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Sun's Solaris get compatible with Linux apps

May 14, 1999
Web posted at: 1:11 p.m. EDT (1711 GMT)

by Steven Brody

(IDG) -- Sun Microsystems, Inc. on Wednesday announced that it has optimized the lxrun Linux emulator for Solaris on Intel, allowing Linux applications to run with near native performance on Sun's operating system, said the company. The announcement is another case of Sun poking the Linux community with a stick, trying to get a feel for just how large customer demand is for Linux on its own hardware.
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Calling the version of lxrun a "translation layer," Sun is touting the optimized port as more than an emulator, due to the minimal performance degradation seen in Linux apps running on Solaris/lxrun. Sun says it has made substantial contributions to the open source community's work on lxrun, a sentiment echoed by hackers close to the project.

"Sun's cooperation has significantly furthered the lxrun open-development effort," said Steve Ginzburg, lxrun source code maintainer. "Sun's technical contributions have already proven invaluable, and their continued involvement will increase the visibility and accessibility of lxrun."

With any luck, says Sun, the collaboration will also increase the popularity of Solaris and Sun, with Linux users.

"We think that [Linux] can help to enhance the appeal for SPARC workstations," said SunSoft product manager Barbara Kay. "We are trying to be a strong participant in the community."

With that in mind, Sun has also announced the availability of new software development tools to help Linux developers optimize applications for use across Linux and Solaris platforms. The offerings for the SPARC and Intel platforms include how-to guides and tools that analyze source code compatibility to enable applications to run smoothly on Linux and Solaris software, said the company.

Downloading information and a reference document for installing and running Linux for Intel applications on the Solaris operating environment is available at Tools for the SPARC architecture can be found at

Sun has been rather cautious in its approach to Linux, not yet having committed to the same level of customer support offered by the likes of IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

"We want to get a feel for what kind of demand there is out there for Linux [on Sun]," said Kay. "We don't really have any information on that, but we are exhibiting at Linux World and Linux Expo -- trying to feel out the interest. Sun has a robust hardware business and Linux on SPARC is a great solution for people who want a compact kernel and a low MTBF [mean time between failure], but it doesn't happen over night."

Indeed it doesn't. In the last six months, Sun has announced only a few minor milestones on the road to embracing Linux. In March, Sun licensed the Java Media APIs to the Blackdown Porting Team of Linux developers; in December 1998, Sun officially teamed up with the Linux community to develop a Linux port for UltraSPARC architecture -- a port which is now being shipped by Red Hat; and in November of 1998, Sun ported the Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.2 to Linux.

Sun emphasizes that it is committed to continuing to move closer to Linux, slowly but surely.

"We plan to offer a high level of Linux compatibility in the future," said Patrick Dorsey, product line manager for Solaris, "and we will be integrating it into Solaris whether that be in the form of bundling lxrun or developing our own translation layer."

At the end of the day, however, Sun is still taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"We don't have any [scheduled] plans to support Linux in the future," said Dorsey.

What does Linux on UltraSPARC mean for Sun?
May 5, 1999
Opinion: Linux doesn't do Windows - and neither should you
April 28, 1999
Unix and Linux: Similar technologies, different career prospects
April 16, 1999

Why Sun may need to fear Linux
What Linux on UltraSPARC means for Sun
Stop worrying out Microsoft's bogus Linux benchmark
Crossing the great divide: Getting Linux onto the corporate desktop
(InfoWorld Electric)
Why FreeBSD (and not NT, Linux or Solaris) might be right for you

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