Sun heats up Solaris

Solaris 9 features include Web services, tougher security

Sun Microsystems Inc. last week unveiled the latest release of its Solaris operating system, which bundles various components intended to help customers develop sophisticated Web-based applications.

The Solaris 9 Operating Environment includes the Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) Application Server — which will be the basis for future development of Web-based applications — as part of the operating system and offers support for core Web services technologies, the Internet- driven integration and distribution of applications across the enterprise. It also includes native support for many security features that have previously been available only as add-ons.

But the company is not forgetting some of the more basic needs of its current users and has added many enhancements that will translate into improved performance and cost savings on more mundane but still important functions of the Sun software, company officials said.

"With Solaris 9, we are trying to bring the reliability of the mainframe together with the flexibility of Windows and Linux," said Bill Moffett, Sun's product line manager for Solaris.

The system can be deployed on existing servers and can even be used to replace mainframes if agencies are looking to consolidate servers, Moffett said. "Solaris 9 helps protect customer investments in software and training and can be deployed at every level of an organization."

Sun included significant parts of the Sun ONE stack in the operating environment itself, Moffett said, enabling users to more easily develop and deploy applications and services.

In addition to integrating its Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) Sun ONE Application Server into Solaris 9, the company is also adding the Sun ONE Directory Server, used to verify user access to systems or applications on a network.

However, Gartner Inc.'s Dataquest Inc. points out that this low-end version of J2EE is likely to be adequate only for less demanding software applications and will have less direct impact on enterprise-class development, where users know that the initial purchase price is only a small part of the overall costs.

"Integration and support capabilities — not low cost — will be the key differentiating factors for this product," Gartner Dataquest analysts wrote in a report on the Sun announcements. "A great deal of application platform suite technology sits outside the scope of J2EE, and the result is likely to be a decline in the J2EE standards' influence in high-end enterprise-project technology decisions."

But for most government users, security "is still probably the No. 1 concern right now," said John Leahy III, chief of staff at Sun Microsystems Federal, and they are likely to look at least as closely at the company's attempts to boost the security components of Solaris 9.

In particular, the operating system now includes as standard the full version of the company's SunScreen enterprise-class firewall, which had only been present in its "lite" version previously. An updated Kerberos 5 server is also included as standard in Solaris 9, allowing for single sign-on access to networks. And the minimum level of encryption has been raised to 128 bits.

All of that is certainly important, said Boyd Fletcher, a systems engineer with EG&G Technical Services Inc., which provides management and technical services to a wide range of government agencies, including the Defense Logistics Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, NASA and others. But the really major features, he said, are those that help reduce software costs, such as Unix File System logging and improved software partitioning.

"Those kinds of things have been available as add-ons from companies such as Veritas [Software Corp.]," he said, "but now they are native to Solaris 9." n

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

***

Features of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris 9 Operating Environment

Web services support — Sun Open Network Environment (Sun ONE) Application Server 7, based on Java 2 Enterprise Edition technology, is integrated into Solaris 9, which provides features from the Sun ONE Web server, Message Queue and Directory Server. It also includes support for Java, Extensible Markup Language and Simple Object Access Protocol technologies.

Security — Includes SunScreen Version 3.2 software for firewalls, Solaris Secure Shell for remote access and management, built-in 128-bit encryption so that only authorized parties can communicate with the application, Kerberos Version 5 server integration, buffer overflow protection and role-based access control.

Data management — Solaris 9 now includes support for Unix File System, an increase in the number of disk partitions from eight to as many as 8,000 and better graphical disk management.

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