back to article Sun's IBM-mainframe flower wilts under Oracle's hard gaze

Larry Ellison likes to buzz rotten fruit off some corporate type’s head. Over the years Microsoft, PeopleSoft, BEA Systems, SAP, and Red Hat have lined up to be been duly pelted during calls with Wall St or during Oracle's mega OpenWorld customer and partner conference. It's all good theater in Silicon Valley, but it's theater …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Mike S


    So the story here is that Sun was everybody's friend but couldn't make any money. They were run by a CEO long on pony tails but short on execution.

    They got bought by a company that makes money hand over fist by playing hardball.

    And people are *shocked* that there will be changes.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Horrible ! Capitalism !

    "Yes, the flowers are wilting and anything that survives under Oracle will only bloom if it can deliver a return on Sun's investment."

    Richard Stallman will rotate in his grave ! Oh, he's not yet dead. Sorry.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Just do IT, for Flower Power is Sun Driven and not Oracle Controlled?

    ....... Who is the Fat Cat and Cuckoo in the Feathered Nest?


    What is stopping those pretty damn pissed off hippy types from getting off their bony asses and taking all of their Power and Intel work and putting their heads together in Order to take Control of and make Controls for the Cloud and ITs Virtual Operating Systems Market .... and leave Larry floating about in boats, earthbound. Anyone can abuse and misuse Assets but pretty soon it is realised and the pirate is then presented and faced with the stark choice of walking the walk and talking the talk to move the business on and into new fields with loyal partners, or waffling like crazy to try and avoid having to walk the plank and taking a plunge into deep and hungry shark-infested waters.

    1. dboyes

      Umm... l think you're misreading this...

      To paraphrase Mark Twain : "Rumors of my death are overrated."

      First, this has NEVER been a Sun project, or an IBM project. It's been a independent project that Sine Nomine Associates -- PLUS occasional assistance from Sun and IBM --have been doing. It's not anything Sun or Oracle CAN kill, unless we do it ourselves. The existing OpenSolaris license allows us to keep using stuff even if they pull it. The parts we touched are jointly owned -- one of the few benefits of the CDDL.

      I certainly don't think Larry Ellison is a fool. Capricious sometimes, but not a fool. I think he's shooting himself in the foot here, though. There were opportunities to work with a growing community of outside developers that I think he's poisoning by ditching some of the larger projects. The ability to absorb workload on machines not of Sun's manufacture has a lot of potential -- see the success of LInux on the Z platform. It's all about "right tool, right job", and there are places where Z is the right tool (think about data proximity, and like it or not, z/OS isn't going away any time soon). Would be an elegant thing to sell Solaris on Z and actually USE the customer's existing hardware to replace z/OS? Sun kept/keeps claiming that it can do it, but it's a forklift upgrade. Not something any sensible business is going to do in these times. It's paid for -- get the most out of it.

      I've written elsewhere of my speculation that Oracle is headed towards a total software as a service model. Could very well be this is one way to achieve it.

      I think Gavin's overblown the language a bit here. Sure, we put a lot of work in to OpenSolaris on Z. So have a lot of people. Are we disappointed that we're having to convince Oracle of the value? Sure. Who wouldn't be? On the other hand, the anonymous source Gavin quotes also doesn't take into account that most of those items names already HAVE replacements (at least in our build; can't take too much responsibility for the rest of the OpenSolaris world). The bits that don't have replacements, don't have replacements on any other OpenSolaris platform either, so your point is?

      Asking people who have expressed an interest in the project ( and there are more than 100 people from household-name companies participating in the mailing list) to express their preference that Oracle continue a successful partnership doesn't strike me as a failure.

      David Boyes

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Larry loves you and thanks you for everything.

        Thanks for that clarification, David Boyes, but it does seem to confirm that you are still being right royally fcuked, although you seem to be bending over and resigning yourself to it.

        1. dboyes

          No kidding...

          > Thanks for that clarification, David Boyes, but it does seem to confirm that you

          > are still being right royally fcuked, although you seem to be bending over and

          > resigning yourself to it.

          Won't argue that point at all. I was pretty steamed during that discussion with the Oracle person who's contacting the various project leads.

          But, as I noted in another post, they can't kill the project because it's not theirs to kill. It's mine to decide, and it ain't over yet. It's under review, and we had a strong business case when we started, and we *still* have a strong business case for doing it. Asking for more voices is just good strategy, especially when some of those voices write 6 and 7 figure checks to Oracle regularly.

          If Larry's reading this, I'd be very glad to discuss the project and the business case with him or anyone at Oracle. We're still willing to do it.

  4. John Riddoch

    Is this really an issue?

    Was anyone serious about installing (Open)Solaris on Z anyway? Why would you want to, rather than working on the supported & mature platforms of x86/x64 or SPARC which are going to be cheaper anyway? Given that zLinux has been around for some years and has garnered limited ISV support, would zSolaris have been any different?

    It was interesting as a proof of concept, but not really of any value; seems like an obvious one for Oracle to cull, although it might have been better PR simply to cut it loose and ignore it rather than actively block it.

    1. dboyes

      Look at the membership of the SOL-390 mailing list

      Was anyone serious? I'd say so. Main reason: in most sites that this would be interesting for, they're facing facility upgrades to add more x86 capacity, which is not low cost. They already own the Z hardware -- because there's still no credible replacement for high-transaction-rate z/OS-based systems, execpt, maybe, Solaris (hmm) -- and it's paid for.

      To be fair: Oracle is NOT blocking the project; it was never theirs TO block. Evaluating the project is what I would expect them to do with a new acquisition. Whether they continue to participate is another question, WHICH IS THE ONLY THING UNDER DISCUSSION.

  5. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Not news?

    Whilst it is tempting to say "toldya so!", the reality is this is just more theatre by those working on ex-Sun open projects, and equally political as what they accuse Larry of doing. In short, any project that thinks it is under threat from the Oracle profit machine is working overtime to get the open source crowd screaming blue murder, in the hope that Larry will then back off axing their project. I have had two emails this month from groups urging me to "protect the open source investment" (by which I assume they mean protect their investment in the future profits they think they can make off of servcies around said projects), presumably because I have at some point signed up to some Sun open source mailing list or other.

    The reality is Larry is doing these people a favour - by killing unviable (and by that I mean unlikely to make profits for Oracle) projects now, Larry is stopping these people wasting more time and money flogging these dead horses. Whilst people in the community get very invested in their pet projects, it is often a good thing to have a real business brain come along and assess the proejcts money-making potential. Maybe not in keeping with the freetard dream of "coding for the greater good", but if no-one is ever going to use your code anyway where is the "good"?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Dead Vulture


      That sounds pretty derogatory and smalltime. Actually it is.

  6. klarien masters

    Solaris in Exadata

    Over my dead body was the reply I was given when i qustioned just this, also asking why they are paying Intel when they own SPARC, i was told to read between the lines................. interestingly most of Sun's CTO evangalists seems to have been given 6 months contracts..... probably fuj won't want them ----- oh there i go again, reading beteen the lines !!!!!

  7. dboyes

    Hate to ruin the fun....

    > On paper, the future is not too bright for Solaris or OpenSolaris on IBM's mainframe platform. In

    > two years of the project's life, it's been downloaded just 1,000 times - sometimes repeatedly by

    > the same organizations. Otherwise, we're told there are "plenty" of proofs of concept.

    1000 downloads by whom? Random people, or the largest companies on the planet? The latter, Gavin, the latter. Not to be uppity, but there's a big difference between Joe in his garage, and Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, and the Mayo Clinic. We're talking about enterprise infrastructure here, not video games. Who is just as important as how many.

    > Boyes told us it's wrong to say Oracle has "killed" OpenSolaris on IBM's mainframe,

    > but he noted the future is up for grabs as Oracle is grooming through the old Sun's

    > software and project assets and deciding what to do with them. The party line

    > from Oracle here and during the recent EclipseCon and the Open Source

    > Business Conference is that it's still working through projects and deciding what to do.

    Since it was never their project in the first place, the only thing that they could do would be to make it harder, and by pulling the OpenSolaris source outright, which wouldn't remove our copy or our right to use it.

    We'd like to merge the two. We *were* moving to do so before the acquisition stopped everything for months, and it might still happen. Hate to ruin your story, folks, but it ain't over yet.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      So happens I have a system z in my garage (not really)

      Good point made. This isn't Hot-Flavor-of-the-Month Linux. A relatively very limited number of people have the hardware to run this software, and that hardware is used seriously. So no time wasters... except for what I'm doing now, obviously.

      I confess: I don't even have a garage.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Open Source ??

    Can't they just fork their own "Zolaris" ? Apparently they want to continue to get Oracle code for their z/Solaris version, which they do not get. libc should also be pretty easy to replicate, by the way.

    There do exist reasons for a "Zolaris" operating system, as this would combine excellent hardware with a modern Unix operating system. Zolaris would indeed have some strong selling points against Linux on Z. Whether they are sufficient to warrant the risks of Zolaris, I don't know.

    Regarding the question of the existence of mainframes:

    Certainly, an IBM mainframe is something of a different class of machine compared to a cluster of x86 boxes. Error correction, hot swapping, huge I/O bandwidth are exactly what large enterprises need. If you loose 100 millions a day on a broken-down server system, you will happily fork over 100 million for a SystemZ every couple of years.

    Maybe this changes with software that contains built-in fault tolerance and failover features, but I have some very serious doubts that custom software will ever have that feature. And that is exactly the main purpose of IBM mainframes: run large custom applications (millions of lines of code) written over decades in Cobol, S/360 assembler, PL/1; all nicely integrated with CICS, DB/2, IMS, RACF, 3270 etc.

    A mainframe certainly is not cost-effective for a company making less than 20 million EUR/year, but above that they get more and more interesting because their enterprise featues have been honed over more than 40 years. Corporations like BP, Daimler, Toyota or Deutsche Bank simply cannot operate a single day without their mainframes processing their core IT activities. They would be outright mad to replace that with a funny assortment of beige x86 boxes, even if these boxes have more aggregate CPU power, RAM capacity and I/O power than this 100 times more expensive mainframe.

    Only a shop of elite computer scientists like Google can successfully do this.

    1. SolarisRocks

      You're described SPARC iron to a tee

      Open Source?? said, in part: "...Error correction, hot swapping, huge I/O bandwidth are exactly what large enterprises need."

      Yes, enterprises need this hardware dependability, but they don't need the mainframe pricing (or lock-in). That's why I'm glad Sun offers their mainframe-class SPARC servers with all of those features, for far less cost than zSystem iron.

      IBM lock-in? You bet. I have a customer FORCED to buy a new multi-million dollar z10 mainframe because Big Blue is dropping support for their older version of z/VM on a z9 mainframe. I can find 11-year old Sun boxes that can still support the latest release of Solaris 10.

      Adding memory to your mainframe? $6000/GB. Adding memory to your SPARC server? $100/GB. Which would you willingly choose?

      1. dboyes

        point, though

        > Adding memory to your mainframe? $6000/GB. Adding memory to your

        > SPARC server? $100/GB. Which would you willingly choose?

        The one that's already paid for and amortized into my budget. The one that doesn't take up any more space, or cooling or power, or management infrastructure. The one that doesn't take any more people to deploy and manage.

        Sometimes it's not about acquisition cost. It's about how much it costs to maintain the environment around it over time. HVAC and buildings and people are a LOT more expensive than any computer system these days. We have a pretty diverse data center (everything from a SGI Origen to a Superdome to a E15K to a Symbolics, and the obligatory Intel horde. We have several new SPARC boxes in the lab. Know which ones hurt the most? The Intel and PA-RISC boxes. Heat output vs performance on those systems are far, far worse than the others. Our z system supports about 50 virtual machines, and consumes about half the power and cooling of the Intel plant.

        To the posters point, I like the newer SPARCs from a hardware designer's point of view -- it's a stable architecture, is a good general-purpose CPU. I'd go bankrupt if we replaced the Z. I couldn't afford the cooling bills for the quantity of SPARC gear that it would require to replace the Z we have. Replacing the Z with that much Sparc or Intel hardware would also require me to expand my data center. Suddenly that cheap hardware isn't so cheap after all.

        As far as I'm concerned, user-programmable opcodes would be the way to go for the future. Why have only a single instruction set? Why shouldn't I just microprogram the set I want, and run whatever I want (modulo device emulation)? Stay tuned for the next drop of OpenSolaris for Z -- there's a lot of neat new stuff in there that explores that idea.

      2. fdsa

        Re: You're described SPARC iron to a tee

        "IBM lock-in? You bet. I have a customer FORCED to buy a new multi-million dollar z10 mainframe because Big Blue is dropping support for their older version of z/VM on a z9 mainframe. I can find 11-year old Sun boxes that can still support the latest release of Solaris 10."

        Please define "older" because z9 has z/VM support out 'til 2013:

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hire him?

    If there was *one* person working on this port, and he's SO IMPORTANT to your business, why can't you afford to hire him? Or are you just upset that your free lunch is now gone, and he now has to be on your payroll and not Sun's/Oracle's?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Hire him does not work, Sun keeps critical source parts closed

      Hiring that engineer will not work. The problem is that a critical part of libc i18n support (libc is the system core library, without it no userland will work) is CLOSED SOURCE. Someone within Sun has to compile that code with a gcc/SystemZ compiler and send it to the Solaris/SystemZ for each new Opensolaris release.

      As long as Sun keeps these parts closed no one can create an own release.

      Welcome to "tight leash".

      1. dboyes

        Good point.

        It's also one of the funniest things about the Z port -- libi18n is owned by IBM. Sun had to get IBM's permission to let us compile it for IBM's own hardware. So the flow went from SNA->Sun->IBM->Sun->SNA, generating lots of lawyer food along the way.

        If someone really wants to build a SysV-compatible Unix, there is that alternative, and IBM seems to have bought a clue on licensing intellectual property.

        --d b

    2. dboyes


      I would, but he's decided to retire and goof off for a while. I can respect that. I'm told that some people don't work 18 hours a day. It's a strange thing to consider.

      I've been paying all the rest of the people (and doing late nights and weekends myself) who work on this project full time for two+ years. I'd seriously consider paying someone at Oracle to work with us -- but that assumes that Oracle is willing to do so. Which is the exact point we're discussing, and where Gavin went a little overboard with his quote editing.

      We (SNA) want to be a partner, not a supplicant. The Oracle half of the partnership is no longer available, and it doesn't seem likely that a new contact will be appointed, or that they want the partnership to continue. I do, but it takes two to work together. Don't think that's too much to ask.

      -- db

    3. dboyes

      comment O rama

      > If there was *one* person working on this port, and he's SO IMPORTANT to

      > your business, why can't you afford to hire him? Or are you just upset that your

      > free lunch is now gone, and he now has to be on your payroll and not Sun's/Oracle's?

      Ad hominem snark aside, the simple truth (other than the fact that he's happily retired) is that his half of the partnership was to navigate the Sun bureaucracy and get code to where it needed to go based on his position in Solaris Engineering. If he no longer works for Sun/Oracle, there's not much chance that he can still do that. From conversations with some friends in the Bay Area, apparently the bloodletting at Solaris Engineering was pretty thorough. (Gun. Head. Fire, IMHO -- reminds me of the Compaq/DEC merger.)

      As for the other 5 people working on this project, well... they're still here. As are their paycheck expenses.

      --d b

  10. dboyes

    interesting side bit

    > Can't they just fork their own "Zolaris" ? Apparently they want to continue to get Oracle

    > code for their z/Solaris version, which they do not get. libc should also be pretty

    > easy to replicate, by the way.

    It was, actually. The bits that are still closed source are:

    libi81n (owned by IBM, needed to build a kernel. replaced by cleanroom implementation)

    the cryptographic code (which is export controlled, and licensed from another company)

    POSIX versions of a few common utilities (replaced with the GNU equivalents, also on the Intel platform in the Intel OpenSolaris)

    the extra bits that come from other parts of Sun that don't do open source (not really part of the OS)

    So, in short, the same missing bits in all the other OpenSolaris distributions, except for the one that Sun produced where they could use their existing licenses for the missing bits. Funny thing, that.

    I'd be interested to know who this secret admirer is.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "> easy to replicate, by the way.

    It was, actually. "

    So, problem solved ?

    I always was under the impression that OpenSolaris was a complete OS available as source under a useful Free Software license. So just fork off your own version and selectively implement new stuff from Oracle that is absolutely necessary. Posix is now very stable anyway, so most "innovations" are not really required.

    Regarding SystemZ hardware, I do think that companies make a very rational decision about IBM systems. Yes, you pay a lot of $$ (easily 100 times the equivalent x86 horsepower), but the interesting question for (e.g.) BP is "can we be sure that we can sell oil 365 days per year ?".

    With IBM they are sure of that, but SUN ? Oracle, maybe. HP, maybe. Dell, probably not.

    BP makes 246 billion $/Year, that's more than 673 millon $/working day. You think they argue about a few million $ for additional RAM ? A single day of downtime would pay for the most expensive IBM mainframe.

    "I'd be interested to know who this secret admirer is."

    Whom are you talking about ?

    1. dboyes

      Replication and "secret admirers"

      >>> easy to replicate, by the way.

      >> It was, actually. "

      >So, problem solved ?

      Given that Gavin created this article from his interpretation, I'd wonder who thought there *was* a problem. We're not done.

      Wrt to replication, the main value to having the same source as the one used in the Sun OpenSolaris release was to credibly be able to sign code modules and not have to do all the crypto certification that the business types want for commercial systems. They're funny about that, and given that the Intel releases had a binary-only version released (that's what Nexenta and the other OpenSolaris variants used), we were hoping that we'd also be able to have the same binary-only version available. No such luck, apparently.

      Wrt to the secret admirer, Gavin quoted someone in the article that chose to remain nameless and seems to be the source of all this sturm und drang about the z port. I was wondering who it was, and what he or she thought was the point.

      Someone must be pretty scared to produce that much FUD.

      -- db

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Did you have a business contract with Sun to help develop this port of Solaris?


    So what are you all bitching about? Oracle have made a business decision not to continue helping as they presumably think they can better spend their money elsewhere. Welcome to the world of real business where people arn't holding hands in a hippy floral dance and having mutual love-ins for the sake of it.


    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      "What are you bitching about?"

      This is the point: Sun had some relationships with user communities that Oracle is deciding not to have, which, if you are in one or more of those user communities, is disappointing. And so if you weren't already thinking about how this affects you and what you can do about it, it's time you started.

      That's the message.

      1. dboyes


        Well said, Robert.

        I'm certainly not happy with the current situation, but I'm not crying in my beer either.

        I'm a little surprised by the vitriol of some of the posters here. It's a setback, but it's not a permanent one. And the source is out the gate. They can't call it back. So, if they don't want to play, OK. If one reporter misinterprets a situation based on a unsigned note, whatever. We got people to talk to.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like