Schwartz Seeks to Clarify Suns Linux Strategy

Sun software exec expands on comments he made in a recent interview with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli.

Jonathan Schwartz, the executive vice president of software at Sun Microsystems Inc., has been swamped with requests for him to clarify and expand some of the comments he made in a recent interview with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli. Here are his expanded thoughts about the companys Linux strategy, its Solaris operating system, its support for the open-source Linux operating system and its indemnification policies.

Our Linux Strategy

The issue that keeps me, and our customers up at night isnt whether we have a Linux strategy—it is whether we have a Java and Web services strategy. Customers ask me all the time "where should I be building applications and developing skills?" C or Posix dont make any sense as a target, at least for enterprise applications. Java and Web services do make sense—for obvious reasons. Firstly, theyre portable, based an open standards (rather than standards determined by volume distribution—which is the problem the Linux community is increasingly facing as dominant distributions move in directions the community doesnt want. Secondly, because theyre open standards, you can move applications from one suppliers implementations to any other. Open standards enable substitutability—and competition. Markets determined by volume alone are subject to tipping—witness Windows, and what happened with the browser world. Because Microsoft was the dominant supplier, it controlled the market, and now its telling the world which Web sites will render in IE, hiding behind the Eolas suit. No amount of standards can influence the Windows world—the Java world works differently. Participants agree to a standard, then we ship it.


Tipping is already occurring in the Linux world, and I am worried about it. For example, personally, Im a big fan of Debian—I think it tries to keep the industry honest. But I dont see any enterprise ISVs qualifying to/supporting it, which removes it as an alternative for those whove grown tired of price increases from dominant distributors. Ive watched a couple enterprise customers try to move to Debian, and fail for lack of ISV support. So now those customers are stuck. But again, this is the server—the clients a different matter (see below).

We have our own operating system, its called Solaris.

I know this statement bothers some in the community. Back in 1993, the world told us to abandon Solaris for Windows, that Microsoft would take over the world. We disappointed Wall Street and some customers by staying our course with Unix, with Solaris. Thankfully, we didnt blink. You cant even name the companies that did—they no longer exist. So were doubling down on Solaris, and focusing on adding value and innovation. Were one of the three remaining operating systems in the world that runs on 32-bit and 64-bit systems.

But thats not an exclusive contribution. Remember, Sun founded itself on open source using BSD. We totally believe that open-source development can foster a wellspring of innovation and community—weve built our company on the premise (remember NFS). This does not mean that everything can or should be open source. Sun continues to pursue a hybrid model in which we use and contribute to open source when that solves customer problems—we are a massive contributor to the open-source community, and well continue to innovate with our own IP. Theyre not in conflict.

Having our own operating system gives us the ability to solve customer problems using the best technology available and be agile to as well as drive industry changes. We can guarantee road maps, ship dates, and predictability and ISV support. Enterprise customers who come to Sun get the best-supported products and can take advantage of open source, and packaged products without concern.

And for those that want either Red Hat or SuSE, were happy to supply it—but our role is as a supplier/reseller. Well deliver our products atop them where customers seek it, and absolutely add value to help promote Linux and Solaris as an alternative to the Windows world—but our operating system investments will target Solaris, on Intels 32-bit x86 instruction set, on AMDs 64-bit Athlon/Opteron, and on Suns 64-bit Sparc.

Unlike IBM, we will not move away from having our own operating system. We believe that in so doing, in effectively end of lifeing AIX by not shipping it on x86, IBM has left itself exposed to the dominant distribution, whose objectives arent necessarily aligned with IBMs. On Intel, then, its down to Microsoft, Solaris and Linux.

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