MENLO PARK, Calif.--Sun Microsystems launched the latest version of its Solaris operating system Wednesday. Marketing it as an "operating environment," the company says it's a platform for Web services despite incomplete support for the emerging technologies for Internet-based applications. "This is the contemporary way to think about operating systems," said Ed Zander, who's retiring July 1 as president and chief operating officer.
Within Solaris 9 Operating Environment, Sun has integrated its application server and LDAP directory. The Sun One Application Server supports the latest Java 2 Enterprise Edition standards (J2EE 1.3) and is the core for developing and running Internet-based applications that would support emerging Web-services standards. Solaris 9 supports both XML and the Simple Object Access Protocol, two core Web-services technologies that let developers loosely couple business applications internally or across the Internet. However, the platform doesn't support Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration, the infrastructure for the description and discovery of business application services over the Web.
Andy Ingram, VP of Solaris marketing and software, says Sun will discuss its "whole Web-services story" in mid-June, when the company plans to unveil products related to Sun One, the company's software brand. While Web services are only being tested by leading-edge IT organizations today, the emerging technologies have sparked intense interest within the industry because of their promise as a way to simplify the complexity and reduce the high cost of business application integration. Among IT organizations, however, polls show Microsoft and IBM are the companies most often cited when users are asked about Web services. In addition, 2001 Java application server market-share figures released this week by Gartner Dataquest show BEA Systems as the leader with 34%, followed by IBM with 31% and Sun with 9%.
Nevertheless, Sun Solaris is the leading Unix operating system in the United States, with 64% of the market in the first quarter of this year, according to Gartner Dataquest. Worldwide, however, IBM narrowly beat Sun in the Unix market in the fourth quarter of 2001, with 26.9% versus 26.8%, according to IDC. Sun, however, remained the revenue leader for all of 2001.
With Solaris 9, the performance of many network services has increased from 34% to as much as 400%, Sun execs said. Among the 300 new features that are particularly important is user access to a threading library for multithreaded apps designed to run across multiple processors. The resulting system is more scalable and helps customers conduct more transactions. Sun also added multiple-page support for applications that use huge chunks of memory. Because Sun's new 15K servers have up to 500 Gbytes of memory, users of those servers will get an even greater boost in the performance of apps that use a lot of memory.
The importance of the Solaris launch to Sun was reflected by the appearance of Zander. In introducing the Sun veteran, Anil Gadre, VP of Solaris software, said he wasn't sure if attendees came to hear about Solaris or because it was Zander's last product launch. Zander, however, opted to stick with the product news. "I'm here to talk about products, not about me," he said. Zander brushed over Sun's financial setbacks, including losses in four straight quarters, and said the company is poised for a comeback on the strength of its products. "This company, despite the economic doom and gloom, has really executed in product," Zander said. Sun execs have said they expect the company to turn profitable in the current fiscal year, ending June 30. Sun gained 46 cents Wednesday on the Nasdaq, closing at $7.34.