Burton Group vice president Gary Hein said he thinks that companies considering Linux should take another look at Sun Microsystems' Solaris 10 instead.
Though it may be an unfashionable stance, given that IBM reports more than 3,000 defections from Solaris to Linux in recent years, Hein backs up his argument using points that Linux enthusiasts have long claimed as their own.
Hein argued that Solaris 10 offers many of the same qualities that have driven Linux adoption, including support for open source applications and development frameworks, and the ability to deploy on cost-effective Intel/x86 architectures.
But the two most impressive features of Solaris 10, according to Hein, are its "containers" and its dynamic tracing (DTrace) capabilities.
Containers, Hein explained, is virtualization technology that creates isolated "sandbox zones" within Solaris where different versions of Apache, Sendmail and BIND can run without damaging one another.
"This is one of the most useful features of Solaris … and sounds really good in a student environment, or if you have developers who want full root access and you don't want them damaging someone else on the box," Hein said.
DTrace, Hein explained, is an "an instrumented operating system, and allows an administrator to inspect and act upon pretty much anything within the OS -- propoints, actions, watch points. It's built into Solaris, and is meant for debugging and tuning."
Has the sun set on an open source Solaris?
Hein described Sun's CDDL license as "similar to the Mozilla Public License," in that when developers make changes to the code, they must then give the changes back to Sun.
"Sun has received a lot of flak from the community for not going the GPL [General Public License] route," Hein said. "With CDDL you are not going to see any cross-pollination of Linux and Solaris … there are lots of things under OpenSolaris that Sun does not have the right to release, so they really could not release the OS as GPL."
Established by Sun, OpenSolaris.org acts as an intermediary between Sun and the open source community. Sun plans to release all the Solaris code to this community by the end of June.
"This model is comparable to the Red Hat/Fedora community model," Hein said. "Sun is saying they will occasionally take parts developed [in OpenSolaris.org] and combine them with parts of their own code, then test, certify and then release the final package as a hardened model."
While there are similarities to Fedora, Hein said the world will never see a commercial grade version of Solaris competing with OpenSolaris, as is seen in the Linux community.