Sun Microsystems has released a test version of its Solaris operating system for computers using Intel processors, software that was put on hold earlier this year but was resurrected after consumers objected.

The unsupported test version is available as a download for a $20 fee. The final product will be finished by late December, said Bill Moffitt, product line manager for Solaris.

Solaris is Sun's version of Unix and a crucial foundation to the company's products; most of the company's computers use UltraSparc processors and the corresponding version of Solaris. Less widely used is a version of Solaris that Sun created for Intel and Intel-compatible processors such as Intel's Pentium and Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon.



Sun, faced with tremendous financial pressures--caused by competition, the demise of its dot-com business, and the recession--delayed plans in January to release the new Solaris 9 version for Intel processors. The company said it needed to focus on profitability and spending its money as wisely as possible, but reserved the option to restart the project.

Faced with customer outcry, Sun said in August that the Intel version would be resurrected, but only for its own LX50 Intel servers. But customers weren't mollified, so in October Sun said it would expand to support other computers as well.

New features in Solaris 9 for Intel include the Solaris 9 Resource Manager, which lets system administrators confine a program to a "container" that limits how much processor power and memory it's allowed to use. "If one application goes berserk and steals all the CPU and memory, it can only steal from within its own container," Moffitt said.

Other features include the SunScreen 3.2 firewall, to keep intruders out of a server, and Sun Volume Manager, which makes it possible to treat a group of hard drives as a single storage system.

Solaris competes with other versions of Unix--including IBM's AIX and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX--as well as with Linux on lower-end systems and with Microsoft's Windows.

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