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Recently, Oracle has made several changes in Solaris support that have people wondering if Solaris just got too expensive to run.

The first change was to move to a pay-for-security model which some have already compared to extortion. Patches for Solaris would only be available to paying support customers, leaving others to be insecure and without recourse.

The other change that Oracle has made is to force its paying support customers into an “all or nothing” support model: either all Solaris systems are under a support contract or Oracle will not enter into a support agreement. This means that in any environment that all Solaris systems must be accounted for and under Oracle support.

With this latter change, it may be that this pay-for-security model, while still unseemly, will have less of an effect than previously suggested. It may also convince many smaller businesses to scale back their Solaris installations and to get rid of older machines instead of holding on to them.

At its worst, it may mean that support for software on older Sun machines may wither faster, and that older machines will become obsolete – and useless – faster, increasing “churn” in the data center and (perhaps) making the data center more energy-efficient, while costing companies more and making Oracle more money.

However, one thing Oracle has not done is to clarify the future of OpenSolaris. The community is waiting for a definitive statement from Oracle; even former Sun employees working with OpenSolaris have no signs from Oracle in any direction.

UPDATE: Ben Rockwood over at the Cuddletech blog has excellent coverage, with detailed analysis of the relevant licenses and what it means for Solaris end-users. On the 26th he discusses the “all-or-nothing” support model, and on the 28th he writes about Oracle’s choice to remove the ability to use Solaris for free.