Sun to Keep Linux Out of the High End

Sun is adding another Linux piece to its overall product line, but don't confuse that with a strong endorsement for the open-source operating system.

SAN FRANCISCO—Sun Microsystems Inc. is adding another Linux piece to its overall product line, but dont confuse that with a strong endorsement for the open-source operating system.

"We dont offer Linux computers; we offer solutions," said Scott McNealy, Suns chairman, president and CEO, in an interview following the announcement of Suns desktop initiative, Project Mad Hatter, at the Sun Network conference here last week.

"The goal is to ask the customer what problem they want solved," McNealy said. "Customers shouldnt be writing to Solaris or Windows or Linux; they should be writing to the Sun ONE [Open Net Environment]. Linux is a component of this. Thats the big picture." Suns goal for the new, 32-bit Linux workstation, due in the first quarter of next year, is to use it to drive sales of server products running Suns bread and butter, Solaris on SPARC. And officials made clear that Sun will never run Linux on high-end SPARC systems.

"Why would we? Thats not what customers want," said Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of Suns software group, in an interview at the Sun Network event. "Our customers want Solaris at that level."

Schwartz criticized plans by IBM to introduce pSeries servers that run Linux natively, marking the first time IBMs proprietary AIX 5L Unix would not be required to run its top-of-the-line servers. "IBM is abandoning AIX and [hurting] its customer base," he said.

A company spokeswoman in Somers, N.Y., said IBM supports many operating systems but Linux is the fastest-growing. "We are absolutely committed to AIX and have no plans to abandon this powerful operating system. But we are now offering customers the choice of Linux or AIX or both systems on our pSeries servers," she said.