Sun Appears to Wholly Embrace Linux

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Feb 7, 2002


Looking to dispel what it claims are false notions about its philosophy on Linux, Sun Microsystems Inc., led by President and COO Ed Zander, held a conference call early Thursday morning before its analyst conference in San Francisco to discuss its future plans for the open-source operating system.

Zander did not delve into specifics much because, he admitted, Sun didn't have all that much specific to talk about in terms of new technologies and partnerships, but he did say a good portion of his company's line will be offered with Linux in coming months and years. Fed up with that notion that it is unreceptive to the open-source movement, Sun looks to show otherwise.

"Linux is expanding the Unix market," Zander said. "We don't want it to fragment... People don't realize how much we've done with Linux and our purpose here is to state our business strategy with Solaris and Linux because there has been a lot in the media that has been incorrect..."

In what it called a three-pronged approach, Sun plans in the future to roll out a full Linux operating system; expand its line of Sun Cobalt Linux appliances and craft a new family of low-end Linux/x86-based systems; and endear itself to the Linux community by offering developers code to its Solaris operating environment software.

To be sure, Zander and fellow executives were browbeaten after announcing the details by journalists and analysts participating in the call. This is because, as several callers noted, the move appears to be a departure from Sun's original reluctance to embrace the OS (it sticks by its Solaris OS) while other firms, notably IBM, ran to it in the past few years.

While some callers gathered that Sun was going after IBM with regards to its Linux chess moves in targeting low-end systems, Zander said this is not so -- that Sun is really still gunning for Microsoft Corp.'s share of the market. It's still Solaris verus Windows NT -- with Linux as a complementary OS.

"IBM is going after a different market with its mainframes," Zander said. "They slap Linux all over the place and it's complex, convoluted and costly."

Zander admitted Sun is trying to curry favor with developers in its Linux play because it's Open Net Environment architecture, also known as Sun ONE, will be made entirely available on Linux.

"By adding the Linux community to the hundreds of thousands of Solaris developers, and the nearly 3 million Java/XML developers, Sun's customers have unified access to the broadest array of innovation in the industry on which to provide services."

Still, Zander and Co. said Thursday's announcement is not so much that Sun is forging a market shift -- Sun's mission going forward is making it possible for Linux apps to run on Solaris -- but that it is a business strategy that will prove that customers "could care less" about what OS is in a box, but rather what service powers it. This, Zander said, is where the firm's touted Java/XML will come into play.

Sun 's current strategy includes:

  • Sun will expand the use of Linux beyond its existing Sun Cobalt appliances extending its "edge" server family to address the demand for low-priced, horizontally scalable servers The company will continue to enhance the Sun Cobalt line of Linux appliances beyond its current eight-inch square "Qube" and 1.75-inch high rack-mountable configurations.
  • Sun will disclose details of its new family of general purpose, low-end Linux servers, including single and multiprocessing systems capable of running the thousands of native Linux and Java applications
  • The Sun Cobalt line will be sold along side Sun's family of Sun Fire and Netra servers running the Solaris operating environment on the SPARC platform
  • Sun is shipping built-in Linux compatibility with Solaris today, enabling it to run Linux applications on any Solaris-based system. It also sculpted a Linux compatibility assurance tool (LinCAT)
  • GNOME will become the preferred desktop for Solaris when GNOME 2.0 begins shipping later this year
  • Sun will provide native support of Linux on SPARC systems for both the telecommunications and embedded markets. companies such as SuSE and Lineo already support Linux native on Sun's SPARC microprocessors
  • Sun will support Linux on its key Sun StorEdge line of storage systems and software

To top it off, Sun will provide Linux-oriented services -- not just code and infrastructure. Sun already released a tool, ABIcheck, to help developers assure compatibility between Linux releases. ABIcheck was ported from Solaris to Linux and released under an open source license.

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