Sun Pursues Infrastructure Mission

The company's executives discuss open source, the role of developers, and the advantage of multi-platform hardware.

MENLO PARK, Calif.— The biggest industry trend in the IT sector is the move from the Internet world to the participation age, said Scot McNealy, CEO and chairman of Sun Microsystems.

Speaking on Feb. 24, the 24th birthday of the firm, at its annual media summit held at its campus here, McNealy said the closed, proprietary technology model was giving way to open technologies, open source, open interfaces and community development, or any combination of these.

"We have had open-source implementations and open hardware interfaces and many of our technologies have been developed in a community process. This eliminates the barrier to entry and minimizes the barrier to exit, which is huge for customers on [IBM] mainframes or Windows systems," he said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about Suns attempts to migrate Linux and Unix customers, click here.

Another big trend is managing the "custom jalopy Frankenstein data center" that each of Suns customers had developed, as it would take as long to unravel these proprietary "hairball systems" as it did to create them, McNealy said.

"Consolidation is also another big trend," he added, taking a swipe at Hewlett-Packard by saying, "at some point you cant OEM all the parts and call yourself a manufacturer."

With regard to the move away from the "Internet age" to the participation age, in which instant messaging, blogging, e-mail and podcasting are the norm, McNealy said this move was a good and positive thing and would enhance all forms of media.

Suns whole mission is about providing the infrastructure that drives that participation age, he said.

"Our tag line always has been, is, and will remain for some time going forward, that the network is the computer. If we added 3 million people to the Internet every week for the next three years, three-quarters of them would still be on the wrong side of the digital divide," McNealy said.

The strategy is all about sharing, open source and open infrastructure, he said, adding that financially the company is doing "just fine … we are struggling to tell this story, particularly as cash and profits seem to be a diverging thing n the world of accounting today."

Sun is doing $2.2 billion dollars worth of research and development a year, which brings pricing advantages with it, McNealy said, adding that Sun is also the most partnered company in the world because all of its interfaces are open.

Next Page: Suns new CFO talks open source.