Intel has reignited doubts over Sun Microsystem's commitment to running Solaris on the chips giant's new generation processor, Itanium.
Intel representatives were critical of Sun's lack of backing for finding partners and investing in the development of the first of its IA-64 generation of 64bit processors at the company's annual Palm Springs developers conference.
Paul Otellini, vice president of Intel's architecture business group, said the chip giant had not seen a momentum of support for the features of Solaris on Itanium.
"We've reached the point where we will meet our contractual agreement with Sun and support customers who have committed to Solaris on Itanium," he said. "We're going to match their level of commitment for our architecture and focus our efforts elsewhere."
Sun and Intel first signed an agreement to co-operate on porting Solaris to IA-64 back in December 1997. Sun committed to providing technical support and cross patent licensing, as well as tuning the operating system to run on IA-64 processors. Clearly, Intel has not seen enough fruits from this relationship.
Questions over Sun's commitment to the Intel platform are far from new. Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, Toshiba, Amdahl, SRC and NCR all sell Solaris on Intel's IA-32 platform, but so far only NCR has signed up to sell Itanium-based hardware.
For some time analysts have suggested that Sun has committed to Intel simply to get into more customer-bid situations where it can then espouse the greater benefits of Solaris on Sun's own processor platform, Sparc.
However, Sun continues to protest that its level of commitment to Intel's platform has not changed.
"Sun is certainly not peddling away from Intel. By giving the Solaris licence away free we have made it easier for people to use Solaris on Intel," said Jonathan Mills, Solaris product manager for Sun UK.
Mills claimed in 1999 that there were more than 100,000 server licences for Solaris on Intel at customer sites. He noted that it was only last month at the launch of the latest version of Sun's operating system, Solaris 8, that Sun reaffirmed its commitment to the Itanium platform and made more developer resources available on its website.
Mills was unable to quantify Sun's current commitment to Solaris on Intel in terms of resources at time of publication.
"We have advised users out and out not to buy Solaris on Intel," said Ed Thompson, analyst at Gartner Group.
He said there were a limited number of applications available for Solaris on Intel compared to the number on Sparc. He said he had already seen a number of Solaris on Intel customers begin migration to Linux on Intel.
Despite Sun's continuing commitment to put Solaris on IA-64, there was precious little evidence of Sun doing much more, particularly with its Ultrasparc III family of servers due out in the third quarter.
"There is doing the port - which Sun is - and then there is whether the sales force is behind it. Sun makes money on hardware so there is little incentive for the sales force to push an almost free operating system on the Intel platform," he added.
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