaris 2.6, 7, 8, and even 9. I couldn’t find it on Could you tell me where I can find it?” The ‘rev’ utility is trivial and uninteresting, but I’ve never received a missing command query for any other operating system from any of the thousands of readers out there.
    I’m also not claiming that there’s a monolithic Linux operating system, though we both know that there IS a monolithic Linux kernel, carefully shepherded by Linus, and that does serve as the heart of the many different Linux distros out there. That and hundreds of excellent GNU utilities, of course.
    It’s just hard for me to imagine why any other company should be particularly excited about having Solaris 10 be open source, excited enough to dedicate significant engineering resources to port their proprietary crown jewels to yet another open source OS.
    I’m certainly not expecting Sun to end-of-life Solaris. I never said I was. I’m waiting for Sun to catch up. And I believe that when you’re coming from the position that the company is currently in, your most effective method of catching up is to identify the must-have applications needed for S10 commercial viability then dedicate the resources necessary to make it happen, not write open letters to the CEOs of other companies complaining that they’re not jumping on your bandwagon. I mean, Sun didn’t complain that the Linux community wasn’t taking the company seriously, Sun joined the OSDL. Surely there’s a model here?

  10. I’ll have someone go look into the ‘rev’ utility.
    And let me assure you writing an open letter to IBM requesting they honor customer requests to port to Solaris 10 is not done out of a desperate need for their products – that wouldn’t be an effective strategy for getting what we want.
    It instead points out that IBM, the apparent patron saint of open source…well, isn’t. And they’re locking customers up. And gets 10,000 folks on-line to talk about it, to drive the dialog and awareness without a $100M ad campaign. Blogs drive dialog, not monologue.
    So, was the letter to Sam? or to Sam’s customers? Or to their field reps, who as we speak are answering some very uncomfortable questions from customers wanting choice beyond Red Hat…
    And with $130B installed base, and a million new licenses over the past year (well beyond Red Hat), let me assure you, *lots* of folks are interested in Solaris… and moreover, so you should be, too, even if you never use it. Choice matters, in my view. Even if you ignore it.

  11. Where can I find the ‘rev’ utility for Solaris?

    Dave, I am a Sun Solaris sysadmin and really liked your book Wicked Cool Shell Scripts. However, I don’t seem to find the “rev” utility on any of my Sun servers running Solaris 2.6, 7, 8, and even 9. I couldn’t find it on the site eith…

  12. (AIX doesn’t even run on their new Power servers) I must not be understanding what you mean Jonathan. We just picked up new P5 550 and 595. (
    We will be running many, many AIX 5.3 virtual servers. I just do not see this death or abandonment of AIX. I see an embrace of Linux depending on the need, we use both Operating Systems still leaning more toward AIX and receive excellent support on both from IBM.

  13. Jonathan, again, thanks for continuing the discussion.
    Here’s where I think we’re hitting a wall: you say “writing a letter to IBM … wouldn’t be an effective strategy for getting what we want” and then say that it “instead points out that IBM isn’t [the ‘patron saint of open source’]”
    Am I then correct in concluding that you did not write that open letter to IBM CEO Sam Palmisano because you are interested in whether the IBM applications will ultimately be ported to Solaris 10, but rather to bring to our attention that IBM isn’t porting their applications?
    You say that they should “honor customer requests to port…” but I wonder how many requests they’ve actually gotten, and how those requests stack up against other customer requests. Certainly, like any company, they have finite engineering resources.
    If your goal is to increase the viability and attractiveness of the open source Solaris 10, that I believe you should offer IBM resources (personnel or financial) to port those key applications to S10, in a cooperative manner, respecting their intellectual property.
    Choice is great, having another option is good (though, like when I stand in the supermarket cereal aisle and try to ignore the duplication of effort required to have hundreds of different cereals, I wonder how much more efficiently and effectively the industry could run if you dropped Solaris, IBM dropped AIX, HP dropped HP-UX, etc., and everyone worked on creating the best collective operating system environment. There are other ways to differentiate in this already commoditized business ecosystem).
    At the end of the day, if it’s about customer choice, then I’d like to see Sun actively working towards giving its customers more choice, including doing everything possible to ensure that mission critical applications like WebSphere, DB2, etc. are available on Solaris 10. Because you’re absolutely right. Choice does matter.

  14. Judging from the contents of your book (Solaris for dummies) and your complaint about the non-compliant shell, if a user (shell) environment is your deepest knowledge of an operating system, you certainly are not in a position to say “the OS [Solaris] is far, far behind the state of Linux.” I’m sure your opinion would be quite different if you were a (kernel) developer and had a chance to browse and compare both OS’ src trees. Solaris is far superior to Linux in that matter, not only for DTRACE, native debugger (K)MDB, and solid coredump subsystem, but also for its debug-capable KMA, bug-free VM, MT, etc.

  15. Solaris is way behind Linux in many respects expect when running Java. The 32-bit Java Virtual machine can only be 1.7GB on Linux (2.6.x) compared to 3.9GB on Solaris. This is bacause the JVM Heap needs a continious block of memory (JRockIt is the only exception and it’s not free)
    While Linux can have 32-bit processes address much more that 1.7GB it’s not in a single block.
    This is why Solaris still is important in a server environment. 64-Bit Java is a non starter at the moment.

  16. Solaris has greatly improved and has always been posix compliant. I don’t see Red-HAT in the fully compliant mode yet. They have a lot of work in that space to catch up to Solaris.
    Solaris x86 what your comparing to Red-HAT isn’t exactly Johnny come lately since Solaris x86 has been running since version 2.1. Sun recognized they didn’t push Solaris like they could have in the early days on which would have in my opinion run completely over Linux had they done the right thing then.
    I give Sun a Kudos in there opensource work especially since Sun is the only major vendor to push their OS from the sparc platform to x86 and made it 95% code compatible to Sparc version.
    I don’t see IBM sending rages on how AIX can run x86 hardware. They just like everyone else assume that Linux will do. When there own OS could probably done the job just as well. That is hard core investments Sun has made.
    Also I see far more WebSphere on Solaris than I do AIX or Linux for that matter. It may be on the Sparc end rather than x86 but what does that say about IBM?
    I have tried for years to get Vendors like IBM, HP, SGI to port their OS to x86 hardware. So why drop what works as one poster suggest? I don’t think so, that because the companies has invested too much as it is to stop.
    Linux is not an easy port to other OS cause of all the issues Linuxism brings to table when trying to do the cotton picking port.
    But when it is comes to porting something from Solaris to Linux, Sun didn’t make it hard.
    IBM support geez, that is another lost cause for Christmas card. I had a very good friend of mine who is a better expert on AIX than IBM support is.
    He solved all the problems that were running on AIX P5 and P6 series when IBM couldn’t even figure it out.
    On another note, IBM support couldn’t even figure out how to fix an AS400 and it took 2 weeks to figure out that there were 2 different types of power supplies they used. And used 2 different AS400 to figure that out to fix one AS400. I know this not AIX but just to point out how bad IBM support really is. This was 10 years ago but it sure stuck in my mind and I have not forgotten that.

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