Salad days for Solaris on Intel?

Sun and its partners claim that Merced deals are helping IA-32 platform

By Robert McMillan

June  1998
[Next story]
[Table of Contents]
Sun's Site

Mail this
article to
a friend
San Francisco (June 18, 1998) -- Sun's much-publicized plans to become a player on Intel's next-generation IA-64 hardware platform got a shot in the arm last week as one partner, Siemens Nixdorf, announced specific plans to convert its installed base from its own Reliant Unix to Solaris on IA-64. One week later, Japan's Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Software Corporation announced plans to sell it's WebBase database software on the Solaris x86 (IA-32) platform. And now Toshiba Corp. has committed to selling its first Intel-based Solaris machines in the fourth quarter this year. Sun and its partners are claiming that this is only the beginning -- that the move to IA-64 is about to provide a serious boost to Sun's long-neglected Solaris-on-IA-32 efforts.

NCR, which has also committed to migrate its installed base from its proprietary Unix to Solaris, claims that its customers have been more eager to embrace Solaris than anticipated. In fact, rather than wait for Solaris on IA-64, NCR expects to announce some major customer wins for Solaris on IA-32 some time in the next quarter. "In effect," says Larry Vertal, a director of strategic relations with NCR, "we've brought this Solaris road map in by a year."

Vertal declines to say which customers, specifically, will be brought into the Solaris fold, but he expects that NCR will announce customer wins in the next few months.

The application base for Solaris on Intel is growing by over 100 applications per month, according to Solaris Director of Product Marketing Brian Croll, and has jumped about 25 percent -- to over 4,000 applications, or about one third as many as Solaris/UltraSPARC -- since the first systems partnership (with NCR) was announced in August of last year. And this month Sun, in partnership with Intel, will open up Solaris tuning centers in Menlo Park, CA, and Boston.

But how much momentum has Solaris on Intel really gained since the NCR announcement? "We have yet to see a boom in the volume shipment for Solaris on IA-32," says IDC analyst Jean Bozman. She estimates that Sun shipped 25,000 copies of Solaris x86 in 1997, up from about 20,000 copies the year before.

Bob Palowoda, a Sun employee who maintains a Solaris x86 Web site, says though hard to measure, more people are interested in x86. One way he measures this is by looking at the activity on the comp.unix.solaris news group. "Back in the old 2.4 days," he remembers, "you would be lucky to see 1 percent of the questions related to x86. At present, it's approaching 50 percent." According to him, Solaris x86 is popular with SPARC users who want to get work done at home, small ISPs, and students cashing in on the special ($99) academic pricing rate for Solaris x86 are the most common users.

With a number of systems vendors like Dell, Unisys, Bull -- even IBM -- yet to announce their strategic Unix for IA-64, the Solaris camp is eager to create the impression that it is gaining momentum. The more momentum the platform is seen to have, the more ISVs and system partners Sun will be able to line up by the time Merced (Intel's code name for the first IA-64 chip) ships in 2000. "Clearly Sun has to turn up its marketing machine, if it wants to make an impact," notes IDC's Bozman.

HP, on the other hand, which has made much of its claim that HP-UX applications will run on Merced without a recompile, is just as eager to create the opposite impression. "Sun forever has been trying to get Solaris on IA-32 decent ISV support and that has failed miserably," says HP Director of Business Strategy David Scott. "The portfolio of applications is clearly not acceptable for Solaris on IA-32 today."

Siemens gets serious
The most serious boost to Intel Solaris has come from Siemens Nixdorf, which recently announced plans to cease development of its proprietary Reliant line of Unix servers, in favor of Solaris, by the year 2002. Siemens Director of Technology Marketing Joseph Reger says that his company expects to begin shipping Solaris/IA-64 systems in volume by the beginning of 2001 and that by 2008 Siemens is likely to be a Solaris-only company -- it will not commit to supporting its Reliant-based RM product line beyond that point.

Like NCR, Siemens will begin to sell Solaris x86 by the end of this year. Last week, the German company announced plans to sell systems built upon the newly announced Solaris for ISP software.

As well as opening a European Solaris-on-Intel tuning center, on June 23, Siemens begin a four-stop European "road show" aimed at drumming up ISV support for its new platform.

Rather than compete with its current product line, Solaris on Intel will initially be targeted at new markets only, says Reger. "There are certain market segments that call for an Intel-based solution today, in our estimation," he says, "and there are markets where 64-bit capabilities are not required." The European ISP space is the first such market, but Reger says that his company is eying others as well, principally in the Internet and e-commerce spaces.

The company that seems the least keen to talk about Solaris on Intel is Fujitsu, which already built a business selling Solaris on UltraSPARC in the Asian market. Fujitsu has yet to explain where and when it will begin selling Solaris on Intel, and how its Intel product line will fit in with its other lines of business. According to one Fujitsu developer, the company has yet to communicate its plans internally.


What did you think of this article?
-Very worth reading
-Worth reading
-Not worth reading
-Too long
-Just right
-Too short
-Too technical
-Just right
-Not technical enough

[Table of Contents]
Sun's Site
[Next story]
Sun's Site

[(c) Copyright  Web Publishing Inc., and IDG Communication company]

If you have technical problems with this magazine, contact

Last modified: