Sun May Open Windows

Sun is considering porting Java Enterprise to Windows.

Sun Microsystems Inc. may bow to pressure from customers and partners to broaden the platform base of its Java Enterprise System software.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company is considering porting the software, which takes all the components of the Sun Open Net Environment software stack and integrates them into Solaris, to other platforms over the next year, including Windows, AIX and HP-UX, sources close to the company said last week.

While declining to comment specifically on platform issues, Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of Suns software group, may be ready for a change of heart about Windows.

"The world is a very diverse place, and we have to recognize that diversity," Schwartz said. "Realistically, developers write code on desktops, and so if were expecting to appeal to those developers in the construction of these shared network services, we are going to have to make sure we meet them where they are rather than where we ultimately want them to be."

Sun announced Java Enterprise System and Java Desktop System at its Sun Network user conference in September. They will be available next month individually at $100 per user per year or at $150 per user per year for both. The current Java Enterprise System licensing agreement specifies that the product must run on Sun-branded systems, either SPARC or Suns commodity x86 hardware systems.

Schwartzs acknowledgment that Sun may have to target the Windows customer and developer base echoes what its partners, customers and industry analysts have been saying since the company announced the Java systems.

"Customers, partners and Wall Street are sending Sun a strong message that any strategy which does not include the Windows platform is not really an open strategy," said Rob Mock, president and CEO of solution provider Dewpoint Inc., in Lansing, Mich. "So, from a macro level, having Windows included really validates the whole interoperability play. Sun has so far really not been walking its talk in that regard."

Mock said any move toward Windows "would be a good thing. So much of the small and medium enterprise is dominantly a Windows community. Trying to sell them Solaris is no easy task."

Until now, many users have viewed the Java Enterprise System software as a veiled attempt by Sun to sell more of its own hardware, Mock said. But if Sun is serious about porting to Windows, the move would enable customers to redeploy existing applications and would create a lot of value for companies, he said.

When Sun announced Java Enterprise System, it said the product would initially support only Sun systems. In addition, the $100-per-user price did not include a license for the Solaris or Linux operating systems.

Sun officials said at that time that if potential Windows or non-Solaris Unix customers using Intel Corp.-based systems wanted to migrate, they would have to obtain a Solaris x86 license and then buy the Java Enterprise license.

"If they are running anything other than Solaris or Linux on it, then we cant help them," said John Loiacono, vice president of Suns operating platforms group.

Java Enterprise System will run on Solaris 9 and will be available this month for Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server 2.1. It will also eventually support Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server 3.

Sun is also evaluating SuSE Linux AGs server offerings, Loiacono said, and Sun is integrating SuSE Linux into its Java Desktop System.

But, should Sun decide not to port Java Enterprise System to Windows, it could lose many potential customers who use Windows. It also faces concerns about its financial future.

A potential Sun customer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he is worried about Suns financial viability going forward. "The threat of maybe having to replace my entire software infrastructure should Sun be bought or ultimately disappear is a chilling one and not something I want to face," he said.

Suns Schwartz said prospective and current customers and partners have nothing to worry about. "Our commitment to [the two Java systems] is unwavering, as it is the future of Sun Microsystems," he said. "We will exit the delivery of point products to deliver this system. Customers want to buy systems, not parts."