By eweek  |  Posted 2006-03-06 Print this article Print

But how does that affect the bottom line? How does that help Sun make money?

Well, it helps because we have quite a big software portfolio. Answering that question means looking into each individual project. So how do we make money on Solaris? Well, we make money on Solaris by providing what weve always provided, which is excellent support of a high-performance software system.

Where do we make that money on Solaris? Well, we make that money on Solaris from the same sorts of customers who were always big on Solaris—data center customers, large-scale enterprise customers. Going open source for the Solaris market opens up new opportunities for growth. So weve seen a move into the OpenSolaris community recently, with people doing a port to PowerPC. Weve seen people who are taking a GNU operating system and replacing the Linux kernel with a Solaris kernel. These are both things Sun never would have done and are both things that—as they succeed in their individual marketplaces—create new ecosystems where Sun can offer services and support. So, by taking Solaris to OpenSolaris, we sustain our existing business, but we open new opportunities for expansion and growth in the ecosystem thats around OpenSolaris.

Sun says it wont license Solaris under GPL 2.0, and Linux Torvalds says Linux will not migrate to GPL 3.0, closing the door on any chance of co-mingling of code between the two operating systems. Click here to read more.
Yes, but I guess one thing that Im missing is: Arent all those things you mentioned free?

Well, I made this point in the panel just now. Everything is free to somebody in the world of open source. But there is always something people are willing to pay for. And the art of open source is working out what people are willing to pay for.

Just because something is open source and you could change it yourself doesnt mean you want to hire the developers to do that. Just because something is open source and you believe the risk of litigation against you for patent infringement is small, it doesnt mean that every business is going to want to absorb that risk itself. Maybe some companies will want to put a body between theirs and the enemy to take a bullet for them.

Not everybody wants all those things. So you can always find a sample case where it is actually free and there is no profit opportunity. But, equally, you can always find somewhere where there is a profit opportunity for every element of a software proposition.

Which would be services?

So, for some markets, you could classify it as services. Actually, what people classify as services isnt classic services in all cases. So I wouldnt actually say what were doing when we sell Solaris is selling services. What were actually doing is selling a bundle of propositions to customers. We have several different Solaris offerings. They all include indemnity. They all include support of various frequencies. And they all involve an update feature to get patches to you in a timely way. Now, is that a service business? Well, if you look at those value propositions, they are what people were actually paying for when they bought the glossy box before. But now theyre getting the bits free, and theyre paying for the same value that they were paying for before a little later in the process.

So, is that a service business? Well, I dont think that is a classic service business. It isnt a help desk in Bangalore, [India,] answering phone calls. Its actually funding ongoing development by monetizing things customers actually place a value on, rather than by bundling up the whole proposition into a box and assuming customers will know that the value they want is in it somewhere.

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