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By Sean Gallagher  |  Posted 2005-05-10 Print this article Print

At the same time, Sun executives have gone out of the way to promote the companys open-source street cred. At last weeks NC event—as at previous events—Sun CEO Scott McNealy invoked the name of Bill Joy, Suns co-founder, and a long line of open standards backed by the company to show how strong Suns community-based development ties are. "To use something of an Al Gore-ism," McNealy said to his Washington audience, "we invented community [development]." McNealy stated again what Sun executives had said in January—that Solaris 10 would be open-sourced in its entirety at the end of the second quarter of 2005. Loiciano reiterated that OpenSolaris will be released "in the May/June time frame" during our conversation, and pointed to that as evidence of how serious the company is about moving most, if not all, of its software to some sort of open-source project.
Click here for more details on Suns OpenSolaris plans.
"Looking ahead, we are evaluating how much more and how fast we can move more of our code base to an open-source foundation," he said. "When people ask me whether Im going to take any specific [software] open source, I say, Well, we did it with Solaris 10, so what do you think?" Theres a simple reason for Suns emphatic embrace of openness—software licensing, in the long term, isnt the key to the companys long-term business model. In fact, open standards are what Sun is counting on to help it build what McNealy sees as the companys future: computing resources provided as a commodity utility to network-connected customers. "Electricity is a commodity," said McNealy, drawing an analogy between what he hopes will be Suns business and that of General Electric. "But the equipment that makes it isnt." In an echo of the Internet boom, McNealy hopes that his company will be the equipment provider to network and Web services providers as they build a grid of hosted applications and computing resources—like those built by Google, Amazon and eBay. Sun Connection, the banner for Suns emerging networked services offerings, is just the first step Sun is taking toward a world where everything it sells is offered to at least some of its customers as a service. Patch and configuration management services are just the first step in connecting Sun customers to Suns server dial tone—whether Sun hosts it or sells its components wholesale to service providers. So, Sun is embracing open source now for the same reasons IBM and HP have—because theres more money to be made in services than in software licenses. The difference is in the packaging: Suns vision of services, as McNealy puts it, is "any color, as long as its black"—driving the cost of services down through standardization, and leaving it to Sun partners (like the folks in the audience at the Washington event) to do the detailing. With Suns future hitched to providing IT dial tone, Loiciano says that the trend will continue to be for Sun to offer software as free-to-use and/or open source to help drive adoption—and less on Sun charging for licenses. Whether thats a real business model or an attempt to put a good spin on the inevitable is still open to debate. Sean Gallagher is senior editor of Ziff Davis Internets vertical enterprise sites. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.

Sean Gallagher is editor of Ziff Davis Internet's enterprise verticals group. Previously, Gallagher was technology editor for Baseline, before joining Ziff Davis, he was editorial director of Fawcette Technical Publications' enterprise developer publications group, and the Labs managing editor of CMP's InformationWeek. A former naval officer and former systems integrator, Gallagher lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.

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