Sun to sell unbundled Solaris 9 for x86 systems

Sun Microsystems Inc. will ship a version of its Solaris 9 operating system around the end of the year for computers based on Intel Corp.’s x86 processor architecture, with a likely price tag of US$99.

The company announced in August that it would ship the software bundled with its LX50 dual Pentium III server, but said at that stage it would support Solaris 9 only on that server and on systems based on its Sparc processors.

The previous version of the operating system, Solaris 8, was supported on a variety of x86 systems, and was available for free download, but in January, less than five months before the launch of Solaris 9, Sun announced that to cut costs it would end the free download scheme for the Intel platform and would not release Solaris 9 for Intel processors.

Now, Solaris 9 is back on the menu for everyone.

“We will come out with Solaris 9 for other platforms (than the LX50) around the turn of the year,” said Jonathan Mills, software product marketing manager for Sun in the U.K.

Mills said he has heard talk of a US$99 price tag for a license for single-processor systems, which was in response to users’ demands. “They have asked us to put together a viable business plan for the x86 version, rather than giving it away,” he said.

Users who can’t wait for the final version to be released will be able to download pre-release versions with a limited-term license for a lower fee, perhaps US$20 to US$30, he said.

Support contracts for hardware included on the hardware compatibility list will be available when the final version is released.

“Essentially, after that, it will look just like the Sparc version,” Mills said. “Things like the Sun One directory server will also be available, just like for Sparc.”

Sun will expand the range of hardware on the compatibility list to include newer devices, Mills said, and the company will look for users’ help with this.

“We are looking for ways to empower the community to involve them in the testing, so we can enhance the amount of hardware we can support more rapidly,” he said.