Sun Linux No Threat to Rivals

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2002-02-18 Print this article Print

Microsoft, IBM unfazed by Sun's expanded endorsement of open-source OS.

Sun Microsystems Inc.s new attitude toward Linux isnt causing Microsoft Corp. or IBM to lose any sleep. Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., took aim at the two software companies earlier this month, announcing an expanded commitment to Linux across its product line.

"This announcement is more about Microsoft than anything else. We want to bring the two non-Microsoft communities together," said Sun President and Chief Operating Officer Ed Zander at the announcement. "This is a win for those customers ... looking for an alternative to both IBM and Microsoft."

Dan Powers, vice president of Linux solutions worldwide for IBM, in Somers, N.Y., said the company does not feel threatened. IBM recorded 120,000 competitive Linux server wins last year, both from Sun and Microsoft, and has recouped most of the $1 billion it invested in Linux last year through sales of Linux hardware, middleware, services and software, Powers said.

"Sun comes into this market two years behind us from a Linux implementation perspective," he said.

Microsoft is also undeterred, said Michael Goulde, a product manager for the Windows .Net server group in Redmond, Wash. "Linux poses a long-term challenge to Windows, but our approach has been to stick with our Windows on Intel strategy," Goulde said, adding that Suns plan for the line of servers would "cannibalize" its UltraSPARC low-end blade servers.

"Sun is threatened on two fronts: Linux is taking business away from Solaris, and Intel [Corp.] is taking business away from SPARC," Goulde said. "Sun used to be regarded as a technology and operating system leader, and now theyre just becoming a follower."

That theory is borne out by customers. Financial services company E-Trade Group Inc., of New York, recently dumped its Solaris servers in favor of Linux. E-Trade Chief Technology Officer Joshua Levine has replaced a big chunk of the companys middleware servers and one Web server string dedicated to an open architecture running Linux. "Open systems and open standards give us more performance for the same or less money," Levine said.

Suns own customers are skeptical. "Sun announces so many things that dont come to fruition that I usually wait a while to see if its going to work out," said Joe Furmanski, manager of systems and planning at UPMC Health System, in Pittsburgh, citing Suns "ever-changing" storage strategy. "I think well have to watch and see if theyre serious and do anything to make their posturing credible," Furmanski said.

Another Sun customer agreed. "The proof will come over time as to whether Sun demonstrates a commitment to Linux," said Tom Miller, senior director of corporate IS at Affymetrix Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif., and an eWeek Corporate Partner.

Additional reporting by Ken Popovich

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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