Enterprise Unix Roundup: Sun, Dot or Zero in Web 2.0?

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jul 28, 2006

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Is a strong fourth quarter cause to party like it's 1999? Booth-babes and trinkets mean only one thing: trade show season. Lots of news came out of the Ottawa Linux Symposium and OSCON. Plus, the second draft of GPL 3.0 rolled out the door.

Amy Newman
Brian Proffitt

Much as we enjoy summer, there are things that frustrate. Humidity.Mosquitos. News flow. Now that we're approaching the midpoint of summer, and everyone is headed to fabulous shore retreats, the pace has slowed down to, as someone in the office so eloquently put it, a "wind suckingly slow crawl." We won't commit to that statement for every week, but this week sure seems to be filled with a cacophony of non-news hitting the wires.

We normally stay away from all things financial. This week, more for lack of subject matter than anything else, we broke with that trend and checked out Sun's quarterly earnings. This, you should know, was no ordinary quarter: It was Jonathan Schwartz' first (near full) quarter as CEO. We, along with everyone else, were pleasantly surprised with how well the honeymoon went.

In a market that has been, well, sucking wind, Sun kicked butt, relatively speaking. According to internetnews, Sun's earnings, "after removing restructuring and other charges — of 4 cents a share — were 7 cents ahead of the loss analysts were expecting. Sales rose 20 percent sequentially to $3.83 billion, well ahead of $3.61 billion forecasts."

It should be noted that Sun has reported losses for five years now.

Despite the loss, the company beat estimates on both the top and bottom line, and with companies not meeting earnings expectations right and left, this was cause for celebration. Shares climbed 1 percent in late trading.

"We're making excellent progress returning Sun to growth and profitability," Schwartz said in a statement. "Revenue, bookings and backlog are all up substantially — indicating we're gaining traction, market confidence and share."

Schwartz was equally jubilant in his blog.

It was also a good quarter for Solaris. The operating system broke the 5 million license barrier, with the majority of downloads going to Dell, HP, and IBM systems. We hope some support contracts were purchased with the downloads.

We realize no small part of Schwartz' job is to instill confidence in the company, and we're fairly certain that "Sun's September quarter guidance of a 20 percent sequential sales decline would place revenues just below $3.1 billion estimates," is about as far from that as you can get. Far enough, in fact, to have us thinking that if revenue, bookings, and backlog are indeed up substantially, perhaps Sun needs to re-evaluate its pricing.

But today the news coming out of Santa Clara is reason to smile. Whatever the reason — optimism, improved image, or substantive change — one thing is certain: Schwartz has had an effective and productive honeymoon. Whether the harmony continues remains to be seen. Layoffs are under way, restructuring has gone forward, and new product is being released.

Sun remains an enigma to us. On the one hand, it appears to now "get it," as evidenced by its newfound emphasis on energy efficient hardware and acceptance of the fact that open source is here to stay.

On the other hand, statements like, "We see no global slowdown in IT," and "we're having a debate internally about bringing back one of our taglines, 'We're the Dot in Dot Com.' Or refreshed, 'We're the Dot in 2.0,'" makes us wonder if Schwartz is leading the company toward again partying like it's 1999.

We see cause for tempered celebration, and will dress for the festivities accordingly. Camera, notebook, and bug spray in hand.

In Other News

» 'Tis (apparently) the season. Not for holiday cheer mind you, but for the community conventions and gabfests that are the hallmark of the open source crowd.

Last week, the season was kicked off by the annual Ottawa Linux Symposium, an invitation-only event where Linux kernel developers meet face to face and put their heads together on the next year's worth of kernel development plans. It's held in Ottawa because a) it's a cool town, and b) a number of Linux kernel developers refuse to set foot in the United States because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Welsh luminary Alan Cox for one, who interprets the law to mean that any discussion of Linux security issues in a public forum could lead to his arrest in the United States under the rights management of copywritten work clause.

So, Canada it is.

Really, the news out of the OLS is that there wasn't much news at all. Everything in the kernel development process seems on an even keel, and the developers agreed that there's no sense in changing anything. The process used now — a series of 2.6.x point releases, with intervening release candidates (i.e., 2.6.18-rc2 is the latest cutting-edge release) — seems to be working well, especially with the new "stable" releases that follow behind the bleeding-edge code released by Linus Torvalds. The latest stable release, in case you were wondering, is

This is rather different from the old development process, where even-numbered releases (e.g., 2.2 and 2.4) were the stable ones, and development code was denoted by odd-numbered releases (e.g., 2.3 and 2.5). While it seems a bit to-may-to vs. to-mah-to to those of us not familiar with the arcane ways of the kernel types, by all reports the system's working and there are no foreseeable plans to create a 2.7 development series for the Linux kernel any time soon.

» More news came out of Portland, Oregon this week, from the ever-popular O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON). OSCON is the event that LinuxWorld used to be, way back before the corporate suits came in and took over the joint. This is a developers' show, and they are proud of it.

The most interesting news we have heard thus far out of OSCON is the announcement that Scalix will be releasing an open source Community Edition of its mail server later in August (likely during the LinuxWorld show in San Francisco).

This was big, because Scalix has long wanted to get its code out there, at least to show solidarity for its open-source loving customers. The problem was, it was using licensed code from HP's OpenMail server, and HP didn't want to share its stuff with the public at large. So, a compromise was reached: Scalix will open its code under a variant of the Mozilla Public License, which will allow the OpenMail code to stay closed, and the rest of Scalix's code to be open. This only applies to the Community Edition, though. The Enterprise Edition will remain under a proprietary license.

Another interesting announcement came out from the ObjectWeb consortium, when member company eXo Platform SARL released an open-source content management and repository solutions that allow users to create, manage and store documents from a customized, single point-of-access Web portal, all within the ObjectWeb framework.

This sounded pretty nifty to us, too, because it demonstrates more robust toolsets in Web 2.0-land. We will be watching eXo and the rest of ObjectWeb carefully in the coming months — they seem to be putting their code where their mouth is.

» It wasn't all booth-babes and trinkets this week. The second draft revision of the General Public Licence version 3 rolled out on Thursday, fresh from the Free Software Foundation (FSF). Of important note was the apparent softening of the proposed license's stance on Digital Rights Management (DRM).

"The clarified DRM section preserves the spirit of the original GPL, which forbids adding additional unfree restrictions to free software," The FSF said in a press statement. "GPLv3 does not prohibit the implementation of DRM features, but prevents them from being imposed on users in a way that they cannot remove."

There was some real confusion about the new GPL's approach to DRM, as the first draft made it seem as if no DRM technology could ever be licensed under the GPL. Not so, it seems. The point was to say that if there is DRM code in an application, there will be nothing in the GPL 3 that will prevent that code from being removed later, if need be.

Glad to see that's cleared up. Although we're sure someone will find something in the new draft to fuss about.

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