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Oracle woos Sun faithful with Solaris 11

Oracle went back to Sun’s Wall Street roots to make the case for Solaris 11 and continued investment in the legacy Unix platform.

Oracle held a swanky Solaris 11 launch event in New York City yesterday, the guest list for which read like the Who’s Who of TARP bailout recipients.

About 250 longtime Sun customers filed in to Gotham Hall to hear Oracle executives extol the virtues of Solaris 11, aka “the first cloud OS,” and reiterate their commitment to the 30-year-old Unix operating system.

Solaris 11, which works with systems powered by both x86 and Sparc T4 chips, includes more than 400 new features and capabilities, including kernel and performance improvements; full support for ZFS storage features; “Crossbow” network virtualization; a new packaging and update system; improved Zones virtualization; security features like role-based root access, low-impact auditing and encryption acceleration; and, of course, a tight connection to the Oracle application stack.

“Believe me, operating systems are things that only get better over time,” said John Fowler, Oracle executive vice president of systems.  

This is the first major release to Solaris since 2005, and Fowler told customers to expect Solaris 11 updates in 2012, 2014, and 2015, with Solaris 12 anticipated in the 2017 timeframe. In the meantime, Oracle will continue to support Solaris 10 for “many, many years,” Fowler said, both on existing hardware, within Solaris 11 Zones and eventually even LDOMs, according to Dan Price, Oracle senior principal software engineer.    

The release of Solaris 11 represents the latest installment in a “steady stream” of Sun-related announcements by Oracle, including new chips, servers and the Sparc SuperCluster in September “If you’ve ever had a question about our commitment to these products, I hope we’re putting those concerns to rest,” said Mark Hurd, Oracle co-president.

Longtime Sun Solaris users that Oracle trotted up on stage for a customer panel played along and voiced their relief.

“It’s very much appreciated that with all the talk about Exadata and Exalogic, that Oracle still cares about open systems and open platforms,” said Jacob Einhorn, director of IS operations at B&H Photo and Video, a retailer based in New York City. B&H is already in production with Solaris 11, whose new delegated administration and immutable root capabilities have made it easier for the firm to maintain its PCI compliance, Einhorn said.

New lifecycle management, virtualization and availability features should help reduce capital and operational costs, panel members said.

“The lifecycle management features in Solaris 11 are very attractive to us,” said Larry Weissman, vice president and technical manager at Wells Fargo Bank. The bank expanded internationally, but all the data still ends up in the U.S. “That pretty much eliminates any kind of a maintenance window,” he said. Being able to de-stage upgrades behind the scenes and schedule fast reboots with Solaris 11 is compelling, he said.

Steve Starer, executive director for information technology infrastructure at Oppenheimer & Co., concurred. “If it wasn’t for the fact that patches are required, we would never patch at all. Anything that will shrink that patch time will be a huge advantage.”

Other “favorite features” mentioned by panelists were ZFS dedupe, snapshots and compression; offloaded encryption; the ability to NFS mount a Zone; the Zonestat performance monitoring feature; and fast reboots, to name a few.

But not all Sun shops are sold on a Solaris 11 upgrade. To avoid downtime associated with in-place upgrades, moving to Solaris 11 will likely mean investment in new systems, said one IT director at a New York insurance firm who requested anonymity. If that’s true, there’s a strong case to be made for jumping into the arms of IBM, who has been courting the firm extensively.

“That’s the way it is with IBM: You have a small problem and they send 400 men in blue,” he said, adding that the decision to stay or go will probably come in the next six months.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, Executive Editor at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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