Solaris 10: Sun Struts Its Stuff, Details New Opportunities

Calling Solaris 10 the "biggest thing Sun has done in the past nine years," executives say the company is getting back to its roots.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Sun executives took attendees for a trip down memory lane Monday as they unveiled the companys upcoming Solaris 10 operating system.

Speaking at Suns quarterly Network Computing event here at the Tech Museum of Innovation, Suns CEO and chairman Scott McNealy said Solaris 10 would be available in the first quarter of 2005.

"Solaris 10 is the biggest thing Sun has done in the past nine years, pretty much since our first SPARC hardware launch," McNealy said, quipping that he had turned 50 over the weekend, which was why he used notes rather than speaking from memory like other executives to take the stage, including John Loiacono, the senior vice president for software, and Jonathan Schwartz, Suns president and chief operating officer.

"With Solaris 10, we are getting back to our core base, the developer base and the community around the operating system and the applications built on top of it. Our strategy has paid off big time, and over 23 years, there are not many companies who have been able to put as much cash in the piggybank as we have," McNealy said.

On the platform side, it was Microsoft .Net versus Java on the Web services front, McNealy said, adding that Sun had "gone 15 years cash flow-positive on an operating basis, and we dont have an unfunded pension scheme," he said.

Early on, Sun had taken a big bet on open interfaces, a move that was not popular with the financial analysts who supported customer lock-in. Sun was also the first company to offer an open operating environment with BSD, McNealy said, adding that the first computer the company ever shipped had TCP/IP and every computer since then has shipped with this.

Another big bet was on microelectronics, which was unique at the time given that IBM was doing mainframes. "We bet big-time on RISC and bet the whole company on this, and a lot of the cash we now have in the bank is because of that bet," he said, showing the Niagara chip, which uses less than 2 watts a thread and "will put some more dough in the bank."

Sun was also the No. 2 donor of code to the open-source community after Berkeley Labs. "People ask if open source will hurt us, but we have been sharing and cooperating with the community for a long, long time," he said.

Sun and Microsoft have a "surprisingly strong relationship," and next month Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates and Sun chief technology officer Greg Papadopoulos will be on an analyst call to discuss the ways the two companies are partnering, he said, adding that this would be of great interest to customers and analysts.

Indicating an evolution of the companies interoperability work, the two vendors are focusing on linking their respective directory servers—Suns Java Enterprise LDAP Directory and Microsofts Active Directory—to provide single-sign-on capabilities for companies using both servers.

Turning to Java and the Java Community Process, McNealy said there are 20 billion-plus Java devices out there and not a single virus. Sun had been doing community development for a long time and felt it had to make a choice between security and open software, he said. Sun did not believe that customers had to make a choice, and Sun was indemnifying all of the open-source and community-generated code that was used in its products.

He also turned to the issue of intellectual property rights and the concerns around this, turning to the way the movie industry is now going after illegal downloads, much as the music industry has done. "Customers need to use a software provider with cash in the bank, who protects and indemnifies them and will look out for their interests," McNealy said.

Sun had also said five years ago that software would become free. Sun could live with that model as it had many ways to lower the barrier to entry for developers, McNealy said.

Next Page: Schwartz says increased performance is Solaris major goal.