Sun Microsystems Inc.s long struggle to return to profitability hasnt shaken the loyalty of Solaris system integrators to the companys computer architecture—or to its future.
"I have great faith in the Sun software architecture," said Victor Schrader, president of Schrader & Associates LLC, a systems integrator and developer of secure messaging systems and client/server applications in San Diego, Calif. This will encourage customers to keep working with Sun equipment even as the company faces increasing pressure from shareholders to start turning profits again, he said.
Schrader said he thinks the Sun Solaris architecture running on either SPARC or Intel processors is superior to comparable Intel architectures running Unix, Linux or Windows.
"I dont dislike Intel hardware-wise. I just believe Sun has got far better reliability," he said. The best thing that Sun might do, Schrader suggested, is make a renewed push to support the Solaris architecture on Intel. Being able to develop systems that run equally well with Solaris both on Intel and on SPARC "would be a killer architecture," Schrader said.
"I think they are making some progress in getting back on track. But Im not convinced myself that they have made all the management changes" that Sun needs to start growing again, Schrader said. A greater danger, he said, is that Sun could become a takeover candidate if it doesnt get its house in order soon.
Schrader said Sun has good people at the top with the likes of Jonathan Schwartz, its newly appointed president and chief operating officer, along with top technologists such as John Gage, Suns chief researcher; and James Gosling, Sun fellow and the father of Java. But he said it seems that Sun could use sharper upper-level managers to execute its market and technology visions.
Schrader said he wouldnt speculate on whether it might be time to replace Scott McNealy, Sun chairman and CEO. Suns market is complex, he said, and the company should get the time it needs to show whether its latest management restructuring will work.
The huge infusion of cash from the recent $1.6 billion settlement of an antitrust and patent lawsuit against Microsoft will give Sun plenty of time to restore the business to health, said Steven Johnson, a Solaris and Unix system consultant in Tacoma, Wash.
"I think the Microsoft settlement has put a little more wind in their sails," said Johnson, president of the Tacoma and Puget Sound Co., which provides network administration and storage network management services to corporate clients in the Tacoma area.
Johnson said his corporate clients tend to use a lot of Sun servers and storage equipment in their IT centers and that hes seen no sign of a mass migration to other vendors.
"I do see that IBM is making some inroads and [Hewlett-Packard Co.] as well" on the Unix platform, Johnson said. But Sun remains dominant in the data processing centers he works with. Lower-end Windows servers such as those sold by Dell Inc. havent made substantial inroads into corporate data centers, he said. "I havent seen that in the low-end server market," Johnson said, "but there is a little buzz about them."
After Suns recent settlement with Microsoft, some of his employees "came up with crazy idea that Microsoft would port some of their software over to Solaris or to SPARC architecture," Johnson said. While that development might seem unlikely, they still think its a good idea, he said.