May 12, 2005 2:32 PM PDT

Major Solaris features slip to 2006

Sun Microsystems has delayed the release of two major features the company has trumpeted as reasons to try its latest version of the Solaris operating system.

When Sun released Solaris 10 in January, it added several new features to the Unix variant. But it won't be until 2006 that Sun releases two more: ZFS (Zettabyte File System), which is designed to improve the reliability, performance and capacity of data storage, and the Linux Application Environment, code-named "Janus," which lets Solaris run unmodified Linux software.

"These features are not scheduled for specific updates at this time. Our intent is that they will be released in calendar year 2006," Glenn Weinberg, vice president for Sun's operating platforms group, said during an online chat session Thursday.

In November, Sun said it planned to release Janus with the first version of Solaris 10 or shortly after. And in November, the company said it planned to release ZFS in the second half of 2005.

Despite the delays, customers will be able to try test versions of the technologies sooner, Chris Ratcliffe, a manager of Solaris marketing, said during the chat session.

ZFS is in beta testing now, and customers will be able to kick its tires through Sun's Solaris Express program by the end of 2005, Ratcliffe said. And of Janus, he added, "We are about to release a technology preview of the Linux Application Environment for Solaris, with the goal of getting customer feedback on the best approach to this complex problem."

Both features are important parts of Sun's effort to revitalize Solaris by trying to keep it technologically ahead of Linux and Unix rivals. Sun also will make Solaris open-source software by the end of June--half a year later than an earlier deadline.

Sun President Jonathan Schwartz and others often have offered Janus as an alternative to running Linux operating systems such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux directly. Linux has proved to be a tough competitor to Solaris, but Sun hopes Janus will help Linux customers easily slip into the Solaris camp.

File system software is not something that customers change on a whim, and Sun executives have said the company is taking the time to ensure it works well. And Sun programmers have been reworking parts of ZFS. Eric Schrock, a Solaris kernel programmer, said on his blog in April that he's "completely redesigning the ZFS commands from the ground up" after finding some deficiencies.

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It's not surprising for a tech company to delay a project. The question is will anyone using Sun stay, or will any Linux customers contain their operating system instead of reinventing it. In an earlier discussion Sun shied away from using the public airwaves, namely TV/radio, to advertise. That brings up Cisco's venture with Linksys. All along the spirtual difference between an Apple and Sun is their public personna. Outside of the Nasdaq Sun needs a publically recognizable image. By that I don't mean a senior officer with a coif, and logo adorned button down dress shirt screaming "look at me". To accomplish that end they need a 'Bar***-doll'. To quote Sun its fine that the Cisco's use a java platform. But it's not fine that they pay squat. Sun is little more than a basement inventor with no patents. The xBox 360 will do the dishes, sweep out the trash and take your kids to the soccer match. Does SNE or MSFT care that the boxes don't improve their bl immeasurably? The NGrid may connect the dots, but no one outside of their channel partners knows. In conclusion, Sun should hire a good PR firm and watch the Tom Hanks movie, "Big".
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