The History of Solaris


The history of Solaris, the Unix-based operating system developed by Sun Microsystems, displays that company’s ability to be innovative and flexible. Solaris, one could argue, is perpetually ahead of the curve in the computer world. Sun continually adapts to the changing computer environment, trying to anticipate where the computer world is going, and what will be needed next, and develops new versions of Solaris to take that into account.

Solaris was born in 1987 out of an alliance between AT&T and Sun Microsystems to combine the leading Unix versions (BSD, XENIX, and System V) into one operating system. Four years later in 1991, Sun replaced it’s existing Unix operating system (SunOS 4) with one based on SVR4. This new OS, Solaris 2, contained many new advances, including use of the OpenWindows graphical user interface, NIS+, Open Network Computing (ONC) functionality, and was specially tuned for symmetric multiprocessing.

This kicked off Solaris’ history of constant innovation, with new versions of Solaris being released almost annually over the next fifteen years. Sun was constantly striving to stay ahead of the curve, while at the same time adapting Solaris to the existing, constantly evolving wider computing world. The catalogue of innovations in the Solaris OS are too numerous to list here, but a few milestones are worth mentioning. Solar 2.5.1 in 1996 added CDE, the NFSv3 file system and NFS/TCP, expanded user and group IDs to 32 bits, and included support for the Macintosh PowerPC platform. Solaris 2.6 in 1997 introduced WebNFS file system, Kerberos 5 security encryption, and large file support to increase Solaris’ internet performance.

Solaris 2.7 in 1998 (renamed just Solaris 7) included many new advances, such as native support for file system meta-data logging (UFS logging). It was also the first 64-bit release, which dramatically increased its performance, capacity, …