Enterprise Unix Roundup: Gospel Choirs and Bono

By Michael Hall (Send Email)
Posted Jun 2, 2005

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If you haven't yet drank the Kool-Aid, consider this week's flavors: Sun's Share campaign, featuring Bono, and the gospel according to Red Hat, delivered at the Red Hat Summit. To cure filename hangovers, Detox converts nonstandard characters to lower ISO 8859-1.

Amy Newman
Michael Hall

We've never recovered from the pangs of sympathetic embarrassment we felt when a Red Hat vice president led a "march" of a few dozen Linux users (and Red Hat employees) on San Francisco's city hall several years ago. The crew arrived in front of the building, issued a number of demands to no one in particular while sniggering reporters stood around taking notes, and then melted back into the crowd.

Evidently Sun was watching, but it took a few years for the vendor to apply the lessons learned.

On Wednesday, Sun launched a heavily promoted new branding effort involving an s-shaped curve, some talk about "eliminating the digital divide," and the word "share." There's also a green field, some Sun employees holding bits of orange foam board, a collection of declaratives and imperatives like "The idea is the catalyst. The Network Is The Computer. Share." And Bono.

The Share campaign is meant to work on several levels.

One is simple marketing: No one, the company believes, has any idea what you do with a Sun server or its services. So the new campaign will emphasize what Sun customers and partners like AMD, eBay, and Bono do with Sun stuff.

Another is pretty old news, further concretizing Sun's grasp of the notion that openness, transparency, and a semblance of a corporate conscience are good marketing hooks. Its blogging efforts, the adoption of an open source license for Solaris, and Jonathan "Just Call Me Che Lite" Schwartz's hand wringing over how hard the GPL is on emerging economies, are all part of a push toward giving Sun some "movement" cachet to offset Linux' feel-good advantages in that regard.

And the company can tell a little of its side of the story in the "Open Java!" kerfuffle with assertions like, "Java is shared by 4.5 million developers."

From our vantage point, Sun's attempt to capture some "movement and community" high ground seems to have provoked Red Hat into coming up with something to appeal to a more absolutist mindset than a muddled march on city hall.

According to reports, the "Share" campaign will run Sun $50 million over the course of 2005. This is a pretty big leap from $16 million the company spent on all advertising last year. We could flap our hands about a troubled company spending money on new muzak, but $50 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the $4.1 billion the company is paying to buy StorageTek.

The purchase cuts Sun's total cash in the bank by more than half, but it helps fill in the company's storage offerings and, as The Register notes, gives Sun access to StorageTek customers using systems from IBM, HP, and Dell.

From our vantage point, Sun's attempt to capture some "movement and community" high ground seems to have provoked Red Hat into coming up with something to appeal to a more absolutist mindset than a muddled march on city hall.

At the first Red Hat Summit, held in New Orleans this week, CEO Matthew Szulik took the stage with a gospel choir, and attendees were treated to a video (available on Red Hat's site) that employs Gandhi, Copernicus, mug shots of Bill Gates, pictures of wriggling spermatozoa, and quotes from analysts that were accurate circa 1999 to make the point that Red Hat is not Just Another Tech Company and is, in fact, an Agent of Truth.

Our take? Red Hat is Just Another Tech company, but who's doubted that in the past several years, anyhow? Evidently Sun, which will spend some portion of $50 million to stage its own transformation into a battler of the digital divide and a purveyor of warm sentiment.

In Other News

» It's rare we at Roundup are able to indulge our Page-Six speculation tendencies, but a recent entry in Sun marketing exec MaryMary's blog has us pondering imponderables. It seems MaryMary spent some time chauffeuring open source advocate Eric Raymond "from Point A to Point B" and even posted a picture to confirm it. ESR told us she was just giving him a lift. Your guess is as good as ours.

» IDC's first quarter 2005 stats came out as we were fleeing Cube City for the holiday weekend last week. HP retook top spot for server revenue, but we suspect the biggest item of interest in Unix-land is that for the first time in IDC's rankings, Unix and Windows are now in a dead heat. Unix server revenue and Windows server revenue were tied for the quarter at $4.2 billion due to increased spending on Windows-based servers.

Linux-based servers also exhibited growth, posting year-over-year revenue gains of 35.2 percent and unit shipment growth of 31.1 percent on revenue of $1.2 billion.

» As promised back in January, Red Hat Wednesday released the Fedora Directory Server. Fedora Directory Server is licensed under the GPL and available for ongoing open source development at the Fedora Project. It currently contains only the LDAP server; however, configuration tools are available in binary form and will be open sourced in the near future. The server is available for download on the Fedora Project's Web site and is compatible with Fedora Core 3, Solaris 2.8 and 2.9, Windows 2000, and HP-UX 11i.

» Novell has begun prepping its first Validated Configuration Program (VCP) stack for release. The VCP is Novell's official seal of approval for multivendor software and hardware stacks configured around SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). VCP is packaged in the form of a sort of how-to manual with performance stats. It certifies integrated hardware and software configurations with an eye on security, systems management, virtualization, and high availability.

The VCP application stack offering is due out in a few weeks. The collection of materials document the best configuration settings for SLES 9, HP's BL20p and BL30p blade servers, Oracle's database and real application cluster, and JBoss' Application Server 4.0 working in tandem.

» For some time now, the proliferation of open source licenses has been a thorn in the Open Source Initiative's (OSI's) side. Later this month, the organization plans to begin discussing ways to thin the herd. In the meantime, it is seeking input from the open source community. Internetnews spoke with Laura Majerus, OSI director of legal affairs, to learn what's under consideration.

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