Enterprise Unix Roundup: Will Sun's Shine Overshadow LAMP's Light?

By Brian Proffitt (Send Email)
Posted Jan 17, 2007


Brian Proffitt
On the surface, Sun's alterations to Solaris 10's pricing structure aren't terribly exciting. A deeper probe reveals product repositioning and a new tactic for facing the competition.

At first, it seemed like another boring announcement from Sun Microsystems — the kind that's big on fluff and low on substance. Surprisingly, the news turned out to be very significant, and sheds more light on how Sun plans to market Solaris 10 in the enterprise space.

In a word: support and volume. Actually, that's three words, but in this case, they are tied close enough together for it not to matter.

The announcement, which officially hit the press on Tuesday, at first sounded rather innocuous: Sun is changing its pricing structure for Solaris 10. On its own, this ranks up there with the local school board minutes. Put in context with recent events, however, it becomes more of a bombshell.

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Sun has taken care to camouflage the bomb. When the OEM first pitched this to ServerWatch in a pre-announcement interview last week, the thrust of the announcement framed this as a play into the Web sever space for Solaris, as opposed to the operating system's usual niche in the application server space. That's when it seemed a bit old hat, since Solaris has been a decent *AMP stack platform for quite some time.

But this isn't just about Solaris-on-Apache, MySql, and PHP/Perl (SAMP). This is about Sun trying to get more Solaris into the Web arena (that's the volume) by rejiggering its pricing (that's the support).

Oh, and the fact that this new pricing just happens to come in at less than the support pricing for Sun's arch-foe Red Hat? That's a coincidence.

Right.

Actually, Sun didn't try to pass the announcement off as anything other than a competitive assault on Red Hat — the spokesman just needed to be asked directly. But, it was hard to ignore the timing of this announcement, coming on the heels of Oracle's Unbreakable Linux and the Novell/Microsoft partnership.

But this isn't just about SAMP. This is about Sun trying to get more Solaris into the Web arena (that's the volume) by rejiggering its pricing (that's the support).

Before you lump this new pricing scheme into yet another plan to whack Red Hat across the nose, it should be noted that Sun may have hit on something that Oracle and Novell just don't have: a unique operating system offering. Love it or leave it, Solaris is just not Linux, and therefore it can differentiate itself from the Red Hats, Oracles, and Novells of the world. The obvious question that only time will answer is: Is that distinction enough?

With this new pricing plan, the answer may be yes, because also unlike Oracle, Sun's plan is pretty far below Red Hat's prices. Sun's support plans range from $240 to $1,180 per box. Red Hat Linux's plans run from $349 to $2,499 per year, per box. For volume deployments (the kind Sun is now targeting), there's some real money saved.

Red Hat, of course, has the momentum in this segment of the enterprise, and customers may be hard to lure away from their venerable LAMP systems. Still, this may well be the biggest challenge to Red Hat's hold in the Web server space that's come along in quite some time.

Brian Proffitt is managing editor of JupiterWeb's Linux/Open Source channel, which includes Linux Today, LinuxPlanet, and AllLinuxDevices.

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