Sun expands beta testing for its 64-bit operating environment

New version set for September release

By Stephanie Steenbergen, SunWorld staff

May  1998
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San Francisco (May 19, 1998) -- Sun this week expanded its beta program for its 64-bit operating environment. According to Sun, this marks another step toward its scheduled September 1998 release of 64-bit Solaris 2.7.

Sun's 64-bit Solaris operating environment will hit the market a full year before Intel's 64-bit Merced chip. Sun hopes programmers will take advantage of the "leg-up" that Sun is giving them to begin early development for Merced. "Sun is planning to support Merced," says Patrick Dorsey, product manager for 64-bit Solaris. "[The beta expansion] allows software vendors to begin developing 64-bit applications today. It will be the same OS for Merced as for SPARC. There will be compatibility across platforms," he says.

Although Sun is a year ahead of Merced's debut, they are not the first to market with a 64-bit operating environment. The LP64 programming model has been the basis of Digital Unix since March 1993. Most who observed Digital's swoop to 64-bit say it was an awkward and ill-planned transition.

Has Sun been lackadaisical in its development of a 64-bit operating environment? "I'm not sure about all of the factors that affected the timing of this," says Jean Bozman, a software analyst at International Data Corp. "It's a really good sign that this is on the way. When Sun looked at its customer base it saw that there wasn't a strong argument to go to 64-bit sooner." She notes that "they had to add a lot to the OS."

With Solaris 2.7, Sun is trying to make the shift to 64-bit Solaris on Merced as fluid as possible. The switch from SPARC to Merced will involve a simple recompile. "No engineering work needs to be done. The APIs are identical," says Dorsey.

What's new in Solaris 2.7
"Another key aspect [of Solaris 2.7] is that it has full compatibility with 32-bit technology." says Dorsey. He says one can "dynamically link in" the 64-bit applications.

A Sun source who worked on Solaris 2.7 said the most difficult aspect of the upgrade was making the the 32-bit and 64-bit data compatible. Sun had a lot of difficulty in getting the 32-bit data and the 64-bit data to "speak" to one another says the source.

Sun plans to remain closely guarded about new features of Solaris 2.7 until its scheduled release this September. The Sun source said Solaris 2.7 won't include features such as high availability in clustering. "Sun Cluster is a special flavor of Solaris 2.7 that will be released separately in the future," said the source.

The Sun source would not elaborate but stated that new security features would be added into S-Plus and the GSS API (General Security Services API). S-Plus is Sun's interactive computing environment that provides a graphical and data analysis system, and a programming language for statistics, mathematics, and quantitative computing. And GSS-API is a security interface that supports multiple protocols.

Sun has signed third-party deals with Siemens Nixdorf, NCR, and Fujitsu who have all committed to selling 64-bit versions of Solaris on Merced.


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