Sun Begins Circling its Software Wagons

By Michael Singer (Send Email)
Posted Mar 28, 2003


SAN FRANCISCO -- Sun Microsystems Friday said it is getting close to announcing the next phase in its overall software strategy -- one the company says will better connect data center operators with developers. The company looks to use 'provisioning' through Java, Solaris, Linux and other platforms as the key to closing the loop between developers and data center operators.

During its quarterly software update, Sun Executive Vice President of Software Jonathan Schwartz said the company has been successful in building on each level of it main customer focus areas: developers, CIOs and data center operators through its platforms like Java and Solaris. The challenge now, says Schwartz, is to come up with a way to allow for "provisioning."

"Folks are not interested in writing new applications as much as they are interested in connecting the systems they built," said Schwartz. "To a carrier, provisioning means identifying a new service that comes online. For Web services, it means granting access to those services and to a developer, it means the distribution of their programs."

While Schwartz declined to give specific details on the project, he said Sun is expected to make major announcements regarding the provisioning strategy during its JavaONE conference in San Francisco this June.

The company is working fast to curry favor with vendors in anticipation of next month's release of Microsoft Windows Server 2003.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun also said it was shifting some of its software support to allow for more developers and customers to choose them and combat similar offerings by Sun's chief rivals Microsoft , IBM and Hewlett-Packard .

Schwartz said Sun would now allow for other versions of Linux to be distributed within its new Project Orion and run "unmodified" on Solaris. Previously, Project Orion ran only on Solaris-based systems.

The shift marks yet another attempt by Sun to court the rise in Linux-based systems. Sun Linux, the company's own Linux flavor, is based on Red Hat's kernel. Sun said it expects to support between two and four separate distributions for its new Orion licensing platform. Besides Red Hat, UnitedLinux is the other major distributor of the Linux standard for servers.

"This is no longer about what kernel are you running, it is what is your Web services infrastructure," said Schwartz. "I think we are late with Linux in the market, we freely admit it. But at the end of the day, it's going to depend more on the generalized infrastructure, which is what we're more interested in."

Sun said the spectrum of software included in Project Orion will span Solaris and Linux at the core with a common Java runtime environment and combine Web services infrastructure technologies, such as application servers and portals; Microsoft-interoperable e-mail and communications; Liberty-enabled directory and identity; Grid engine, streaming media, storage management, availability monitoring technologies, and clustering.

From an operational standpoint, this is the biggest single shift in our software strategy," said Schwartz.

And even though, Project Orion's licensing allows for customers to swap a Sun-based application for one of another vendor, the pricing would remain the same. Sun said it is considering regulating the licensing based on the number of employees a customer has in addition to its traditional per-CPU pricing.

Sun said its future "provisioning" strategy will be founded on its N1 platform. The idea is to "cable once provision forever," meaning that system administrators can plug in servers, storage and other devices into a network and be able to configure, manage and them through a central area. The platform is being targeted to larger sectors like telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing and ultimately the government.

The company said it had a great opportunity to gain some marketshare with IBM and HP abandoning UNIX on 32-bit systems.

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