There’s nothing quite like spending your day working on a ten-year-old OS to really make you appreciate how far Linux has come.
We have a couple of legacy apps running under Solaris 7. While there’s active development of the next generation of these systems, which will be on a more modern platform, I meanwhile have to do my best to keep these systems healthy and happy. To this end, we’ve acquired a couple of identical servers, on which I am doing various recovery tests and preparing them to be hot-standbys.
Now, Solaris 7 was a fine, fine operating system. In 1998, when it was released. It had lots of cool stuff like support for 64-bit architectures and all that jazz. And back when it came out, there really were only a few “serious” Unix platforms to choose from. If you were an enterprise-level project, you were either going to be on Solaris, HP-UX, or AIX (or, heaven forbid, Windows NT). You could use a BSD variant if you were a purist or working in an academic setting, but the corporate use of it was pretty small. And then there was Linux…
I distinctly remember a guy we hired for tech support back around this time, who fancied himself a bit of a “leet hacker dood”. He complained bitterly to me that we *ought* to be using Linux instead of Solaris, and I said, “Linux is a toy. It’s interesting to play with, but it’s nowhere near ready for commercial use.”
Looking back, I stand by that statement. At the time, Linux *was* a toy OS, and it lacked both the tools and the support necessary to make it a viable option for business use. And it’s sobering to realise how far we’ve come in such a short time. Today, $EMPLOYER is primarily a Linux shop, with only a handful of Sun servers remaining, and those are being aggressively phased out. We rely heavily on Open Source software, something that would have been dreamt of just 10 years ago.
Of course, the commercial Internet itself is only 15 years or so old at this time. (You can’t really pin a precise date on when the Internet shifted from a mostly-educational network to a mostly-commercial network, but I recall things really starting to explode in late 1994 to early 1995, when commercial ISPs started to really proliferate and national media attention began to run countless stories on it. So 1995 is generally the year I consider the modern Internet to have been born.)
Working on this project this morning does remind me that I wouldn’t want to go back to this level of tech on a regular basis. The tools really *have* improved that much, but I admit I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the early days, when everything seemed possible and it was all so new and exciting.