Sun sets, but Oracle didn’t predict it

Sun microsystems

Oracle has quietly shut down the remnants of Sun’s Sparc processor and Solaris operating system lines. Both Sun and Oracle have made a huge impact on my life.

Back in 1992 I had my first encounter with Unix in a numerical mathematics course at the ANU. A number of our lessons were held in the university’s computer labs housing Sun Sparc terminals. I marvelled at the huge high resolution greyscale CRT screens, opening terminals and text editors to edit and run Matlab scripts on the Solaris server. They looked so much nicer than the PCs and Macs we used elsewhere. Long before they were readily available for PCs these terminals used laser mice, though they required a special mouse mat to operate.

A year later, when I bought my first modem, I would connect into a Solaris Unix server via the terminal and access my email and play IRC. I met my wife over Solaris.

As a result of my Internet obsession I drifted into the role of web developer, eventually gaining employment at CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility managing their website. The site ran on a Solaris 2.6 server and for a time I even had a Sparc terminal to access it.

It was here that Oracle came into the picture. I built some web applications utilising the Oracle database, the only one available to me.

By this stage I was not a fan of either Solaris or Oracle (or ‘Orrible as called by some). Much of the open internet ran on open source solutions like Linux and MySQL and, as expensive commercial products, the Oracle database and Solaris operating system often required custom compilations of libraries and custom rewrites of code. Our version of Solaris only supported 256 colours, meaning that images supplied by our users were often of too poor quality to use on the web.

A lot of time that could have been spent developing practical applications was instead wasted just wrangling the systems to work in the first place.

Eventually that job finished and I ended up writing PHP scripts on a Windows IIS box, which was a whole new set of pain.

Today I am still writing PHP, but running it on a Ubuntu Linux server, which is an extremely popular and well supported combination meaning that it’s easy to find answers to problems online. But I haven’t escaped Oracle, which acquired Sun in 2009, entirely. We use the very popular MySQL as our database and that was purchased by Oracle as well.

By all accounts the marriage between Sun and Oracle was not a happy one (it certainly wasn’t on our servers) and I’m sad to see the disappearance of the former. Farewell!

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