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Sun to update Solaris 10 by year end

Upgrade will include the Newboot start-up process and Sun software that alerts users to further updates.

Sun Microsystems plans to release the first update to Solaris 10 by the end of the year, adding an overhauled start-up process, software update feature and performance improvements.

"We'll ship the first update for Solaris 10 before the end of the year," said Chris Ratcliffe, director of Solaris marketing. Sun updates its operating system roughly quarterly, but doesn't begin the process for six to 12 months after the release of a major new version, he said.

Sun released Solaris 10 in January, then began releasing major amounts of its underlying source code in June. Both moves were significant parts of the company's effort to restore luster and relevance that the operating system has lost to Linux, and to elevate its profile compared to Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX and IBM's AIX.

One major new feature coming with the upgrade is the Newboot start-up process, which chiefly is of interest to those with computers with x86 processors such as Intel's Pentium and Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron. For the earliest stages of start-up, Newboot uses the same Grub software as most versions of Linux, making it easier to run multiple operating systems on the same computer. Newboot also makes it easier to use a much wider variety of hardware during the boot process.

There's more coming with the first update than just Newboot, Ratcliffe said. Sun will fully integrate the Sun Update Connection software, which alerts users about when software updates are available and optionally handles installation. The software today is a separate feature.

The Solaris update also will include improvements to memory performance, networking performance and hardware support, Ratcliffe added.

However, as expected, two major Solaris features won't arrive until 2006: Janus, which lets Linux software run on the version of Solaris for x86 chips such as Intel's Xeon, and ZFS, the Zettabyte File System that governs how files are written to storage devices.

File systems control people's data, and their arrival must not be rushed, Ratcliffe said. That's even more the case with ZFS: Its 128-bit address space gives it the ability to govern vast amounts of data, and Sun therefore expects the software to last for a very long time.

"You've got to get it right, and you have one shot to get it right," Ratcliffe said. ZFS is in its third beta test and will be broadly available for evaluation by the end of the year through the Solaris Express program. Sun plans to fully integrate ZFS in an update released "early to mid next year."

With Janus, formally called the Linux Application Environment, Sun was ready to release the software when customers intervened. They asked Sun for a different approach that isolated Linux applications into their own compartment, Ratcliffe said.

The initial version would let Linux applications run, but only in Solaris' primary program environment. Customers wanted to be able to run them in walled-off compartments called "containers," one of the major additions of Solaris 10. Applications running in a container can crash without disturbing the rest of the system.

The new Janus will arrive later than ZFS, Ratcliffe said. "We expect to go into beta with the new version early next year and ship by the middle of next year," he said.

Janus will initially support Linux applications that run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux--specifically RHEL 3, Update 1, which was released in the first quarter of 2004.

With Solaris 10, Sun began letting people download and use the software for free, charging only for support. So far, more than 2.8 million copies have been downloaded, Sun said.