Ending nearly a year of sometimes cantankerous debate with its users, Sun appeased its Unix customers when it posted on its site a downloadable early-access version of its Solaris 9 operating environment for Intel-based servers and workstations.PALO ALTO - Ending nearly a year of\u00a0sometimes cantankerous debate\u00a0with its users,\u00a0Sun\u00a0appeased its Unix customers when it posted on its site a\u00a0downloadable early-access version\u00a0of its Solaris 9 operating environment for Intel-based servers and workstations.In posting the early-access version of Solaris 9 12\/02 X86 Platform Edition, the company ended a prolonged debate with its users over whether Solaris should be available on Intel platforms as well as SPARC systems.Sun sparked the debate in January, when it announced plans to halt work on the Intel version of Solaris 9, choosing to focus instead on developing the new operating system only for its own UltraSPARC processors. The action snubbed users' desire to run the most current Solaris operating system on less-expensive Intel servers and workstations. Users reacted by advertising of Sun's malfeasance in the San Jose Mercury News, asking the company to respond. In October, Sun announced it would ship Solaris 9 on X86 platforms."I was a pretty unhappy camper," says John Groenveld, associate research engineer for the Applied Research Laboratory at The Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa. "Sun's management now understands that it has an obligation to its customers to provide Solaris on Intel platforms."Groenveld is one of the most outspoken users pushing Sun to package Solaris 9 on X86 systems. In the Applied Research Laboratory, he has six SPARC-based servers and 20 Intel servers that run Solaris 8, Sun's previous version.Solaris 9 for the X86 platform has the same features as its SPARC-based counterpart, which was released in May 2002. These features include an integrated iPlanet Directory Server; Kerberos and Secure Shell support; Solaris Volume Manager; software for controlling and allocating systems resources; and increased performance for large, multithreaded applications. "This is a great first step for Sun," Groenveld says. "One of the best things about Solaris X86 is it allows people who live in a SPARC shop at work to have the same development environment at home or in their office on Intel systems." Groenveld is one of those users. He develops code on an X86-based laptop in his office for deployment on the SPARC- and Intel-based servers in the laboratory.Solaris 9 12\/02 X86 Platform Edition runs on a variety of Intel-based machines and Sun's LX50 server.A commercial version is expected to ship this month for $100, company sources say.