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What's ahead for Solaris

Steve MacKay predicts fewer `dot' releases, more specialized OS versions

By Carolyn W.C. Wong

April  1996
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At the recent Software Development conference in San Francisco, SunWorld Online talked with Steve MacKay, vice president and general manager of the Solaris Products Group at SunSoft. Sun, of course, has been busy promoting its Internet and corporate intranet architecture. SunSoft's role in the Internet toaster/appliance model is central to Sun's vision.

"The Netra products are based on Solaris. The foundation for all of that software is SunSoft software offerings," MacKay said. "At Interop, we're announcing Solaris Internet Server as part of the Solaris server suite so we'll be able to offer Solaris Internet Server on SPARC or Intel as an appliance package, say as a Web server."

"We're going to be making a series of announcements into the spring about further extensions to the Internet or intranet architectures," MacKay said. "One of the things we're looking into is capitalizing on the capabilities of Java and to fill out the architecture picture of the Internet and intranets." (269K "au" audio file)

In fact, SunSoft's next significant update to Solaris is set for May. Then another release is planned for early 1997, according to MacKay. "Users should expect that we'll be producing more specialized versions of Solaris targeted at particular marketplaces. For example, Solaris Internet Server has packaged features and enhancements to serve as an Internet gateway server," MacKay said. "Dot upgrades will become less important over time as we move to these specialized packaged Solaris products." (114K "au" audio file)

This May Solaris 2.5 update is primarily designed to support additional hardware that's come along. "There are a number of performance enhancements both for SPARC and Intel. We've put in additional Ultra SPARC optimization," MacKay said. "Moving to this update release in May will be a fairly small change for customers." (651 "au" audio file)


A more major change for Solaris users may be the shift to the Common Desktop Environment (CDE). "We're still evaluating to what extent we're going to make make CDE the default or preferred environment at the next release of Solaris in early '97," MacKay said. "But all indications are that customer acceptance is positive enough that that's probably what we'll do." (198K "au" audio file)

For now, the future of Sun's Internet/intranet strategy will also rest on standards currently being played out. "HTTP and HTML are the most important standards today being driven from the Internet into the Intranet," MacKay said. "We think there's an opportunity to enhance those major Web standards with things like Java, but also with things that have achieved a lot of prominence in the standard networking world but not so much the Internet world."

This includes NFS which is ubiquitous in corporate networks but really hasn't been pushed out onto the Internet, MacKay said. "We think there's a real opportunity here -- the file system capabilities of HTTP are pretty limited -- and we will continue to explore how we can work with partners to get NFS pushed out to Internet as a much more widespread standard for filing."

Another example is XFN, which is the federated naming standard Sun developed and helped get adopted by X/Open that's now being incorporated inside the corporate networks. "I think there's an even more compelling need on the Internet because the current Internet naming scheme is URLs," MacKay said. "They don't scale very well as a naming mechanism, and XFN is a much more sophisticated naming scheme. Once again, we want to work with the Internet standards providers to try and enable these kinds of things."
--Carolyn W.C. Wong

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