Recently, Sun Microsystems Inc. hosted its annual analyst conference in San Francisco. The company faces high-end competition from IBM Global Services and low-end competition from companies including Dell Computer Corp. offering clustered systems running the Linux operating system. While not dismissive of the threats posed by the competition, Sun President Scott McNealy in a one-hour interview with eWEEK Editor-in-Chief Eric Lundquist and Labs Director John Taschek contended that the company is poised to capitalize on the research and development efforts launched over the past several years.
eWEEK: What is the message Sun is bringing to its customers this year?
McNealy: We are taking the complexity out [of computing] through research and development. Also, this is a solid company financially, market-position-wise, technologywise, pipelinewise and all the rest it.
eWEEK: One way you are trying to reduce that complexity as you mentioned at the conference is NC03? Can you explain what that is?
McNealy: Automobile manufacturers dont launch a new paint job one week, a new tire the next week and a new transmission the week after that. We were launching a new portal one week, a directory upgrade the next week, and it seemed every week we were launching something new. So we said, “What if we were to put it all together, test it all and certify it once a quarter?” Were giving people not model years like the automobile industry where I came from, but model quarters. NC03 is the first. When you put all these pieces together, you are simplifying it for IT and you are making a better product. The second thing were doing is putting practices around the product including the IForce centers, financing and contracting.
McNealy: The IForce Development Center creates the bill of materials, the customer ready center manufactures it in our factory and puts in the third-party hardware and software and tests it. The SunTone certification actually puts it in a data center. N1 are the tools used to manage it, and Sun ONE is the platform you write to. We do the whole life cycle.
eWEEK: IBM will do the whole life cycle through outsourcing and IBM Global Services.
McNealy: For IBM, everything is IBM Global Services. Global services is the hammer, and complexity is the nail. They want complexity. If you are going to outsource, I think you have to go to a technology-independent supplier. Every one of these [outsourcing] deals has a get-well plan, but it is a get-well plan for IBM, not for the customer.
eWEEK: Is Unix a fading operating system?
McNealy: Unix is dead? Oh, spare me.
eWEEK: Where does Unix end and Linux start in the enterprise? When should a customer choose one over the other?
McNealy: The corporate answer is, “We dont care.”
eWEEK: Dell is offering clustered Linux on Intel boxes. How do you match their capabilities and channel?
McNealy: Dell doesnt touch their Linux servers. They dont manufacture them. Intel supplies them to Dell through an Asian manufacturer. Then Dell has to go out and buy Red Hat [Linux], and then Dell has to go out and buy an app server, then buy a directory and then subcontract service and support. I dont know how they can be cheaper.
eWEEK: But the conventional wisdom is Dell is less expensive and Sun as good, but expensive systems.
McNealy: The Gartner data that just came out in the under $100,000 server segment showed we grew faster than Dell last year.
eWEEK: Could you describe your Mad Hatter desktop project?
McNealy: We call it a fit client, which is neither thin nor fat. We start with a whole bunch of software from the open-source world including the Linux kernal, Mozilla browser, Star Office desktop suite and GNOME user interface. We use our software release expertise and build a complete software stack, then we grab an off-the-shelf white box, and you are ready to go with a Microsoft free desktop.
McNealy: This spring.
eWEEK: And a laptop?
McNealy: That also.
eWEEK: Stock analysts continue to be skeptical, and your stock price has withered. How do you deal with that criticism?
McNealy: It was our turn. Im going to be forever known as the “Daddy I shrunk the stock price” guy.
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