Less known Solaris Features: Long support cycles

I´m extremely busy this weekend to prepare some presentations, thus i decided to write a rather short article about a topic nevertheless important to many customers. This time, i don´t talk about a function of Solaris or a neat trick with the tools of the operating Environment. I just want to talk about a underrated feature of Solaris: The long support cycle.

The support cycle

Enterprise customers want to protect their investments. They don´t want to use an operating system only to be forced in two years to use a different one, because they won´t get any support. Most companies have a really long process of validating new configurations and they don´t want to go through it without a good reason (bigger hardware updates or when they use a new software). Thus you have to support a commercial unix quite long. Out of this reason, Sun has an well defined and long life cycle for the releases of our operating environment.

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This is the policy of Sun for lifecycles. We won´t shorten the time, but often the effective lifetime ist much longer, as you will see in the next paragraph.

An example: Solaris 8

Okay, we started to ship Solaris 8 in February 2000.Last order date (E4) was at Novemer 16, 2006. After that we shipped Solaris 8 Media Kits until February 16, 2007. Solaris 8 entered Retirement support mode Phase I on Mach 31, 2007. Thus it will reach Retirement Support Mode Phase II on March 31, 2009. End of Service Life is on March 31, 2012. Thus Solaris 8 has an service life of 12 years.


For a customer this long release cycles are optimal, but there is a problem for Sun in it. We don´t force our customer to use new versions early. Some customers still use old Solaris 8 versions and they use Solaris 10 like Solaris 8 to keep the processes in sync. There are some technological leaps between 8 and 10, but they don´t use the new features. They think they know Solaris, but they know just 8, not 10. The reputation of beeing somewhat outdated has it´s root partly in this habit. This is the bad side of the medal, but long support cycles are too important to change this policy...

Do you want to learn more

Disclaimer: The following documents are the authoritative source. If i made a mistake at summarizing them, the informations in these both documents are the valid ones.
Solaris Operating System Life Cycle
Solaris Operating System Retirement End Of Life Matrix
Event    Name    Description
E1    General Availability (GA)    GA is a day of joy, celebrations and marketing. A new major release of Solaris is born, for example the first release of Solaris 10 In at least the next 4 and a half years your will see several updates to this version of the perating system. Until Solaris 9 those updates were in a quarterly schedule, but since we use the update for new features, it isn´t that regular.
E2    End of Life (EOL) Pre-Notification    Okay, one year before we announce the formal End of Life of the product, Sun sends the first notification/warnung to our customers.
E3    End of Life (EOL) Announcement    Okay, we announce the end of the development of a major Solaris release. As i told before, this is at least 54 month after the GA, sometimes longer than that. When we announce the EOL, we trigger the start of the next phase in the lifecycle of a Solaris releaseo, the last order phase.
E4    Last Order Date (LOD)    90 days after the EOL announcement is the Last-Order-Date. This is the last day, you can order a Solaris version as an preinstalled image and it´s the last a purchased system includes the license for this specific operating system. This Last Order Date isn´t effective for Support Contracts. You can order a support contract for a Solaris version until it´s End of Service Life. With the Last Order day the next phase ist started: The last ship phase
E5    Last Ship Date (LSD)    In the next 90 days all orders for a new version has to be fullfilled. Yeah, you can´t order an EOLed operating system for deliverya year after it´s end-of-life (besides of special agreements). With the Last-Order-Date the retirement of the Solaris Version starts.
E6    End of Retirement Support Phase 1    For the next two years you have essentially the same service than before EOL with some exceptions. No fixes for cosmetic bugs, no feature enhancements, no quarterly updates.
E7    End of Retirement Support Phase 2 / End of Service Life (EOSL)    In the last phase of the lifecycle, you still get telephone support for a version and you can still download patches for the system, but there will be no new patches.
after E7          After EOSL you can´t get further support or patches with the exception of special aggreements between the customer and Sun.