Sun Shakes Up Software Strategy

Java enterprise system favors sun hardware.

Sun Microsystems Inc. may have launched bold new software and pricing strategies to take on Windows and Linux, but its still keeping close ties to its hardware platforms.

At its SunNetwork user conference here last week, Sun unveiled Sun Java System, consisting of Java Enterprise System and Java Desktop System, which will be available individually at $100 per user per year or for both at $150 per user per year. Pricing includes migration assistance, services and support.

What Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy and Jonathan Schwartz, Suns executive vice president for software, did not tout is that Java Enterprise System is a pure Sun hardware play—for either SPARC or its commodity x86 hardware systems. And it will not, for now at least, support non-Sun systems. In addition, the $100-per-user price does not include a license for the Solaris or Linux operating systems, officials said.

Java Enterprise System is "the layer above the operating system," said John Loiacono, vice president of Suns operating platforms group, in Santa Clara, Calif. "On the server side, we look at the layers and license the operating system as part of the server hardware, but the $100 charge is for the stack above it. On the desktop side, its all packaged together."

Loiacono said if potential Windows or non-Solaris Unix customers using Intel Corp.-based systems wanted to migrate, they would first have to get 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," Loiacono said.

Java Enterprise System will run on Solaris 9 and in November will be available for Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server 2.1. It will eventually support Red Hat Linux Enterprise Advanced Server 3 when that is released, expected next month.

Sun is evaluating SuSE Inc.s server offerings, Loiacono said, and Sun is integrating SuSE Linux into its Java Desktop System and offering Java Enterprise System on Linux.

Despite the Linux support, Schwartz discounted Linux as an alternative to Solaris.

Sun does not "believe that Linux plays a role on the server. Period," said Schwartz, also in Santa Clara. "If you want to buy it, we will sell it to you. But we believe that Solaris is a better alternative that is safer, more robust, higher quality and dramatically less expensive in purchase price."

Some Sun customers are hedging their bets and not rushing into any decision on the new systems. One is Mark Dickelman, chief technology officer of Bank One Corp.s Anexsys LLC business unit, which processes about $800 billion in transactions a year for the government and runs Trusted Solaris.

While there are some "cool" features in Java Enterprise System, its too early to tell what Anexsys will do. "I am encouraged and pleased that Sun is looking at and addressing the IT is- sues that matter today— heterogeneous issues, security, deployability, how you buy and deploy software and manage your resources," Dickelman told eWEEK.

Schwartz said he thinks Microsoft Corp. will dismiss Suns initiative. "But they will hear differently from customers," he said. "I think they will then have to respond by lowering prices" (see interview, right).

A Microsoft spokeswoman in Redmond, Wash., declined to comment on the pricing of Suns new Java systems and on Schwartzs comments.

As for embracing hardware OEMs, Loiacono said Sun will make news regarding deals with OEMs to bundle its Java Enterprise System in the near future.

Schwartz was more direct, especially with regard to Java Desktop System, where it has so far signed up no OEM partners. "We tried mightily, but Dell [Inc.] and [Hewlett-Packard Co.] derive most of their profit from the resale of Windows systems," he said.