Sun Microsystems Inc. threw down the price gauntlet to Microsoft Corp. customers on Wednesday, offering to cut by half the cost of any Microsoft Software Assurance licensing agreement for the desktop.
“Whatever license Microsoft has presented to a customer, we believe we will be able to offer half off with our equivalent desktop solution in software.
“So, any customer in the middle of negotiating a Software Assurance contract should feel free to contact me and I will be happy to put them in touch with our sales team, who will deliver a competitive bid that is 50 percent of whatever Microsoft offers,” Jonathan Schwartz, Suns executive vice president of software, told eWEEK in an interview Wednesday.
While the offer is largely limited to the desktop, Sun is also willing to discuss some server-side components, like Exchange, he said.
But Schwartz admitted that Suns desktop offering only appeals to a subset of Microsofts Windows desktop customers. “If youre an investment bank bound to Microsoft Excel, our offering is probably not compelling.
“But if you are a manufacturing facility that employs 3,000 workers who infrequently interact with a computer and only need to look at documents sent in Microsoft Word and budgets sent in Microsoft Excel and management presentations sent in Microsoft PowerPoint, or a Web page available through Internet Explorer, we have equivalents available to all of those components,” Schwartz said.
While demand for its desktop solution might not come from traditional large enterprises, many Asian nations and government agencies seeking an alternative to Microsoft will find the cost benefits of its offering compelling, he added.
As expected, Schwartz on Wednesday also gave more details around Suns new Project Orion software strategy—an ambitious plan to build all its Sun ONE software components into its Solaris operating system.
: Suns New Software Strategy”>
The spectrum of software included in Project Orion has Solaris and Linux at the core, with a common Java runtime environment that integrates Web services infrastructure technologies such as application servers and portals; Microsoft-interoperable e-mail and communications; Liberty-enabled directory and identity; Grid engine, streaming media, storage management, availability monitoring technologies and clustering, he said.
“In a year from now, products will be aware of one another and be able to respond to changes in one with appropriate adaptation in others. That kind of system-level functionality is not really in anyones operating system, not even Microsofts.
“We expect to do this at Internet-class scale and for a set of applications that are more horizontal in nature for large-scale service providers, enterprises and ultimately small- and medium-sized businesses,” Schwartz said.
The goal is to deliver the Orion components with Solaris on a DVD, giving customers a number of configuration options, ranging from installing everything to installing just a few select components.
Users will be able to bring up a customized My Configuration panel from which they can make any modifications they feel necessary, including deleting components. “There is already evidence of some of these components today. An application server currently ships with Solaris and customers can elect not to use it and to run one from BEA.
“We expect that level of integration to increase as we move more user-oriented services, like e-mail, calendaring, directory and instant messaging, into the operating system. So we should have a unified management console, which will show up by the end of the year.
“Unified installations, so you dont have to go through 17 different installation acts to make all this stuff work within the same system, will also be featured this year. Were responding to what weve heard from CIOs who are moving away from investing in features towards consolidation, integration and interoperability.
“They have been leaning on Sun to make life simpler for them, so this is a fundamental shift in our software plan and execution going forward,” he said.
Sun will also offer a simple and uniform pricing model. All software will move to one distribution and three licensing models: traditional, predictable and metered, he said.
Sun favors the predictable method, which involves a yearly licensing fee that offers “a dramatic saving on the cost of integrating all these separate elements. This new licensing model also allows us to move away from the chaos around the different licensing terms for portal servers, application servers, e-mail systems and the like.
“No CIO wants to have a random bill that shows up at the end of the month that is dependent on the number of e-mail messages its employees sent. They want predictability, just like Wall Street does,” Schwartz said.
But Sun has not yet firmed up pricing levels, as its still trying to figure out the easiest way to deliver this solution to customers.
While Sun does not believe Project Orion will necessarily help it harvest a lot of new revenue from existing Sun customers, the company does believe Orion will help it drive more revenue against Microsoft and HP, which has “abandoned its Unix in its zeal for Windows, which leaves a lot of customers feeling marooned,” Schwartz said.
Sun plans to deliver Solaris on 64-bit SPARC and on 32-bit X86. “While were agnostic with regard to 32-bit systems, were not agnostic with respect to 64-bit systems,” he said.
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