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SPARC/Solaris vs. Intel/Linux

What are the differences between SPARC/Solaris vs. Intel/Linux?

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Sparc/Solaris is Unix on RISC, while Linux on Intel is CISC. A better question, might be the difference between Solaris on SPARC or Solaris on Intel, as Solaris will run on both platforms very well. Another apples to apples question, might be Intel/Solaris vs. Intel/Linux. Understand that Solaris (while open source) is Unix and Linux is a Unix-like operating system that is not Unix. As a Unix, Solaris is officially POSIX-compatible, while Linux does not have that official certification.

If you have an application that was designed to run on SPARC, while one can usually migrate it over to Linux, it will take some effort to do so, as the applications that run on the systems are not binary-compatible. Because the architecture is completely different, your application will need to be recompiled. I prefer non-proprietary platforms. If you're developing a new system and the question is, which platform I would recommend you build on, I personally would develop on Linux unless your customers are mostly Sun folks.

I will say that there are advantages of using SPARC, such as the new UltraSparc architecture. They include energy efficiency, better fault tolerance and the cleaner architecture of RISC (big Endean). If your customers are large enough that they need optimum performance, availability and support, you certainly would not be making a mistake by going with a Sparc-based architecture.

This was first published in July 2007

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