Solaris Is Dead. Long Live Linux.

Hot on the heels of acquiring Sun, Oracle has changed the license for Solaris making it non-free once again. In a time like this, such a move can only be fatal and of course ultimately beneficial to Linux.

We are all waiting to see just exactly what Oracle will do with the late Sun’s assets. Now we are starting to see some of the picture loud and clear.

Linux has certainly revolutionized the computer industry. What was once the domain of expensive, proprietary Unix systems now belongs to our favorite operating system. With big players like IBM making the decision to support Linux, it has effectively killed off its proprietary competition. Google’s entire network runs on Linux, as does the majority of the Internet.

In the year 2000, Linux accounted for little over 5% of the world’s super computers. Who had majority market share? Proprietary Unix at 90%.


Less than a decade later those numbers are completely reversed. That’s right, folks. Today, Linux owns just shy of 90% market share, with Unix having fallen to a mere 5%.


Indeed, when it comes to the big players and real hardware, Linux rules the roost.

Death by a Thousand Downloads

Linux has been busy killing off Unix for the past decade, and the simple truth was that the days of purchasing expensive Unix licenses was over. Major Unix player, Sun Microsystems saw the writing on the wall and in 2005 released their commercial Solaris system for free. Solaris 10 would be available for free download with unlimited use, with support contracts available.

With the popularity of Solaris waning, Sun could no longer rely on past trends to sell support contracts. Users would instead experiment with Linux rather than cough up for a license, and then they would stick with Linux, giving up their former love affair with Sun. By making Solaris free (and I’m not talking about OpenSolaris here), Sun stood a greater chance to hold onto their customers. Sure, some would install it without a support contract, but better for Sun that they used Solaris instead of Linux. Or at least, that was the plan.

When Sun announced their plan to open source Solaris, the Linux community became abuzz with excitement. Sun had just released their excellent ZFS file system, and many were hoping that it might be released under a GPL compatible license. Wouldn’t it be great to have such a file system in the Linux kernel!

At one point, Linus even considered switching the kernel to the GPLv3, if it made it compatible with ZFS. This was of course motivated by purely selfish reasons (and why wouldn’t it be?). Linus has previously stated (in his usual style) his feelings about Sun, saying:

“A lot of people still like Solaris, but I’m in active competition with them, and so I hope they die.”

Whether said in jest or otherwise, Linus might soon get his wish. Sun is no more, but will it do much good? After seeing their embrace of open source with core technologies like OpenSolaris and Java, everyone in the computer world was been eager to see what new owner Oracle would do with these assets. Now, it seems we might have our answer – stop giving it away for free.

That’s right folks, despite all the trends of the last decade, Oracle is making Solaris non-free once again.

A New Clause

Infoworld broke the news about a subtle but immensely important license change for Solaris.

Previously, the Solaris download was made available and unrestricted once a user registered their details and received an “Entitlement Certificate”. That was it – there were no further restrictions. Install it, use it, deploy it. Enjoy. The license read:

“Obtaining an Entitlement Document is simple. On the Solaris 10 Get It page, select the platform and format you desire from the drop-down menus, and then click the Download Solaris 10 button. When you arrive at the Sun Download Center, either sign in or register, ensuring that a valid e-mail address is part of your Sun Download Center account to receive the Entitlement Document. Fill out the Solaris download survey, specifying the number of systems on which you are installing the software. Once you have completed the survey, you will be redirected to the Solaris 10 download page for downloading, and your Entitlement Document will be sent to your registered e-mail address.”

Now there’s one small addition, which reads:

“Please remember, your right to use Solaris acquired as a download is limited to a trial of 90 days, unless you acquire a service contract for the downloaded Software.”

The change is quite sneaky, with words carefully chosen to make it seem as though this was the case all along!

It’s important not to underestimate this change. Effectively, Solaris is no longer free for more than 90 days. This means that no-one can use it without paying for a commercial support contract, which will certainly make Solaris powerhouses re-consider alternatives. Sun tried to slow or even reverse the trend of Linux eating up Unix strongholds for breakfast, but now Oracle has undone all of that hard work with a single sentence. Perhaps this was a part of their plan all along? After all, they have supported Linux in the past including their own Red Hat Enterprise Linux based operating system, Unbreakable Linux. Time will tell.

Game Over

Before the acquisition though, Oracle was touting that they will continue to support Solaris and Sun hardware, and not to panic. One would have assumed that they want to make money out of Solaris, but if so, this is certainly not the way to go about it. Not in 2010. Doesn’t Oracle get it? The days of the big corporate licensing fees for heavy hitting Unix are over.

Sure, there are still lots of Solaris fans around, old school Unix administrators who swear by Korn shell, but they are a dying breed. Those contracts will probably see out their life, but slowly, one by one, they will all fall to Linux or some other free system. Unix is dead. Move along, nothing to see here.

With this latest move, Oracle has well and truly hammered the final nail into the coffin for Solaris. What next MySQL?

Comments on "Solaris Is Dead. Long Live Linux."


I don\’t think this changes things that much. It\’s not like Solaris was widely used before and this move from Oracle will kill it. For the regular user and hobbyst, Linux will always have more appeal because of the sheer number of people that use it and can help. That was before and after Oracle bought Sun, nothing changed. In the datacenter, as more and more things are moved to commodity hardware, all the UNICES lost terrain because Linux ate their lunch. We will still have AIX and Solaris standing because:
- IBM will continue to sell AIX on his big iron;
- Oracle will integrate Solaris and sell an integrated vertical solution – hardware, OS, database, middleware. From this point of view, the cost of the Solaris support contract was peanuts before the acquisition and will continue after.

Let\’s face it, since all the datacenter hardware moved to commodity hardware, the old UNICES lost their \”war\” with Linux.

Oh, and if I remember correctly, that 90 days clause was there before Oracle bought Sun, you got a free Solaris license only if you bought a new Sun machine.


What does the Korn shell have to do with Solaris ?

This sentence is nonsense!

Sure, there are still lots of Solaris fans around, old school Unix administrators who swear by Korn shell, but they are a dying breed.

Solaris uses the Bourne shell and the Korn shell has nothing to do with old school Unix. Ksh is a choice like KDE or Gnome!

Weird attack in an otherwise interesting article!


Solaris is not going to die. It is worth over 500 million dollar business for Oracle. All big server vendors like IBM, HP and Dell support Solaris on their machines. Oracle Already said that they will continue supporting both Linux and Solaris. OpenSolaris project will also continue. There will be a healthy competition between Solaris and Linux which is good for innovation. I think that Oracle is adopting a MySql like model for Solaris. Most of the Solaris code and features will continue to be available as free and Open Source but some feature may be reserved for paying users which is necessary for Oracle to generate revenue from Solaris and it will also help in differentiate Solaris from other operating systems.


UNIX is not dead. Solaris is based on UNIX, just as BSD and Linux are. To claim UNIX is dead, based solely on Solaris\’ situation, is stupid. BSD UNIX lives on, as part of MacOS X.
Besides, OpenSolaris licensing has not changed. What is the author smoking?


So, what?

RedHat downloads are only 30 days! Else use Fedora!

So: Solaris 10 is 90 days! Else use OpenSolaris! What\’s the fuss?

All media currently going crazy, just for a small change? Nothing really important to report? Not even capable of reading all the glory details? That\’s called \”reporting\”? I call it spreading FUD!



Christopher Smart,
Thanks for a good laugh. April Fools Day to you to.


I wasn\’t aware that opensource users actually cared about Solaris 10? This license doesn\’t affect opensolaris and Oracle leadership came out and said that they weren\’t changing anything in that realm.



ksh was open-sourced some years ago: http://www.kornshell.org, and you can pull it onto your Debian/\’buntu box using apt-get install ksh93

I don\’t see Solaris dying anytime soon; there\’s too much existing SPARC iron out there that Just Runs. That said, the x86/x64 chips are giving a better bang for the buck in a lot of areas; if Oracle wants to get their money back on the Sun buyout, they need to catch up.


And, for a real good laugh, just read:


Sadly, all that FUD w.r.t. Solaris is not an April\’s fool\’s joke, it\’s real: FUD!

How, \”Christopher Smart\”, being real smart and writing an article about license conditions with RedHat?


Who in their right mind would download Solaris without buying a service contract. The non free Solaris is typically used in large installations, where service contracts are standard procedure. Nobody is running the old propriatory Solaris for fun.

Modern OpenSolaris is another matter, it is modern full of features, and a joy to use on your server. ZFS with much more features than you find in the old propriatory Solaris, this is the real competitor to Linux.

This is no more strange than the relationship between Fedora and RHEL. My guess is that Oracle will increase their use of Solaris rather than kill it, as they have stated that Solaris will be for their high end installations.


Oracle\’s executives are ruthless businessmen with big brains, big balls, and a whole lot of money. Underestimate them at your peril.


I tend to agree with most of the other posters here that Solaris is probably not going to die any quicker or slower because of this change. If you\’re worried about the price, you are probably already using Linux or OpenSolaris. If you want to use Solaris, you\’re probably talking about a big Sun server, which is already running something like Oracle or WebSphere or Weblogic or some other huge application that makes the Solaris support contract look like peanuts.

Anyone using Solaris probably already has a huge investment in infrastructure and \”brainpower\” based around the OS, so the addition of a support contract will be a small price to pay (assuming they aren\’t already paying for it).

The only audience they are cutting off is the hobbyist (who are not as trivial a group as you might think), which wants to set up a Solaris box at home to learn on, and maybe small organizations who are teetering between Solaris and Linux. Yea, they are cutting off their nose to spite their face, but that\’s hardly the same as \”putting the last nail in the Solaris coffin.\”


BSD is still used by many key software players/producers (especially in the security space). It\’s not going away. In spite of what the graph alludes to.


you speak of?

I do not like that you can not install Solaris without paying

UNIX but you have to do with it?

your article, unprofessional conduct

Oracle surely bring their products to the commercial market
and the different distributions of Linux are installed on more computers

… But I repeat the question

Unix has to do with that?

you think God? You know that happens within the OpenSolaris community?
As you know UNIX source code was developed by BSD?
.. the same code with which it is based on Linux Kernel

know anything about UNIX?

can not speak on behalf of the entire Linux community

Linux does not need to die either.

Unix is alive. It is within UX, AIX, OSX and also in Linux, do not forget

Best Regards


I don\’t know who is more the idiot, the original people who \”broke\” this story without checking their facts or the morons who repeat it without checking the facts.

If anyone had bothered to read the actual license agreement, they would see that the 90 day restriction only applies to Evaluation Use. Individual, Commercial, Research, and other uses have no such restriction.

And OpenSolaris is still free for any use that people want to put it to.

As for your pie charts, they apply only to the supercomputer market, unlike the text of your article seems to imply. Linux does indeed rule the supercomputer market, but not the general server market, where Unix still has a healthy share and Microsoft has a substantial presence as well.



remove the doubts so you can sleep well tonight

I am the idiot ..for commenting on a site full of nooob\’s


I can tell you what the big deal is, at least from where I see it. A \”free\” Solaris was most useful for those people who wanted to use it to hone their skills on a wider range of Unix systems. Rather than being just Linux, Linux & BSD, or whatevver combination you\’re experienced in, a free Solaris meant you could ad that tou your skill set, and see what benefits there would be in Solaris vs Linux or the BSDs.

Now Oracle is going to have a dwindling set of admins experienced in Solaris. More companies will consider moving to Linux simply to be able to find admins. And those admins are more likely to recommend Linux for future projects. Thus a net decline in sales.


this article falls far short of the quality I have come to expect from this magazine. other posters have already made valid critiques, but I\’m surprised no one has mentioned OpenSolaris which is free.
In many ways Solaris is a more advanced operating system, especially when run on Sun hardware. In many enterprises Sun hardware is pervasive, and Solaris is the obvious choice.
Paying for Solaris support is no different from buying support from RedHat and other linux distros. And if you don\’t want support, then use OpenSolaris.
I think the author really missed the mark here. I would like to see Linux succeed, but this type of journalism (either naive or deliberately meant to mislead) is detrimental to the cause.


some of all fears …

whether you like it or not ….
UNIX will die sooner than you think …

Even Linux will die one day …
but not now … not in this century …

so for the rest of my life …
linux will save the world … with freedom and liberty …


As txtechdog stated, this does not apply to Hobbie users and many other types.
Go and read and you will find that what the post states and what it really is , IS two Different things. This either has to be a joke or someone did not read the fine text.
Or someone wants linux to look like it has won a huge battle and is on it\’s way to the top.
Now I am a Linux user and love it, but Unix is not dead yet. And I would say it has a while to go. Do not count the out of the fight yet.
And please someone write a post with the facts so all will know what is really up.


I was really looking forward to using Solaris, even though it feels archane after having been a Linux user for a long time. But not only has it gotten so much better, it feels mature, but because ZFS really is a fantastic file system for really big storage on commodity hardware and it fits really well when using Solaris containers. I guess I\’ll just wait for a GPL alternatives to both.


Well, linux against solaris again… Just for the record, Sun mastered REAL multithreaded apps a long time ago, and in userspace; also emulating a REAL x86 machine inside a SPARC machine in the ULTRAs 5/10 and maybe others as well to give you a heterogeneous multi-cpu machine. I do not know/care about ZFS too much, but containers that is what I like … My point: technically, Solaris was/is years waaaay ahead of any other linux distro, and that\’s why if you really need and can afford it for production systems, that\’s what you will run. Just to put things in perspective a little bit. And yes, linux may offer some/all of these goodies, but let\’s be real: you WILL still NEED a service contract to take full advantage of them (at least most of the people will).

In the end, I guess the moral is that there is no free lunch, nor should it be. If it\’s too good to be true, there is a catch somewhere.


This article is exaggerating the impact of Oracle adding a license fee to Solaris 10 for all downloads. If the author is not aware, Oracle makes lots of money charging for software licenses, and Oracle business is doing great. Oracle even pays programmers … go figure.


One should realize that Sun has developed and freely released tools later accepted in the other Unix distributions, including Linux, such as NIS, NFS, Java, VirtualBox. It has acquired and contributed into OpenOffice, MySQL, Sun Grid Engine – also freely available on Linux. I don\’t think Linux would get that much popular without them, especially in High Performance Computing and server market. I wish they have released ZFS and the Zone containers under GPL so we would enjoy them in Linux. I considered Sun a very strong supporter of Linux and I\’m not expecting any kind of generosity from Oracle.


The license agreement has changed a few times, but now stabilised at:

3. Permitted Use.
As selected in your Entitlement, one or more of the following Permitted Uses will apply to your use of Software. Unless you have an Entitlement that expressly permits it, you may not use Software for any of the other Permitted Uses. If you don\’t have an Entitlement, or if your Entitlement doesn\’t cover additional software delivered to you, then such software is for your Evaluation Use.

(a) Evaluation Use. You may evaluate Software internally for a period of 90 days from your first use.

(b) Research and Instructional Use. You may use Software internally to design, develop and test, and also to provide instruction on such uses.

(c) Individual Use. You may use Software internally for personal, individual use.

(d) Commercial Use. You may use Software internally for your own commercial purposes.

That sounds pretty comprehensive. Anything else you\’d like to do? It may potentially not cover SaaS, but that is debatable.

Still – this is far more legally coherent than this FUD-ridden article


iam sorry to hear that


Well here we are two months after this article, what’s been happening? Not much.

OpenSolaris 2010 was due in March, but never arrived and there has been no word from Oracle about it. Weekly builds of OpenSolaris have also been stopped. Oracle has been ignoring the OpenSolaris community board, even after they made a plea and threatened to dissolve. Not a word, not a peep.

I guess the good news for the OpenSolaris community is that all this nothingness has caused it to be “sporked” (half forked, have spooned).

“The disgruntled OpenSolaris community has been ignored by Oracle since it acquired Sun Microsystems back in January, and the project’s governing board has threatened to commit ritual suicide by the end of August to try to get Oracle participating in the open source Solaris development effort.

Development on OpenSolaris has all but stopped, and the project has really stopped being a community at all.”


Will Oracle come to the party and resurrect the project? They haven’t so far and looking at Oracle’s track record such as charging for the once free OpenOffice.org plugin for Office, closing the PostgreSQL Solaris test servers without warning, I’m not holding my breath..


I know this is an old post, but here’s hoping some Solaris drifters type the words “solaris is dead” into google and find this.

Solaris 11 came out and appears to be one hell of a system. Heck I benched it myself vs several nix’ in the arena. Solaris 11, an awesomely secure and powerful OS. The problem is lack of support which I don’t understand (well maybe I do, Oracle came in and killed the open Solaris community). So rather than battle a proprietary system, they went all out free.

HELLO YOU’RE DITCHING UNIX, THE KING OF OPERATING SYSTEMS! Remember back in 2003, project looking glass? Sure it was kinda frumpy looking, but the CODE under it was amazingly. If you, the reader out there are still a fan of Solaris, let us congregate and create a new community to make this OS ours again!


Solaris is superior in so many ways to Linux.

Linux is a great way for young people who don’t have any money to get used to Unix. But when the time comes to run serious Unix hardware for a business or for research or software development, the constant volatility and changes of Linux will cause you no end of grief.

The highly fragmented nature of Linux and its distributions has already created fault lines in the community where packages from one Linux will not run on another. Sure, you can compile from source, but if you’re running a business or trying to do research, even if you love software, you have better things to do than rebuilding something or re-installing the previous version of a key software package because the newer version didn’t like your previous configuration file.

Linus Torvalds comment about hoping Solaris dies is seriously lame. Its Windows he should be hating. If he had any marketing intelligence at all, he would have tried to make Linux more like MacOS and be really easy to use in order to displace Windows, while still exposing the technical aspects that the software people want to get at. Solaris is far ahead of the Linux community because it supported hardware well beyond the desktop PC’s that comprise the hardware of practically everyone in the Linux community.

Tech person to tech person, anyone with half a brain can see that the Solaris kernel is years, if not a decade ahead of Linux, is more stable, and outperforms Linux on more advanced processor architectures.

gcc was originally developed on Sun hardware, and ZFS is the most advanced file system in the world. Fujitsu Venus is twice as fast as Intel’s fastest while consuming 1/3 the power, making it about 6 times more efficient overall, and it will run Solaris. The people of Linux should recognize that Solaris is what Linux should try to be like, and should be thankful that it blazed the trail for Linux to gain traction in the low end of the market. Solaris is the unifying force for many best of breed technologies. Linux is like the Volkswagen Beetle of OS’s … the People’s OS. Solaris is the space shuttle.


i want to do a course of unix admin
please can any one suggest me which flavour will be best in the market for system administration
and how about the openings for job seekers please suggest me


Hey, thanks for the article.


Really informative blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on…


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