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No Such Thing as a Free OS (or lunch)

So Sun announced they will give away Solaris 10 for x86 for free. story
USA Today story
Amazing -- I had recently begun to push our network team that we might want to consider replacing an Open Source operating system we run for various border systems with Solaris x86.
A few years ago, Eugene Wright our Network Engineer at ACME, came to us and proposed that we run an Open Source operating system for some of our corporate systems such as DNS and DHCP. He convinced me and our network manager Dirk Packet that we could use older hardware. Over time we have tossed up FreeBSD boxes performing other functions too such as anti-spam, email list services, our time server, and our redundant SMTP systems.

Initially we thought we could run FreeBSD on older machines. But guess what, while using an old desktop is an inexpensive alternative they tend to die more quickly than a real "pizza box" type rack server. So we have moved away from that to using real server hardware intead of desktops. (desktops also look silly in the computer room cabinets)

We have also found it to be more difficult to find network folks that know FreeBSD when we are hiring or expanding. And you can't buy support for FreeBSD like you can get support for Solaris. Recently I shot the idea by Eugene and Dirk that we might consider running Solaris x86 for these purposes. My reasoning for consideration was that the total cost to run Solaris x86 was less than other Open Source operating systems when you take some things into account. You can imagine that Eugene was protective of his FreeBSD children. I talked up the idea to Eugene to explain that it would be good for him to learn Solaris and he even had most of the core commands down from FreeBSD anyway.

I explained that my thoughts were we could find more admins with Solaris experience and it was an older OS with actual support options versus having to rely on the Open Source community. We could move to Linux using a flavor like Red Hat for pay support but I think we will have more luck finding qualified staff that know Solaris than Linux or FreeBSD. We also run Solaris anyway for our Sun Sparc servers, we didn't have any Sun servers in place when we first started to run FreeBSD but now we run things like Oracle on SUN boxen.

The topic is still being discussed at ACME in our IT shop. I don't ever want to force anything down anyone's throat. So the discussion is healthy and ongoing.