Jim Zemlin Lives in a Cave; or Linux Zealots Should Get Out More

Posted on September 26, 2008

OSNews recently posted the following: Linux Foundation’s Zemlin Declares Solaris All But Dead, which in turn links to the InfoWorld article: Is Sun Solaris on its deathbed?

Mr. Zemlin hammers on the fact that Solaris has only two redeeming qualities, ZFS and DTrace, which he degrades as “minor features”. Both these technologies are revolutionary advances in computing and storage… “minor” my ass.

“That’s literally like noticing the view from a third-story building as it burns to the ground.” And the Linux community is working on rival technology, Zemlin adds.

That quote is jibberish. And asserting that the Linux community is working on rival technologies? Ummmm. SystemTap is a horrible failure (following image from OSCon) and there is no rival for ZFS.

“The only people I hear talk about DTrace [Solaris’s technology for assessing program and OS behaviours] and ZFS [the Zettabyte File System] as competitive features [are] Sun Microsystems sales representatives. It’s not something I believe is impacting the market in any way,”

Its quotes like this one that show that Mr. Zemlin is living in a cave… I mean, he is the Executive Director of the Linux Foundation. Honestly, do you expect him to say anything else regardless of validity? He’s surrounded by Linux users, vendors, and advocates based on his station. Users excited about (Open)Solaris aren’t likely going to be hanging out with this guy; rather, he’s going to hear from Linux users interested in the excitement around ZFS, DTrace, etc, and ask why they can’t be provided to Linux. Of course, its these very users we’d like to stop looking and start trying OpenSolaris itself.

“Customers are pretty aware that Unix is a more expensive legacy architecture. They continue to support it because they don’t want to change their legacy apps over to a new platform because of the costs,” Zemlin said. “But they know now they eventually need to do it because Unix just doesn’t have the combined might of all the different organizations and individuals that are developing [for] Linux.”

Now, lets get some things straight here. OpenSolaris is free, as in both beer and freedom. It runs beautifully on non-Sun hardware, and in fact I’d say at the present, it runs better on Dell/Supermicro/etc. hardware than Sun Fire servers(which has got to be turned around soon). It binary compatible, supports legacy SPARC, cutting edge Niagara SPARC, as well as X86 32 and 64bit, in fact I’d say that Solaris handles intermixing 32/64 bit applications significantly better than Linux.

Linux still has huge problems with quality support offerings. Sun offers a significantly higher quality of support because so much is in house.

End-to-end, Solaris/OpenSolaris is drastically cheaper than Linux. This doesn’t even take into consideration the savings you get by using ZFS rather than buying high cost NAS solutions for your Linux infrastructure.

Given Sun’s own Linux support on its Sparc and x86 servers, Zemlin suggests that it should make ZFS and DTrace available under a Linux-compatible license.

And there it is… Linux advocates bash Sun & Solaris right, left and center, but after it all they just want to rape the OS. Not share, not collaborate… rape. I have never been an advocate of GPLv2 release of the code for this explicit reason. Its like a bad date, she smiles and winks a little, calls you names but takes you home anyway, and in the morning your wallet is gone. Is it possible that I’m wrong? Perhaps, but once you’ve gone down that road you can’t turn back and I’m afraid that Sun will give up the advantages that it has, throwing away thousands of man hours of development effort and end up becoming a SGI, forever doomed to embrace Linux or else.

Now, there was one very important point made in the article, but not by Mr. Zemlin of course:

One company that is moving from Solaris to Linux is Sesame Workshop, famous for TV shows such as Sesame Street. A key reason is that more people are available to support Linux than Solaris, says Noah Broadwater, vice president of information services at Sesame Workshop. “I honestly have one person who is certified on Solaris. I have four people who are certified on Linux,” Broadwater said.

First, lets point out that the customer is moving from an existing Solaris SPARC install. This is likely an infrastructure that is 3+ years old and perhaps like the vast bulk of Sun customers still running on Solaris 8; regardless, there is a very big difference between moving from an older SPARC install to X86 Linux versus moving from Solaris/X86 to Linux/X86.

The point about qualified people is a very big problem! I’ve been extremely interested in working toward solving it but had little traction thus far. There are too few of us blogging, too few learning resources, and certification is expensive ($300*2 for examines, making certification $600 assuming no training and that you pass the first time). On top of it all, many of us, new and old alike, aren’t convinced that certifications are actually useful in instructing new admins.

I’d go so far as to suggest that Sun Ed. and the community (SysAdmin OpenSolaris Community Group) should work together on improving the certification criteria and tests, reducing it from 2 to 1 test, and then dropping the cost under $100.

So long as we lack skilled and interested SysAdmin’s in the field we’ll continue to deal with Linux advocates bashing Solaris with their hand out.

We need:

  1. Better systems
  2. Better training (corporate and community)
  3. More admins