Oracle finally kills off Solaris and SPARC

This was making the rounds last week. Oracle seems to have a leak in its process, creating labels that trigger event notifications for people, for their packages. Solaris was decimated. More details at the links and at The Layoff.

Honestly I had expected them to reach this point. I am guessing that they were contractually obligated for at least 7 years to provide Solaris/SPARC support to US government purchasers. SGI went through a similar thing with IRIX. Had to maintain it for N years (N being something like 7) after EOL.

After that contractual obligation expired, the question was, would the divisions be able to pay for themselves, and add positively to Oracles bottom line?

Generally, Oracle is in a very high margin software business. Not hardware, which tends to be much lower margin. Yeah, they have Exadata (or is that now gone?), storage and a few other things. But no one really looks to them any more as a leader in any aspect of the market. They are a very large player, with a set of core products that produce most of their revenue. They are working now to create a cloud, though it will likely be running Linux as the basis for their offerings. Also likely built by very low cost providers (Quanta et al.)

The calculus for their hardware division has been obvious for a long time. For Solaris, it has been getting clearer over time. The world has moved on from Sun hardware in the early 2000s. It moved on from Solaris mid 2000s. Linux has largely supplanted other Unixes in many cases (yeah I know, many aren’t happy with this).

Solaris, in some way, survives through the illumos fork, SmartOS, etc. There is a bit of baggage from those roots, in terms of perception, OEM driver support, user space, etc. Some is admittedly self-inflicted … porting should be trivial, yet I keep running into library implementation differences … that effectively prevent me from moving code bases to it. Some of this is obviated by the LX-brand zone … running what appears to be a linux kernel within a zone in the OS. Some is obviated by KVM. I remain hopeful that we’ll see these issues solved in illumos, as they are part of what killed Solaris as a viable platform. The world moved on, coalesced around a specific platform and API, for better or worse, and others fell off. Even Microsoft, after decades of battling the upstart, finally gave in and did something similar … implemented Ubuntu linux within Windows.

This is a good direction if you spend the time/effort to make sure you maintain compatibility with the fast changing kernel/environment, as well as make the underlying system as performant as possible. But you have to run hard to do this.

A great example of what happens when you set your flag, and refuse to move it to adapt to platform changes is with OS/2 and Win32 binaries. OS/2 refused to enable a new technology in Win32 at the time (I forgot what it was called) to work. Which resulted in code breaking … slowly at first, and then with gathering speed as developers adopted the new tech. I am hoping that illumos can move faster than this.

As for Solaris, and SunOS, I used the latter first at MSU in the late 80s. Around the time I used Vaxen and other systems. Including some Ultrix boxen. Then at Wayne State, I used a buddy’s sparcstation (and many other unixes) to do my simulations in the early 90s. What got me off the Sparc was when the brand new 486 unit I bought was shown to be about 2x the speed. The only advantage the Sparc had was RAM. 64MB as I remember. 486 had 16MB. The Cray machine I ran on at PSC had quite a bit of ram, and was also very fast.

Shortly after this, I started playing with SGIs and generally gave up on the Sparc units due to speed issues.

This said, I’ve always had a soft spot for real unix and workstation systems. At SGI I competed with them. At Scalable I used them and many others to help customers build scale out computing and storage systems.

Under Oracle, I thought they might have a chance if they were invested in. But apparently, this didn’t quite happen. It is sad to see such an ignoble end to Solaris and Sparc. Though, it was not unexpected.

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4 thoughts on “Oracle finally kills off Solaris and SPARC

  1. I wouldn’t could out SPARC. It’ll serve a role similar to IBM’s z-series and keep being optimized for its one magic workload. See the data accelerators in the SPARC M8…

  2. My understanding is that they have outsourced this almost entirely to Fujitsu at this moment. The latter of which may be doing this purely for contractual reasons, as they are investing more in ARM.

    I still don’t think ARM is going to be viable in the general computing market, but I am willing to be wrong. But SPARC is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

  3. Some of the ARM uses are being eaten by RISC-V designs now… Likely similar for SPARC eventually, particularly with the on-chip accelerator additions being designed. RAM interfaces are a major issue for the free and academic RISC-V designs, but the big players already have those interfaces.

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