Dell Finally and Officially Supports Solaris
Published: November 29, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
A long time ago--February 1999, which is like decades ago in the fast-paced computer business--I took over the editorship of a Unix newsletter called Unigram.X, which was mothballed earlier this year by its publisher, Datamonitor. In one of the first essays I did for the publication after becoming its editor, I suggested that server maker Dell was missing out on a huge opportunity by not endorsing Unix. At the time, Dell didn't even have a Linux strategy yet, either.
That original essay, called Dell Could Be Ready for Unix, Like It Or Not was prescient in that it showed how closed Dell would toe the Intel X86 and Microsoft Windows lines, and thereby limit itself to the entry and low-end of the midrange portions of the market. Dell went for a volume strategy, which paid off for a number of years, but now Dell does not have a server line that is as differentiated as it could have been, in terms of both hardware and operating systems support. Anyway, back in February 1999, I suggested that Dell had three perfectly good Unix options--Linux, OpenServer/UnixWare, and Solaris for X86. At the time, you have to remember, the Project Monterey merger of SCO's UnixWare and IBM's AIX was still on track and was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the operating system space, giving SCO and IBM and chance to catapult together over the heads of Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX and Sun Microsystems' Solaris. The latter was in the throes of the dot-com boom, and the former was making money hand over first as well. This was also when it looked like Intel's Itanium processor was going to eat the world, too. These were fast-paced, intensely competitive, topsy turvey days in the IT market, and it was a lot of fun.
Dell, of course, didn't listen. And some time later--my Unigram.X archive is not complete and neither is my memory--I wrote an essay called Linux Is Dell's Unix, after Dell finally caught the Linux bug and which pretty much encapsulates Dell's Unix strategy for the past decade.
But that has just changed, perhaps, now that Dell has seen the wisdom of listening to the good advice many of us have given the company about finally and formally supporting Solaris on its PowerEdge servers.
Just after The Unix Guardian had gone to press before the Thanksgiving holiday, Sun and Dell announced that they had inked a Solaris 10 distribution agreement. Under that agreement, Dell and Sun are collaborating to get Solaris 10 certified on the PowerEdge server line and will collaborate on other Solaris-based solutions--perhaps storage arrays based on the Zettabyte File System, perhaps Dell selling the Java Enterprise System middleware. (The companies did not specify what these solutions might be.) Dell is also able to sell support contracts for Solaris 10, and presumably Sun gets a cut of that action, too.
Dell customers have bee able to pay to have Dell techies install any operating system, including Solaris, on X86 and X64 machines for more than a decade. But this agreement puts Solaris on the PowerEdge boxes by default, right alongside Windows and Linux. A number of Dell PowerEdge boxes are already certified to run Solaris 10 and were put through testing by Sun or partners who help with testing and certification.
The irony, of course, is that Dell didn't officially support Solaris 10 on its iron until rival IBM, which has a lot more to lose by supporting Solaris than Dell does, announced in August a similar distribution agreement that will see IBM not only put Solaris 10 on its System x rack and tower and BladeCenter blade servers running Xeon and Opteron processors, but will also see Solaris ported to mainframes and Power-based servers.
HP has what Sun classifies as an "arm's length" agreement with Sun with regards to Solaris and its ProLiant rack, tower, and blade servers, which means Sun or partners certify the box and ProLiant customers have to buy Solaris from Sun and get support from Sun as well. Now that Dell has jumped on the Solaris bandwagon, HP will probably do it next, and then the most obvious company that should support Solaris on X64, Fujitsu, and its server partner in Europe, Siemens, might see the wisdom in getting Solaris 10 certified and preinstalled on the Primergy server line as well. Fujitsu-Siemens has been reluctant to do this because it wants to push the PrimePower and now Sparc Enterprise servers to Solaris shops.
If the uptake of Solaris 10, with over 11 million licenses distributed, shows anything, it is that customers want their platform providers to decouple operating systems from iron, and virtualize as much of it as possible. Those companies that do this will stay in business. Those that don't, won't.
Solaris Conversion Rate: Sun Sheds Some Light
Sun Wrings Profits from a Flat Fiscal First Quarter
Sun, IBM Ink Solaris Distribution Agreement for Servers
Solaris 10 Breaks Through 6 Million Shipment Barrier
Solaris 10 Hits 3 Million Registered Licenses
Can Solaris 10 Shipments Continue Upwards?
Sun Finally Gets Solaris 10 11/06 Update Out the Door
Sun Talks Up Solaris for X86, Misses Big Opportunity
Post this story to del.icio.us
Post this story to Digg
Post this story to Slashdot