Linux, Unix, and Sun

LinuxToday’s editor and contributor to many technical publications, Brian Proffitt covered GOSCON 2007 and continues to share pearls from his time with presenters and attendees. He has a gift for ferreting out the stories beyond the usual conference din. His original story can be found at, I’m sharing the more intriguing portion here of his take on the use of Linux vs. Unix and Sun Solaris in the government environment based on conversations with some of the managers attending the conference in Portland, Oregon.
October 24, 2007
Enterprise Unix Roundup: Government Vibes, A New OS X
By Brian Proffitt

In an effort to actually live up to the proud name of Enterprise Unix Roundup, I thought this column would actually try to be a roundup.

Part of the rationale for such a structure this week is due to my recent return from Portland, having attended the Government Open Source Conference (GOSCON). No official Unix news came out of GOSCON, although there was a brief exchange during a keynote of the conference that gave me a brief glimpse into what the public sector might be thinking in terms of Unix, Linux and Windows deployments.

After Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin spoke on the benefits of open standards, Linux and government, an audience member asked him a question about where he thought Solaris might fit in public IT, given its recent shift to open source. The mere asking of the question was telling to me, since it indicates Sun’s push to get Solaris recognized as more of a commodity-based piece of software may indeed be working.

Of course, Zemlin’s answer was equally telling, albeit not surprising. He replied that in his view, Solaris and the rest of the Unixes were, while excellent operating systems, going to be relegated to merely filling niche operations in businesses. The real growth and competition would be between Linux and Windows from now on. Zemlin seems to be buying into the notion Gartner analyst George Weiss recently put forth: There will be no more new Unix applications developed after 2009. His specific remarks about Solaris may not get him a Christmas card from former colleague (as CTO of the Linux Foundation) Ian Murdock. Murdock, you remember, now works for Sun Microsystems on Solaris.

As I’ve said before, I am not willing to concede Unix is on the way to that great hard drive in the sky. I talked with a number of other attendees at the conference to make sure the sole question about Solaris wasn’t a fluke, and it does not seem to be the case. Many of the mid- to upper-level government IT managers remain very intrigued by Solaris over Linux because Linux did not always meet their standards requirements, and Solaris could — especially in the vendor support department. Of course, such statements are anecdotal, so take them as such.


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