Citing the need for cost-cutting measures, Sun Microsystems confirmed last week that it's dropping support for servers based on Intel's microprocessors in its upcoming Solaris 9 operating system.
Sun plans to ship Solaris 9 by midyear. Its Solaris 8 software supported both Sun's own 64-bit UltraSPARC processors and Intel's 32-bit Pentium chips. But Sun officials said the cost of porting Solaris 9 to both processor sets is too high under current business conditions, so the computer maker is giving Intel the boot.
"This is about focusing on the bottom line," said Graham Lovell, director of Solaris product marketing. "Solaris Intel is not going away," Lovell added. "We will continue to ship and support Intel chips on Solaris 8."
But Lovell also said Sun hasn't determined when or if it will continue development for the Intel chip set on Solaris 8. He estimated that it would take four to six months to complete that work, which would include updating the source code for peripheral products and new PC features.
In March 2000, Sun began offering Solaris 8 as a free download to customers with systems that had fewer than eight processors. Officials said that more than 1.2 million customers have downloaded the software and that most of them are using Solaris 8 on Intel-based systems.
"Sun is looking at a changed market, where they must be more prudent in use of scarce engineering dollars and resources," said Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at International Data Corp. But Kusnetzky also said Sun's share of the Intel-on-Unix server market was always slim and therefore too small to justify the continued expense.
Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, noted that many of the users of the Intel/Solaris software were educational users and hobbyists and that he doesn't expect much negative feedback from corporate users about the Sun move.
"Solaris on Intel chips has not been a strategic offering from Sun for a number of years, but the easiest thing for Sun to do was to continue offering it," said Haff.
"Sun was looking for cuts that could be made without affecting strategic programs, and Solaris on Intel's number came up."