It seems that Sun and Redhat have set their sights on one another. The recent releases of Red Hat Inc.'s Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris 10 do lend weight to the notion that a storm may be brewing, with fierce competition ahead.

Backed by the latest major Linux kernel release, Red Hat's enterprise distribution has grown significantly more capable of delivering scalable performance on large multiprocessor machines—a territory more commonly associated with Solaris.

However, much more important to the continued relevance of Solaris than the innovations that distinguish it from Linux are the steps Sun has taken to make Solaris more like its younger rival.

Support for the x86 platform was Linux's raison d'être back when Linus Torvalds began work on the operating system, and it seems that Sun has finally grasped the importance of running on the world's most ubiquitous architecture.

In addition, Sun's pricing model for Solaris 10—free, with support sold separately and an open-source-licensed version on the way—is a bid to "out-free" Red Hat, which offers no freely available version of its enterprise distribution.