Difference Between UNIX and Solaris

UNIX is an Operating System (OS) developed by AT&T in 1960s with the intention of providing a multiuser, multitasking system for the programmers. UNIX was designed based on the principle that the simple but powerful utilities could be integrated flexibly to provide a wide range of tasks. However, the term “UNIX” refers more to a class of operating systems (that conform to a certain specification, based on that of the original UNIX operating system) than to a specific implementation of an operating system. Solaris is a commercial variant of UNIX among others like HP-UX and AIX, and bears the UNIX trademark. Originally, it was developed by Sun Microsystems but it is currently owned by the Oracle Corporation. Now, Solaris is known as the Oracle Solaris.


UNIX is an operating system that focuses on providing the programmers a multiuser, multitasking system. The UNIX OS is made up of three major components. The first component is the kernel. Kernel is the core part of the Unix OS. Kernel is simply a large program. When the machine is turned on, it is loaded in to the memory and will handle the allocation of hardware resources. The kernel keeps track of the available hardware such as processors, memory, etc. and maintains the communication with the devices connected. The second component is the standard utility programs, which includes simple utilities like cp (that allows for copying a file) to complex utilities such as shell (that allows the user to issue commands to the OS). The third component is the set of system configuration files. Configuration files are used by the kernel as well as the utility programs. By changing these configuration files, some aspects of the behavior of the kernel and the utility programs could be changed. Unix OS is widely used in workstations, servers as well as mobile devices.


As mentioned earlier, Solaris is a commercial variant of UNIX. It was an early adaptation of UNIX by a commercial startup. Originally developed by the Sun Microsystems, Solaris is currently owned by the Oracle Corporation. Initially, Solaris was tightly coupled with Sun’s SPARC hardware and was marketed as a combined package. Now, Solaris can be used also with x86 based workstations and servers. Vendors like Dell, IBM, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu Siemens support Solaris in their x86 servers. Solaris introduced features such as DTrace, ZFS and Time Slider. Solaris is known for its suitability for symmetric multiprocessing where two or more identical processors are connected to a shared main memory and a single OS instance controls all the processors. Currently, Solaris includes features such as DTrace, Doors, Service Management Facility, Solaris Containers, Solaris Multiplexed I/O, Solaris Volume Manager, ZFS, and Solaris Trusted Extensions.

What is the difference between UNIX and Solaris?

UNIX is an Operating System (OS) and Solaris is an Operating System based on UNIX (a commercial variant of UNIX). But in general, the term “UNIX” refers more to a class of operating systems than to a specific implementation of an operating system. In other words, UNIX is a generic term which describes many different, yet similar operating systems. Solaris is licensed to use the UNIX trademark. Solaris contains features like DTRace and the ZFS file system that is not present in other UNIX implementations. Also, since Solaris is designed specially to work with SPARC systems, using Solaris would result in better performance on SPARC systems than other UNIX implementations. Further, there are other cheaper UNIX-like implementations than Solaris such as Linux. But Solaris is well known for its suitability for symmetric multiprocessing and scalability on SPARC systems. Additionally, Solaris uses POSIX-compliant utilities which are older than the GNU utilities used by Linux and other UNIX-like implementations.