Sun calls Solaris the company's "crown jewel," because it's key to staving off competitors such as IBM, Intel and Microsoft. Sun, the top Unix server seller, according to researcher IDC, has an enviable list of partners whose software runs on Solaris machines.
The new beta version is available for Sun's UltraSparc chips and 32-bit Intel chips, but Sun itself sells only UltraSparc systems. Facing competition from Linux, Sun began offering Solaris for free on servers with eight or fewer CPUs.
The software comes with a variety of improvements over Solaris 8, according to documentation.
New features include:
Live Upgrade, which lets an administrator install the new operating system onto an unused portion of a storage system then reboot the server to the new version. If it doesn't work right, the administrator can boot back to the older version.
Detailed control over computing resources. The new Solaris improves how software processes can share CPUs. It also lets administrators monitor or change how resources are being used.
Support for the latest version 5 of the Kerberos authentication system.
The ability to write data or audio CDs.
The ability to install only a minimum set of Solaris features.