Sun giving away Solaris for test drives

Sun Microsystems is offering free copies of its Solaris x86 operating system for evaluation purposes in an effort to get new software into as many hands as possible.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
Sun Microsystems is giving away copies of its Solaris x86 operating system for evaluation purposes in an effort to get new software into as many hands as possible.

Sun previously charged $20 for evaluation copies of Solaris x86, the version for servers running chips from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices. Starting Dec. 9, Sun eliminated the download price.

"This move will enable Sun's many customers that are unable to place orders in U.S. dollars--for example in Asia and Europe--to download Solaris easily," the company said in a statement. ?With the announcement of Sun's alliance with AMD, there is an accelerating global demand for Solaris x86 that can be quickly addressed by improving the download experience for potential customers and evaluators of the Solaris x86 OS for both 32- and 64-bit platforms."

Customers that want to install Solaris or Solaris x86 for commercial purposes can then buy either OS. Sun already offered free evaluation copies of Solaris for servers running its UltraSparc processors.

Sun last year said it was putting Solaris x86 development on hold, but customer complaints forced the company to reluctantly revive it.

The OS now plays a crucial part in Sun's comeback strategy. Historically, Sun has garnered most of its revenue and profit from selling servers containing its own UltraSparc chip running a more standard version of Solaris.

Corporate customers, however, are rapidly gravitating toward less-expensive servers containing x86 chips, such as Intel?s Xeon or AMD?s Opteron, running Linux or Windows. More than half of the revenue in the overall server market comes from Intel- or AMD-based servers.

Rather than try to fight this trend, Sun has begun to actively market Sun servers running Opteron and Solaris x86. A growing installed base of x86 servers will then be used by Sun to market other software products, such as provisioning and management tools.

The ambivalence of Sun executives toward the company?s x86 product line has also largely evaporated. In years past, Sun would comment on how their x86 servers came from Taiwan, like the servers from Hewlett-Packard or Dell, and didn?t require specialized engineering.

Now, company executives tout the importance of this product line.

Sun also sells these servers running Linux, but it is more aggressive in promoting Solaris X86.

"The big appeal of Linux is that it runs on Intel," Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of software at Sun, said in September.