Reading the tea leaves about Oracle, Solaris, and universities

August 23, 2011

I've mentioned before that the university had a long-standing general support agreement for Solaris and that the yearly renewal of that agreement this year was going to be interesting. I honestly wasn't very optimistic, mostly due to Oracle's reputation around money issues (as in, they want as much of yours as possible) and partly due to the abrupt termination of Sun's long-standing academic discounts for other things.

Well, 'renewal' time has come and gone around here, and I have bad news and good news. The bad news is simple: Oracle doesn't do university-wide Solaris support agreements, and it doesn't appear to do university discounts on support at all. The university gets to pay the same rate for patch access as everyone else; OS level support for Sun and Oracle hardware is the standard 8% of the hardware purchase cost per year.

Well, sort of. The good news is that Oracle understands that this is kind of an unpleasant change for universities to swallow (or so I am assuming), so they had a special one-time only transition plan for existing machines that were being covered by an old Sun campus agreement. This plan gave such machines inexpensive patch coverage at a rate basically the same as we were paying on a per-machine basis under the old support agreement. However, we had only one opportunity to enroll machines under this plan and they had to be existing, already purchased machines; now that the transition is done, that's it, all future machines pay the full 8% a year.

While I'm glad that Oracle is not simply throwing us to the wolves, the result is a bit divided. We can continue to run existing Solaris installs, but adding new ones would be quite expensive. And sooner or later people's current hardware will break or need replacement, at which point it also becomes expensive. On the whole it seems that Oracle is being kind enough not to throw us to the wolves immediately but is also making it clear that they are not especially interested in us in the long term.

(This is not particular to universities; Oracle doesn't seem to be interested in what I could call the 'small money' sector in general, based on their prices, disinterest in discounts, and so on.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2011-08-23 17:29:02:

Given this, what does a university IT team decide to install on new servers in the future? RedHat isn't cheap.

From at 2011-08-23 18:58:34:

CentOS, Scientific Linux, Debian for Linux; also, BSD. There are plenty of options for 90% of the functionality.

I generally liked Solaris 10 more than just about any other OS out there on servers, and I'm annoyed at times that I'm now stuck with Linux where I'm currently. FreeBSD is the next closest thing IMHO (DTrace, ZFS, jails), with the addition of the Ports tree (for which pkgsrc can mostly be substituted on Solaris).

I've never used AIX or HP-UX, so couldn't say how those compare though (not that they're any cheaper than Oracle's stuff now is).

By cks at 2011-08-31 12:40:23:

A belated note: Red Hat is willing to do inexpensive campus-wide site licenses (unlike Oracle); we have one here and it's the only reason that we use RHEL on some of our machines. If you have a significant number of machines that you want to run RHEL on, talk to Red Hat about this. Otherwise, I echo the suggestions of CentOS, Scientific Linux, and other RHEL derivatives.

I have not found Solaris to be compelling in practice for the kinds of things we use servers for, apart from ZFS. I understand that other people have a more positive view of it.

Written on 23 August 2011.
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Last modified: Tue Aug 23 01:42:58 2011
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