Sun's McNealy: Intel deal gives customers options

Sun's new relationship with Intel gives the Solaris operating system a broad range of architectures to run on, Sun says

An alliance with Intel announced this week gives Sun Microsystems customers a wide range of options for running the Solaris operating system, Sun founder and Chairman Scott McNealy said Tuesday.

McNealy, speaking at a Sun conference for U.S. government customers, said the Intel partnership gives the open-source Solaris a platform on the two major x86-based processor vendors, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), as well as Sun hardware. He called the Intel agreement, announced Monday, a major step toward wider adoption of Solaris in government agencies and large businesses.

Sun will not push Intel over AMD or vice versa, he said in a press conference following his speech. "Some people are Ford folks, and some people are Chevy folks," he said. "We're not going to make them choose."

Sun launched a line of servers using AMD chips in late 2003, but Sun expects AMD and Intel to "leapfrog each other" with improvements in their processors and price advantages, added Bill Vass, president and chief operating officer of Sun Microsystems Federal, Sun's government-focused business.

Sun's goal is to provide government and other customers with a complete package of software that runs on multiple architectures, Vass told the conference attendees. Sun's message to customers will be, use the right architecture for the right job, he said.

Sun, by releasing Solaris and other software under open-source licenses and by embracing open standards, wants government customers to see how they can avoid vendor lock-in, McNealy said.

McNealy asked the attendees what they'd like to see Sun do differently. One audience member said Sun needs to help its customers look at migration strategies to Solaris and other open-source software, "beyond just putting a stake in the ground."

"You're right," McNealy answered. "We can't say, 'don't do the wrong thing.' We've got to help people where they are today."

Sun does help customers migrate from legacy systems in steps, by moving applications one or two at a time, Vass added.

Sun's Project Blackbox, a data centre fit into a water-proof shipping container, started as a way to help customers migrate to new hardware and software, as well as back up existing data. The 20-foot- or 40-foot-long (6.1 to 12.2 meter) shipping containers, scheduled to be available in mid-2007, will be able to hold Sun Fire T1000 containing 2,000 cores, plus 1.5 petabytes of disk storage and 2 petabytes of tape storage, according to Sun.

Customers can park the Blackboxes in their parking lots and use them to hold data as they migrate applications, but customers are seeing broader uses for the self-contained data centers, McNealy said. The Blackboxes could be used in remote areas with limited indoor space, such as war or disaster zones, and many customers are looking at ways to conserve indoor space by places the Blackboxes outdoors permanently, Vass said.

After Sun pitched the Blackbox as a way to migrate applications, many customers asked, "Why don't I just leave it in the parking lot?" Vass said.

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