Sun Seeks Linux Customers

Updated: The vendor is punching up its global and channel strategies as a countermove to keep customers on its Solaris operating system.

Sun Microsystems, fighting hard to stem the tide of migrations off its Solaris operating system, is now aggressively moving to try and lure customers off Red Hat Linux, IBMs AIX and Hewlett-Packards HP-UX, to Solaris 10.

As part of this initiative, the firm has struck deals with three global system integrators based in India—Satyam Computer Technologies, Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro—to provide the services, tools and support customers need to migrate their Linux or proprietary Unix data center environments to Solaris 10.

These latest deals are in addition to similar ones Sun has with U.S. partners like Accenture and EDS.

"We are seeing increasing demand from customers wanting to move away from proprietary operating systems like AIX and HP-UX to Solaris 10," Tom Goguen, Suns vice president of software marketing, told eWEEK.

The battle for Unix customers is not new, with IBM, HP and Red Hat all previously pushing Unix to Linux migration plans for customers and ISVs alike.

Those migration plans to Linux have hurt profitability for Sun, say analysts such as Brent Bracelin at Pacific Crest Securities. Bracelin argues that Sun will have trouble turning a profit in 2006 unless it dramatically reduces costs. One of the big reasons for that prognosis: Sun loses key maintenance revenue as customers migrate away from Unix toward Linux. For instance, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and ETrade have both reported significant cost savings by going toward Linux.

On Jan. 24, Sun reported revenue of $6 billion for the six months ending Dec. 25, up from $5.5 billion a year earlier. The company, however, lost $346 million in the same period, compared to $129 million. Bracelin argues that Suns second quarter results, which resulted in a loss of $223 million, would have looked much worse if it werent for the acquisition of storage giant StorageTek.

Click here to read more on IBM and HPs plans to lure customers off Solaris and onto Linux.

To turn around its fortunes and stem Linux defections, Sun released Solaris 10 as a free download a year ago. Goguen said that since then some 4 million Solaris licenses have been issued, with more than two-thirds of these running on non-Sun x86 commodity hardware.

"We are still seeing more than 10,000 downloads of the software every day. I think a year ago no one would have guessed that wed have distributed more than 4 million Solaris 10 licenses a year later," he said.

With regard to OpenSolaris, there are now more than 11,000 registered community members, and there have been some 28,000 downloads and some 27 groups working on projects for the software.

"There are also some 30 kickbacks that we are starting to use in the mainstream of the operating system," Goguen said.

Customer migrations off Linux and proprietary Unix will also go beyond just the data center, as "when you migrate this you end up in the stack and its really at that level," he said, before launching a scathing attack on the companys competitors in the space.

The ability to offer global support and services is critical and the Linux vendors fell short on this front, Goguen said. While IBM had the resources and ability to provide those things in the ways enterprise customers wanted, it was not the Linux operating system vendor.

"Right now Red Hat does not have the ability to provide that level of service and support to its customers, while Novells SUSE does not have the predominant Linux distribution that all the major vendors are certifying their software to," he said.

Goguen said there is growing concern among some Linux customers, who are starting to leverage some of these services, about the ability of the Linux vendors to deliver the worldwide service required at an enterprise-class level. "Sun has a proven track record of doing this," he said.

But those comments stand in contrast to deals that Red Hat and Novell have made with global service powerhouses like IBM.

In December, IBM said it had elevated both Red Hat and Novell to highest-tier partner status by making them members of its Strategic Alliance program.

Mark Elliott, the general manager of global solution sales and distribution at IBM, said at the time that the move would make it simpler for clients to acquire open standards-based Linux hardware, software and services through integrated and streamlined sales, distribution and services channels.

Also, last August, Novell and HP announced an integrated, tested and validated solution for HPC (high-performance computing) that has both HP and Novell support.

Next Page: Making Solaris easy.