Sun Microsystems decision to extend its Java Enterprise System to Windows- and HP-UX-based servers should give IT managers a healthy dose of platform independence—the kind that many have been demanding for years.
Its another step for Sun down the path of open and cross-platform software. Its a path that promises choice for users and perhaps a return to prosperity for Sun—if the company can maintain a steady course. By making JES more attractive to a wider set of companies, it will be in a better position to sell that technology to non-Sun shops, since these companies will no longer be forced to scrap their infrastructure, thus saving implementation costs and hassles.
We commend this move because we believe customers should be able to choose an application platform without worrying about wholesale changes in their data centers and on clients desktops.
The move also increases competitive pressure on Microsoft, which will face the availability of a solid set of competing tools on its Windows environment. Microsoft, we trust, will be spurred to address the issues of reliability, scalability and security—the very criteria on which Windows is weakest today.
While we applaud Suns efforts to broaden consumer choice, Sun must remember to follow through on its promises and continue to increase the accessibility of its core software. As we have seen too often among technology vendors, promising something and delivering on that promise are entirely different things.
If past behavior is any guide, Sun may be tempted to dumb down the Windows versions of JES to create a clear marketing line between its midrange and high-end solutions. We saw this before when Sun introduced Intel- and AMD-based servers. In another example, we recall Suns on-again, off-again, on-again support of Solaris for Intel. The companys attitude toward Linux was similarly plagued by ambivalence for years.
Solid backing for cross-platform JES is vital. IT should have the freedom to choose platforms, not just the freedom to start with Windows and finish with a forklift upgrade to Solaris SPARC.
Further, we continue encouraging Sun to work with other Java platform contributors toward offering developers a top-tier open-source Java implementation. This would complement the openness of the Java Community Process, inviting creativity and promoting ubiquity.
As we have seen in yesteryears network operating system wars, the hearts and minds of developers are the keys to market dominance. Any doubters should recall the fate of Novell, which lost its hold on the LAN market it pioneered, despite having technology that was more mature and feature-rich than its developer-friendly Windows conquerors.
Through broader platform support; its Linux strategy; and, we hope, an open-source initiative for Java, Sun has a fighting chance to become the development platform of choice.
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