Sun Touts Linux Strategy

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Monday reiterated its commitment to expand Linux across its product line and again voiced the huge opportunities that exist for the company in edge computing.

Sun Microsystems Inc. on Monday reiterated its commitment to expand Linux across its product line and again voiced the huge opportunities that exist for the company in edge computing.

In a presentation to the media in San Francisco, Sun rolled out several of its executives to reinforce its message that Linux and edge computing were key to the new Sun.

Stephen DeWitt, vice president and general manager of content delivery and edge computing, maintained that there were sizeable business opportunities for the company in edge computing.

Figures from International Data Corp. show that by the end of 2002, Linux server unit volumes would exceed Unix volumes by 54 percent to 46 percent, he said, with Linux having a 40 percent share of the total entry server market by the end of 2005, compared with Unixs 12.5 percent.

"Edge computing is driving the rapid adoption of Linux in the entry space due to price/performance and agnostic business decisions around the operating system," DeWitt said. "While we will be developing our own Linux distribution, that will not be a commercial distribution as we take a systems approach to edge computing. But it will offer tremendous value above the kernel.

"There is a great need for an enterprise-grade Linux distribution that is compatible with our pre-integrated software stack and that gets delivered with a full suite of developer tools. We plan to deliver more than our competitors. Customers want an integrated solution and we will deliver a developer platform to them. We will also be poring Sun ONE applications to the Linux environment and providing Linux support in Solaris."

While Sun would be leveraging much of the work already done on the kernel and stressed that its offering would be compatible with the "Red Hats of the world," its development focus would continue to center around its Java and Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) platforms.

"Our teams are involved in integration rather than development at the kernel level. But our Linux offering will be significantly more attractive that Red Hat on a box," DeWitt said.

But while the latest presentation reiterated Suns stance with regard to Linux, its Solaris operating environment and SPARC architecture, it added little new to the announcement Sun made in this regard in early February.

At that time, Sun took direct aim at both Microsoft and IBM, announcing a multi-part program that would broaden its offerings of Linux on low-end Sun servers and commit new resources to the ongoing development of the Linux open source operating system.

Sun would, for the first time, ship a full implementation of Linux on a new line of general purpose servers aimed at providing "edge" services to environments such as workgroups and remote offices. It would also, for the first time, ship a full implementation of the Linux operating system.

"We are now embracing the Linux operating system and its development community," Ed Zander, president and COO of Sun, said at that time "This announcement is more about Microsoft than anything else. We want to bring the two non-Microsoft communities together. Linux and Solaris (Unix) are strong cousins and we want to offer users of Windows NT an alternative and help them get out of this space."

On Monday, DeWitt reinforced this, saying edge Unix had grown significantly over the past few years, with the early success of Linux also generally taking place at the edge. He added that the "economics of the infrastructure of that space opened up the market for Linux."

Suns existing Cobalt team was building a new general-purpose Linux infrastructure, which would drive revenue for the company as "we see these evolving value propositions opening up new markets for us. These edge infrastructure markets are green fields for Sun," DeWitt said.

He also defiantly claimed that the Palo Alto, Calif., company would go "toe-to-toe" with every other competitor and be as intensely competitive in this filed as it was in others.

Anil Gadre, Suns vice president and general manager for Solaris, also said the move towards Linux was not a move away from Solaris. "We are in no way planning to lessen, reduce or change our focus on and strategy for Solaris. This is our big asset against Windows NT, IBM and Compaq. Linux and Unix are essentially the same market and both fight off and stall the penetration of Microsoft in the enterprise," he said.

The move also had "nothing to do with the viability of the SPARC architecture and everything to do with expanding Suns business," Gadre said. While the current plan was to concentrate on single and dual processor markets, Sun would continue to drive SPARC-based systems into the lower end.

"You will see next-generation SPARC systems that drive even further into the lower end," Gadre said.

The first wave of new Sun Linux-based products would be rolled out early in the second half of the year, the officials said, declining to give more detail.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst for Giga Information Group, said that while she believes Sun is serious about reinventing themselves with this new strategy, the company does not want to show its hand and tip off competitors by revealing too much. "They will be rolling out new products, but it would have been helpful if they had given us some additional new information in this regard," she said.

Sun also needed to establish greater credibility and exposure in the open source and Linux communities. One way of doing this would be to employ someone who is already established and credible in that space to promote their strategy, vision and products going forward, Quandt said.