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Sun soups up Solaris 9

The first update of Sun's new version of the Unix operation system speeds up servers and makes sure network performance is up to snuff, according to the company.

Sun Microsystems has released the first update of Solaris 9, its new version of the Unix operating system, with a feature to speed up Sun servers and to ensure network performance is up to snuff.

Solaris 9 9/02, a name that stems from the product's release date, speeds up memory access with a feature called Memory Placement Optimization to better manage how information is stored in regular memory and on hard disks, Sun said Tuesday.

The company claimed the memory technology improvement speeded up computer performance by 12 to 40 percent in some tests. But the technology only benefits Sun's higher-end servers, such as the four-processor Sun Fire 3800 and its more-powerful brethren.

Another new feature called IPQoS (Internet Protocol Quality of Service) lets administrators allocate network capacity to different jobs; check networking quality-of-service levels; and charge server customers accordingly. The feature is a part of Sun's "containers" effort to better run different jobs on the same computer and, eventually, across groups of computers linked using Sun's N1 technology.

Sun introduced Solaris 9 in May, and Chief Executive Scott McNealy said in August the company has shipped 300,000 copies so far. However, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company will still include Solaris 8 with its servers by default until customers grow more accustomed to the new version.

The software is a key part of Sun's effort to stave off attacks from Hewlett-Packard and IBM, each of which covets Sun's position at the top of the Unix server market. IBM has just upgraded its own version of Unix, AIX, while HP is modifying its HP-UX version of the operating system to work with Intel's new Itanium processors.

Sun is in the process of restoring full support for Solaris 9 running on Intel-compatible chips such as the Xeon or Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon. Earlier in the year it "deferred productization" of the Intel version.

Sun plans to release Solaris updates roughly once per quarter; the next scheduled release is Solaris 9 12/02.

Those with software support service agreements get the update for free; others must pay. Price tags range from $249 for a two-processor system to $160,000 for 64-processor system. At the extreme end, it costs $400,000 to upgrade a 128-processor Solaris system such as Fujitsu Technology Solutions' Primepower 2000 or 2500.

Beginning with Solaris 9, Sun began bundling with its operating system more packages of higher-level software for jobs such as managing username-password combinations and running business applications written in the server version of Java.

With the 9/02 update, Sun is expanding the list of included software, though the additions are only limited editions that may not be used other than for testing and development.

Now included are developer versions of the Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) Portal Server, for creating Web sites for groups of people; the Sun ONE Web server, for sending out Web pages; and Sun ONE Studio programming tools.