Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"Free" Sun Solaris

I've spent a few days investigating Sun's software stack. And I've found a few cool things:

Now, this opens a can of worms. The word "support" for mine means "technical support", as in I can ring the vendor, email the vendor, and they have a service level agreement in place such that they'll answer my question within a guaranteed period of time.

Great, I thought - I don't want to ring Sun for technical support, I just want some software. Apparently not, according to their FAQ:

Are patches available for free? And, if I download software are the patches free?

In the past, Sun charged for software releases and gave patches away for free. Now, Sun gives the software releases away and charges for most patches. This new model is similar to the model used by some Linux vendors. [...] However, Security and device driver patches are free.

Ok, so you need to pay for bug fixes, but security updates are free. Do you know how hard that was to find on their website though? It's easy to find the "download Solaris for free" links all over the website, but it took me two hours to find the "pay for the patches" clause hidden away in a FAQ. It's not even in the license agreement.

Oh well, no drama. After all, at least you're getting security updates. Well, yes - the hard way. According to that FAQ:

To find a free patch, locate the patch ID in the patch list that does not show a key icon. Those patches that cost show the key icon.
  1. On the SunSolve site, find the “Download Product Specific Patches” section at the bottom of the page.

  2. Find the “Software, Solaris” section and Select OS drop-down menu.

  3. From the drop-down menu, obtain the correct patch list by selecting the release and platform type.

In other words, it's such a pain that nobody will bother. I wonder why that would be. Don't worry - Sun answer that one too:

You can purchase a support contract to obtain patches for a fee. Or, if you upgrade to the next Solaris 10 release, such as the Solaris 10 4/08 release, this release contains all the available bug fixes.

... and then you can use their automated patch management tools.

So there you have it - Solaris and all the enterprise software stack can be downloaded and installed on your production servers for free. However, at least with the Solaris OS, you'll need to pay if you care about the security of your servers. So nothing has really changed then, I guess. I can't for the life of me find any information on free patches any of the rest of the stack, so who knows what the story is with that.

So I thought I'd download the open source web server (Glassfish), and opened the update manager. In there are tick boxes to download the commercial Java System Access Manager, not the open sourced OpenSSO. WTF?

Sun have done some great things in open sourcing some truly great products. Glassfish is genuinely good, and I really hope Sun doesn't ruin it by silly vagueness in their support arrangements. Otherwise we'll all just stick to Tomcat on Linux and bypass them all together.

1 comment:

RSR said...

Excellent post, matey. Even with a support contract, finding and linking the damn thing is annoying enough (especially if remote working).

Why can't they just provide a simple "security only" cluster that can be wget'd regularly?