18 September 2003 Sun Microsystems is to merge the ‘security hardened’ version of its Unix-based server operating system with its more conventional alternative to create what it believes will be the most secure platform for enterprise computing.
The next version of the Solaris operating system, codenamed Solaris Next, will effectively contain all components of the ‘Trusted Solaris’ system, executives told the ongoing Sun Network customer show in San Francisco last night.
It is expected that the new version of Solaris, due for release in the second half of 2004, will also contain additional features still to be unveiled.
Solaris Next will signal the end for the Trusted Solaris brand. The high-end version of Sun’s proprietary operating system, Trusted Solaris was developed by Sun in the early 1990s with the help of US-based defence analysts and the intelligence community. Originally licensed only to government agencies, Trusted Solaris has more recently has been provided to major enterprises including some financial institutions.
Unlike other operating systems, Trusted Solaris requires that every action by a user must first be approved by the administrator — eliminating the concept of the ‘super user’ function characteristic of other platforms.
“Everything is completely federated, completely isolated,” said Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s executive vice president of software. “Everything must be specifically approved. Everything is built on a foundation of explicit permission.”
Sun’s move to make its Solaris operating system more secure comes at a time when IT security has perhaps never been higher on the list of IT directors’ priorities, in the wake of the MSBlast and SoBig viruses that disabled millions of computers worldwide.
Sun believes that Solaris can win significant market share from Microsoft’s dominant Windows platform on the back of a stronger security message.
Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told a gathering of Silicon Valley technologists earlier this week that both he and his company were humbled by the recent spate of attacks, which exploited flaws in Windows. He said that Microsoft was redoubling its efforts to protect its customers from “thieves, con artists, terrorists and hackers”.
He added: “Our customers are frustrated by lapses in security. In some ways we are humbled by the events of the past few weeks.” Some members of the audience reportedly nodded in agreement.