In a major strategy shift, Sun Microsystems Inc. officials said it will stop offering its own customized version of Linux and will instead turn to several other standard Linux distributions.
"Yes, this is a change in strategy. Our Sun Linux distribution is essentially Red Hat Linux with a few minor tweaks," John Loiacono, vice president of Suns operating platforms group, told reporters at a "town hall" meeting in San Francisco Friday morning. "But our customers told us they didnt want a standard distribution that had some tweaks, so I decided to fix the problem by simply supporting between two and four standard Linux distributions, though I have not as yet decided which these will be.
"Im currently talking to the Linux vendors and hope that this move will happen as soon as possible," said Loiacono.
Loiacono added that Linux provider Red Hat "would be a logical partner" and that Sun would ensure compatibility with the spectrum of products offered by the vendors selected.
Jonathan Schwartz, Suns executive vice president of software, was more specific, saying that Sun hoped to be able to run the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server binaries as well as those from UnitedLinux on commodity x86 hardware "as best we can."
"Enterprises now realize that they are writing to a distribution, not to Linux in general. What works on Red Hat Advanced Server will not work on SuSE Linux," Schwartz said.
Loiacono said Sun is committed to ensuring that its customers could run their Linux applications entirely unmodified on Solaris under its Project Orion initiative.
Project Orion, which was first reported by eWEEK in late December, essentially involves integrating all the component pieces of the Sun ONE stack into Solaris over the next few years.
The first version of Orion will be released by the end of this year and will initially have some 10 key components, including application, portal and Web servers, clustering, messaging and identification, all of which will be well-integrated, Loiacono said.
Asked how attractive Solaris on x86 hardware would be in comparison to Linux on x86, Schwartz said there are several million copies of Solaris on Intel.
"For generalized server-side infrastructure, we believe we are in the right place. But this is less about being a race between us and the major Linux vendors and more about the combined effect it has on [Microsoft] Windows," Schwartz said. There is little doubt that the notion of "Linux and free have gone away. Red Hats pricing model now makes that clear," he said.
"[Project Orion] is the single biggest shift in our software strategy in a decade. In essence, we are integrating all our system software into Solaris, resulting in a reduction in complexity," Schwartz said.
This will mean a change in pricing. All software will move to one distribution and three licensing models: traditional, predictable and metered.
"Hopefully, this will put some pressure on our chief competitor to deliver a more palatable licensing model," Schwartz said, referring to Microsofts unpopular Licensing 6.0 and Software Assurance plan, which was implemented last year.
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