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Sun: "It's Not That We're Trying to Undercut Linux"

Sun: "It's Not That We're Trying to Undercut Linux"

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    When last interviewed by SYS-CON Radio at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo, Sun's John Fanelli - senior director of marketing for Sun's Network Systems Group - was adamant that the sheer number of product offerings Sun has delivered into the Linux community was testimony enough to the fact that, while Solaris is very important to Sun, no one should doubt Sun's parallel commitment to Linux.

    Now, just this Tuesday, he has repeated more or less the same line to a reporter, saying "It's not that we're trying to undercut Linux, and we ship and support Red Hat on our systems, but we are going to do everything we can to provide the most compelling Solaris environment."

    The occasion for the most recent reassurance was the countdown (just 11 days to go now) to the launch by Sun of Solaris 10.

    If Solaris happened to be, say, more cost-effective than a Red Hat Enterprise Linux solution might be, Fanelli suggested, well that was just market forces at work. In other words, nothing much has changed: Sun is still going after RHEL, and taking care to show the open source community that it is not undercutting Linux itself, merely the world's most prevalent commercial Linux distro.

    It is going to be a hard row to hoe. Back in September, when Forbes ran a headline, "Sun Micro Still A Potential Threat To Linux," Sun's president and COO Jonathan Schwartz devoted an entire day's entry in his power blog to refuting Forbes's implication.

    What sparked the Forbes report in the first place was the news from Credit Suisse First Boston that a recent run on Red Hat's stock price had been "due at least in part to reports that Sun is changing its plan to encourage sales of its Solaris system on commodity, or non-Sun, hardware." The market, CSFB stated, had been overreacting. Many execution challenges remained for Sun, the research firm noted, adding "and we find no evidence that Sun's recent initiatives at the low end of the market are changing strategic decisions to migrate to Linux."

    What maddened Schwartz was the conflation, by Forbes, of Linux and Red Hat. He pointed out, indignantly: "Red Hat is not linux, despite what they say, and despite what the media (and IBM's ads) seem to conflate."

    "Sun is not a threat to GNU/linux," Schwartz declared. "Nor is Solaris 10."

    The reason Schwartz insists always on writing 'linux' instead of Linux is something he explained back in July, when he wrote:

    "Now, I put linux in quotes (with all deference and respect) because that one word wasn't just one product - it was, in effect, a reprise of the open source movement on which Sun was founded. And that movement yielded a blizzard of distros. There was (and still is, especially on desktops or clients) no single linux. But if you speak to as many customers as I do, you quickly see that neither they, nor ISV's can afford to support 100 different distributions in the datacenter."

    So Sun's "Red Hat is not linux" refrain is nothing new. But hearing John Fanelli this week was a reminder of just how important the argument is if Sun is to launch Solaris 10 painlessly next week in terms of its standing in the open source community.

    Sun is not targeting anyone but Red Hat, which is a distro. ("Let's get specific," Schwartz urged in that same September blog. "Let's start calling a distro a distro.")

    "To my friends in the media," he thundered, "you are confusing a social movement with a single company - that social movement is all about choice, innovation and freedom. Not dominance or dependence."

    "In that light," Schwartz continued, "no innovation Sun delivers...can be anti-linux." 

    So Sun, in Schwartz's worldview, is not a threat to Linux, nor is innovation a threat to Linux, nor dTrace nor Solaris 10 nor Janus.

    "They are a problem for Red Hat."

    As for the commitment, at JavaOne earlier this year and elsewhere, by Sun's Scott McNealy, to open-source Solaris. That too is not without considerable complications: Sun simply doesn't own all the IP behind Solaris 10.


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  • More Stories By Linux News Desk

    SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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