Sun announced this week that they were cutting the price of Solaris 10 support to, the company claims, roughly one-half of what Red Hat charges for comparable Linux support. The company is also pitching Solaris 10 as more “strategic” than commercial Linux. That statement is rather surprising considering how many Linux servers Sun sells.
While Solaris and Linux are roughly the same age — Sun swapped the BSD-based SunOS for the UNIX-based Solaris 2 in 1992; Linus Torvalds began work on Linux in 1991 — Solaris market share lags well behind Linux. In November of 2006 the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker put Sun’s Solaris worldwide unit market share on x86 servers at just 0.25%. Worldwide shipments of Linux on x86 outpaced Solaris on x86 by 87.5 units to 1.
So when Sun says that Solaris 10 is a more strategic option than Linux, one has to ask, “Strategic for who?” You might assume that spinning Linux and existing commercial Linux support as inferior to the Solaris offering is in Sun’s best interest. But it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul; IDC also stated that 69.9% of Sun’s x86 server shipments were Linux-based.
One the one hand, it’s pretty easy to see why Sun would want to go after existing Linux support revenue rather than see it fall to Red Hat and Novell by default. But Sun as a company has been working hard to turn around it’s core server business and finally saw it gain ground in the middle of last year through a combination of offering AMD-based systems for the first time, a revitalized UltraSPARC line, and the growing adoption of Linux. On the other, pushing a barely used operating system over the OS that powers 70% of their unit server sales probably isn’t going to excite very many customers or Sun’s already beleaguered shareholders.
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