Sun is mapping out near-term improvements to its Solaris Unix operating system that include enhanced security and network performance.

The next version of Solaris will feature role-based access control and provide for compartmentalized instances of the OS via "trusted containers," according to Mark Tolliver, chief strategy officer and executive vice president for marketing and strategy at Sun.

Tolliver was speaking during a keynote presentation at the SunNetwork conference in San Francisco. Tolliver referred to the next version as "Solaris Next," but it actually will be called Solaris 10, a Sun representative said.

Trusted containers will provide security and fault isolation, he said. "It's really a straightforward approach. We configure a trusted container with one set of commands, deploy it to a particular server, and run it," Tolliver said.

As many as 4,000 containers can be run on a system. The net result is boosts in server utilization and lower operating costs, according to Tolliver. Accompanying trusted containers is a virtualization of the file system to support multiple applications, according to Sun officials.

Additionally, features of Sun's Trusted Solaris, a highly secure version of the OS for applications such as military and government use, will be rolled into Solaris 10. It is uncertain whether Trusted Solaris will continue as a separate product, the Sun representative said. Solaris 10 is due to ship in 2004.

Network performance is to be improved in Solaris via the TCP/IP stack, Tolliver said. "We're actually now targeting to give wire-speed network performance in our new versions of Solaris" to provide for a tenfold increase in TCP/IP performance, he said.

Also planned for Solaris 10 is advanced tracing, to boost troubleshooting.