August 31, 2004 11:55 AM PDT

Sun sales tactic targets Linux

As part of an effort to fend off competition from low-cost servers running Linux, Sun Microsystems will begin giving its salespeople commissions on the non-Sun hardware that's bundled with Solaris.

Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz described the strategy in a posting to his blog Monday.

"So if a sales rep sells Solaris on Dell or IBM, or even HP (Xeon or Nocona), we pay them as if they sold the hardware," Schwartz wrote. "I'm not sure we could make the point more clearly that we're committed to making Solaris the volume leader on all systems."

The change comes at a time when Sun is trying to make its own servers more competitive with Linux, which continues to become more prevalent in corporate data centers. According to analysts, many of Sun's current financial woes stem from the fact the many corporate customers are opting to buy commodity servers that run Linux and use x86 processors from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices, instead of purchasing Sun's own Solaris on Sparc servers.

In response to the Linux competition, Sun has renewed its commitment to selling Solaris servers for the x86 platform. Last year, the company partnered with AMD to develop servers based on AMD's Operton 64-bit processor. Sun is also developing software called Janus for running Linux applications on Solaris.

Schwartz noted that Solaris is now "up and running" on Intel's new Nocona processor for servers, which can run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

Schwartz, formerly the head of Sun's software business, has sought to shake up the company's internal culture in an effort to bring it back to stable financial footing. The company, which currently makes the bulk of its revenue from its Sparc-based servers, has renewed its commitment to Solaris and other software product lines, such as its Java application server and open-source desktop system.

Sun long has been wedded to its own UltraSparc processors, and Solaris has rarely been used elsewhere. Now Sun is aggressively boosting the operating system on x86 chips and has begun efforts to bring Solaris to IBM's Power chips and Intel's Itanium.

Solaris may spread, but Sun competitors aren't likely to warm to it as easily as they have toward the comparatively neutral Linux. Solaris remains Sun's intellectual property, though that could change somewhat; Sun expects later this year to detail a plan to release Solaris as open-source software.

Also on Tuesday, Sun announced a joint sales, marketing and development agreement with Hyperion, a company that sells software that lets companies monitor performance and regulatory compliance. Under the agreement, the companies will integrate Hyperion's software with Solaris running on UltraSparc and x86 processors, Sun said.

CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

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History repeating itself?
The article quotes that "Sun is also developing software called Janus for running Linux applications on Solaris".

Isn't that exactly what SCO did - providing a facility to run Linux apps on SCO UNIX. It didn't help them - and I can't see it helping Sun too much either, unless Solaris goes free at the same time.

Ian W.
Posted by (3 comments )
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Sun (Walking Dead)
If my experiences with trying to get Sun to support their own products is typical. Sun is talking a long walk into the setting "sun".

Sorry for the pun.
Posted by waynehapp (52 comments )
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If only i were king
Could it be that Sun believes the value of Linux is that it runs across an incredibly broad spectrum of hardware?

I'm sure Sun has carefully compared Solaris and Linux, and come up with a action plan designed to make Solaris every bit as competitive. They have even decided to open source Solaris. Perhaps believing that by tapping the network effect (Metcalf's Law) of open source community participation, Solaris will become just as competitive as Solaris.

So what do we have here? Nothing less than the Linuxification of Solaris. We have Solarux:

..... Participation: Open source the code base of Solaris.
..... Commoditization: Enabling Solaris to run across a broad spectrum of hardware.
..... Open API: Enable Solaris to run the vast universe of Linux applications (The Janus Project).

No doubt the Sun engineers have studied the new market plan for Solaris, and believe they can have their cake and eat it too. No doubt the Solaris group is driving Sun, and has been since day one. There was a time when, at the peak of the dotcom balloon, a number of high ranking Sun executives were pushing Linux based commodity driven strategies. The costly Cobalt fiasco comes to mind. But those guys are gone now. Every one of them.

Hindsight suggests that these Linux friendly executives made compelling arguments, probably making the case that if Sun doesn't commoditize their installed base, someone else will. Hindsight also suggests that the Solaris crowd countered these arguments with the plan that Solaris could be both the high end solution, and, the commodity force. Looks like the Solaris crowd won simply by co opting all the Linux arguments, and then running the Linux dogs out the door.

We all have our opinions about what Sun should do. The Solarux plan would not have been my choice. The only way it works is if Linux providers and Linux system provisioner's like IBM could be seen as carrying Solarux, and offering it to customers as a Linux alternative. Does anyone think that's going to happen? I've yet to see any discussion of how the Solarux plan would play out in the real world. Up till now it's been an internal debate being measured solely by how it plays out within Sun. The key question being, Are the Solaris guys happy now?

Let's face it. Solaris has always been the core of Sun. I would even go so far as to say that many of Sun's efforts like Java, GNOME, Netscape  Mozilla, and the open sourcing of OpenOffice.org, were efforts driven by the need to expand the application base of Solaris. We tend to look at these things as if they were business initiatives with their own goals and objectives. As if they were new profit centers or somehow make sense as part of Sun's transition from a high end systems provider to that of a systems and services provider.

One has to consider that there is no such transition taking place at Sun. Perhaps there's only the effort to adapt Solaris to the dynamics of a global marketplace and a changing world.

Would i have done things differently? Yes. If i were king i would have split Sun into two companies. One focused on commodity based solutions. The other based on providing highly engineered no fault / non stop binary compatible systems. Let the Solaris group continue to do what they do, but don't let them interfere in any way with the Linux group. Even when the extremes of their expertise and systems innovation are needed.

Let the Linux group go wild, commoditizing everything in site. Including commoditizing the Solaris installed base. Demand that the Solaris group stick to their charter of providing high end systems. Don't mix the sales and marketing forces either.

Of course the MBA's will look at this and say that it's not making efficient use of corporate resources. A house divided can't stand. The easy solution is to think that it's a simple matter to apply all that Solaris expertise to perfect commodity solutions. But as we can now see, that isn't working. The Solaris guys think they can catch Linux and prevail in a commodity driven marketplace. They can't. The network effect always defaults to the advantage of the non corporate (or multi corporate) architecture of participation  the OSS community. But if they continue to try, one outcome is certain. They will loose the hard earned esteem in the marketplace as the finest high end systems engineering provider ever. And what a loss that would be.

At some point in time, when the ruthlessly unforgiving wave of Linux on x86 commoditization has run its course, the marketplace will once again return to an appreciative demand for high end systems. Waiting it out isn't an option for Sun though. They have to be a player.

And the wave is about to get a new burst. When IBM releases the Power PC 6, the resulting Linux on pp6 tsunami will look like it's never going to end. Intel will be wishing they had Sun's problems. The marketplace will eventually balance out though, and there will once again be demand for Sun's core value. The question is, will Sun be there when the market turns? Or will they have mashed Solaris to the point where they no longer have the high end expertise, nor the marketplace esteem, to seize the day? As hard as dividing a company might be, the harsher truth is that commoditization is corrosive beyond belief.

One might be tempted to think that Sun's JDS is a clear signal that the company can play both the Linux and the Solaris game. And it's true, the Solaris guys have put together an extraordinary Linux system. At the recent LinuxWorld Expo i watched a Solaris engineer boost the Looking Glass JDS system to run high definition video feeds. How he got such a high level of multi media performance to faultlessly play within the beautiful galactic swirl of Looking Glass windows is a magic far beyond my understanding. One has to just step back and marvel at the engineering expertise that Sun can so casually showcase. But here's the thing. There is an unmistakable sense that JDS on Linux SuSE is just a commodity placeholder for JDS on Solaris. Which perhaps explains why Sun didn't blink when Novell and IBM moved to acquire SuSE.

Oh well. If only i were king,
~ge~
Posted by garyedwards (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If Only We WEREN"T All Kings
I'd like to say foremost thanks for the informative articles/replys regarding the orig. post.
And,...well you know the "Winner Takes ALL" is what comes to mind with "Solarux"
-but. lest we forget if it wasn't for "Studebaker" there wouldn't have been the V6, and/or V8 ICE designed engine. Ford,GM,and Chrysler,... "stole" that idea in the late 40's and Studs went bankrupt.
Linux is nothing less than a bastardized UNIX.-(a fact, not insultingly meant of course).
On the other hand, as we all know, BSD/AT&T/Bell whatever-Unix was the Studebaker for "THE" Sun Microsystems OS called SunOS/Solaris.
Yet little is said regarding that Creator of all the Modern Networking-OS's.
Instead, just more blibberish about how graphically orgasmic some ridiculous gizmo is, namely the newly grotesque "inbred" marraige of Solaris/Linux.

Does anyone really need yet another unIXy distro?
"Unixification" is all the world really needs. Otherwise, "Microsoft Takes All" are the only fruits we will bear on our backs -and walletts.

And yet, yes, I would gladly pay($for$)for a "working" copy of xBSD, or even Solaris(x)/Java than a working copy of Win(XP/2xxx/3xxx/4xxx/5xxx/...)

Alas, I agree, If Only I were King, I would make "One Unix To Rule Them All"

God luvs ya'l
Posted by RickNekus (8 comments )
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