Solaris is the computer operating system that Sun Microsystems provides for its family of Scalable Processor Architecture-based processors as well as for Intel-based processors. Sun has historically dominated the large UNIX workstation market. As the Internet grew in the early 1990s, Sun's SPARC/Solaris systems became the most widely installed servers for Web sites. Sun emphasizes the system's availability (meaning it seldom crashes), its large number of features, and its Internet-oriented design. Sun advertises that its latest version, the Solaris 8 Operating Environment, is "the leading UNIX environment" today.

Sun emphasizes these features of Solaris:

  • Its availability. Special features make it easy to add new capability or to fix problems without having to restart the system. Because it has evolved through a number of versions, it is "stable" - that is, like IBM's well-known mainframe operating system, MVS, Solaris has exercised and fixed almost any code path that might break. It can be upgraded, monitored, and controlled from a remote console.
  • Its scalability. If you move to a larger processor, your applications should not only run, but run faster.
  • It is built for network computing. As part of the first and most successful Web server system in history, the latest Solaris systems are built on the company's experience with early Web sites and network demands.
  • It includes security features. These include support for IPSec, Kerberos, AMI, and smart cards.

Sun provides three extensions for its Solaris operating system:

  • The Easy Access Server, which is designed to run in a network that also has Windows NT systems
  • The Enterprise Server, which is aimed at the "business-critical" environment, and includes support for clustering
  • The Internet Service Provider (ISP) Server

Since Sun originated the platform-independent Java programming language and runtime environment, Solaris systems come with a Java virtual machine and the Java Development Kit (JDK).

Solaris replaced SunOS, a system still in use on many Sun machines today.

This was last updated in April 2006

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