Home > Solaris > Solaris Licensing Changes: The Real Story

Solaris Licensing Changes: The Real Story

April 14th, 2010

As you should already know, Sun was purchased by Oracle. Not too long ago, someone noticed a licensing change on the Solaris license website. A slow rumble of rumors has been building up about what those changes mean. Well, I contacted our Sun account manager to get the definitive answer, and here it is:

  1. The old Solaris subscriptions, the way people got software support for 3rd party hardware, are no longer available for purchase. Existing contracts are honored.
  2. Solaris support now comes through a contract on the hardware (Oracle SUN hardware)
  3. The license and accompanying entitlement from the web, without a contract and without hardware, only entitle the downloader to non-commercial, non-production, or personal use in perpetuity. Production use and evaluation for production are good for 90 days.
  4. When you purchase hardware, you receive an addendum to the entitlement that grants that piece of hardware perpetual, non-transferable license and entitlement to Solaris.
  5. For hardware purchasers, this is the same (in net effect) as always.
  6. For non-hardware purchasers – 3rd party, gray market, etc. – there is no legal way to obtain a permanent entitlement or to obtain support.

Personal Use

So lets get the easy one out of the way first. Solaris is still free for personal use. So that should satisfy the 0.0001% (yes, that number is an anatomical extraction) of the Solaris users that use Solaris for non-commercial activity.

Non-Sun Servers

Let’s move on to people that run Solaris on non-Sun servers: No Solaris for you, not yours! Items 1 and 6 make it clear that there is no possible way to legally run Solaris on non-Sun servers. Period. End of story.

Sun Servers without a Support Contract

Now lets talk about people that run Solaris on Sun servers, but do not purchase a hardware support contract: Some Solaris for you, but only a little! Item 4 says (and I clarified it with them), that purchasing new Sun hardware gives you a binary license only for the version of Solaris that’s available at the time of the hardware purchase. It does not entitle you to future upgrades or updates.

Sun Servers with a Support Contract

For people running Solaris on Sun hardware with a Sun hardware support contract, your support contract grants you rights to run future versions of Solaris.


  1. Eric
    April 16th, 2010 at 13:08 | #1

    Are you sure about no support for non-Sun hardware? At work we’ve just gotten a quote from Oracle for “Premiere Support OS” for 30 non-Sun systems.

  2. Allan
    April 16th, 2010 at 14:39 | #2

    Our company uses several Solaris x86 VMs. I wonder how the licensing applies to virtualization?

  3. April 16th, 2010 at 16:22 | #3

    I’m not *sure* about it, but item 6 seems to make it pretty clear. That list is a direct copy/paste from the email when I asked.

    I didn’t clarify because we run Sun hardware, so this wasn’t a concern for me, sorry.

  4. Anonymous
    April 16th, 2010 at 16:23 | #4

    > Solaris is still free for personal use.

    But are updates (specifically security updates, preferably in an easy-to-use package like the recommended patch bundles used to be) free for personal use?

    I do have Sun hardware (I bought an Ultra-1 170 on Ebay for like $20 a few years back) and I only use it for portability testing of open-source software (Solaris SPARC is great for catching data alignment issues and endianness assumptions, all at the same time)

  5. April 16th, 2010 at 17:05 | #5

    Anonymous :

    But are updates (specifically security updates, preferably in an easy-to-use package like the recommended patch bundles used to be) free for personal use?

    Based on the response, I would say that you are entitled to updates for personal use. I don’t know how they’ll distribute them, though.

  6. Anonymous
    April 16th, 2010 at 17:48 | #6

    We’re a Solaris/Oracle shop, tackling this in a medium-size network shop. The uncertainty means we had to come up with an alternative plan. ~4 weeks time we should be running linux mysql cassandra.

  7. Thomas
    April 16th, 2010 at 18:14 | #7

    Glad Oracle is continuing the tradition of the constantly moving licensing re: to Solaris

    Solaris 8 not free, then free for up to 8 cpus, No more x86, then x86, support for 3rd party hardware, no subscriptions for 3rd party machines. Thanks for the planning rollercoaster.

  8. Uncle Bob
    April 16th, 2010 at 18:25 | #8
  9. Dan
    April 17th, 2010 at 09:30 | #9

    Folks don’t forget that IBM, HP and Dell all had Solaris OEM contracts with Sun
    which I presume are still in force post acquisition.

  10. April 17th, 2010 at 11:35 | #10

    There were some Oracle reps at last month’s NYC OpenSolaris user group. The official word about running virtualized solaris is that it’s supported, but only when the underlying hardware is sun. So, Sun Hardware + (ESX, HyperV, Xen, whatever) + Solaris/OpenSolaris = AOK.

    Also support contract levels (Gold, Silver, etc) has been streamlined too, prices are 8% of original purchase price/year for software + an optional 4%/yr for hardware support. A contract entitles you to run your choice of:
    Solaris, OpenSolaris or Oracle Enterprise Linux on your sun hardware either on bare metal or via virtualization

  11. James
    April 17th, 2010 at 14:13 | #11
  12. April 18th, 2010 at 12:31 | #12

    I think that someone at Oracle has messed up badly here. I don’t think that this will enhance their bottom line, and it will chase away people who might have considered Sparc as an option.

    What Oracle should do is to re-license Solaris under the GPL V3 or later. They would take a short term hit on revenues, but in the longer term Solaris adoption would increase, meaning more support contracts and more revenue. But I don’t expect this to happen, the current U.S. corporate focus on short term (one to two quarters) results will work against it.

  13. Dan
    April 19th, 2010 at 11:06 | #13

    @The Mad Hatter

    Oracle is now a hardware company , they see no benefit in spending money to make having their OS run on other peoples hardware.

  14. Dan
    April 20th, 2010 at 07:31 | #14


    Yeah I saw that too, real strange how quiet this all is…not to mention that Solaris on IBM is still on the
    Oracle site


  15. BummedSolAdmin
    May 5th, 2010 at 14:38 | #15

    Oracle only has one service contract available now, and it is premier 7×24, 2 hour support and you get to pay roughly $1400 a year for it on a T5120. They no longer have time and materials, so you can’t say I don’t want support and will just pay if something happens. And if you don’t have a support contract, they won’t let you have access to patches or much of anything else for that matter.

    We will be migrating all possible systems off Solaris ASAP due to this change.

  16. Qlex
    July 6th, 2010 at 04:43 | #16

    Hi Eric,
    I left a comment on your GTFS webapp post.
    Could you please take a look at it and contact me via email ?


  1. April 17th, 2010 at 00:01 | #1
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