Sun Linux No Threat to Rivals

Microsoft, IBM unfazed by Sun's expanded endorsement of open-source OS.

Sun Microsystems Inc.s new attitude toward Linux isnt causing Microsoft Corp. or IBM to lose any sleep. Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif., took aim at the two software companies earlier this month, announcing an expanded commitment to Linux across its product line.

"This announcement is more about Microsoft than anything else. We want to bring the two non-Microsoft communities together," said Sun President and Chief Operating Officer Ed Zander at the announcement. "This is a win for those customers ... looking for an alternative to both IBM and Microsoft."

Dan Powers, vice president of Linux solutions worldwide for IBM, in Somers, N.Y., said the company does not feel threatened. IBM recorded 120,000 competitive Linux server wins last year, both from Sun and Microsoft, and has recouped most of the $1 billion it invested in Linux last year through sales of Linux hardware, middleware, services and software, Powers said.

"Sun comes into this market two years behind us from a Linux implementation perspective," he said.

Microsoft is also undeterred, said Michael Goulde, a product manager for the Windows .Net server group in Redmond, Wash. "Linux poses a long-term challenge to Windows, but our approach has been to stick with our Windows on Intel strategy," Goulde said, adding that Suns plan for the line of servers would "cannibalize" its UltraSPARC low-end blade servers.

"Sun is threatened on two fronts: Linux is taking business away from Solaris, and Intel [Corp.] is taking business away from SPARC," Goulde said. "Sun used to be regarded as a technology and operating system leader, and now theyre just becoming a follower."

That theory is borne out by customers. Financial services company E-Trade Group Inc., of New York, recently dumped its Solaris servers in favor of Linux. E-Trade Chief Technology Officer Joshua Levine has replaced a big chunk of the companys middleware servers and one Web server string dedicated to an open architecture running Linux. "Open systems and open standards give us more performance for the same or less money," Levine said.

Suns own customers are skeptical. "Sun announces so many things that dont come to fruition that I usually wait a while to see if its going to work out," said Joe Furmanski, manager of systems and planning at UPMC Health System, in Pittsburgh, citing Suns "ever-changing" storage strategy. "I think well have to watch and see if theyre serious and do anything to make their posturing credible," Furmanski said.

Another Sun customer agreed. "The proof will come over time as to whether Sun demonstrates a commitment to Linux," said Tom Miller, senior director of corporate IS at Affymetrix Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif., and an eWeek Corporate Partner.

Additional reporting by Ken Popovich