Sun expands Linux offerings

Sun Microsystems announced that several of its products are now available for the Linux operating system and touted the benefits of Linux desktops during a press conference on Wednesday at the LinuxWorld conference.

Sun said that a couple of its Sun ONE (Open Net Environment) are now available on Linux, including Sun ONE Application Server 7, and Directory Server 5.1. Sun also will move its portal server, identity server, calendar server, and messaging server to Linux within the year, according to Jonathan Schwartz, vice president of software at Sun.

Schwartz used the press conference to say that Sun is heartily pursuing a desktop Linux strategy. "We believe the opportunity is on the desktop," Schwartz said. "We continue to believe that Linux is going to drive a lot of new devices connecting to the Web."

To that end, Sun said that its Mad Hatter Linux desktop solution will enter the beta phase this spring, and is slated for general availability sometime this summer.

On Tuesday of this week, Sun announced a pact with Ximian to develop the Sun ONE Evolution Connector, which Sun claims to be low-cost e-mail and calendaring software that runs on Linux. Sun also announced that it contributed its Grid Engine Portal technology to the open-source Grid Engine project.

Schwartz explained that Sun views Microsoft at the chief competitor to Linux, in both the server and desktop arenas. "The idea that Linux obliterates Unix and leaves Windows unscathed is dead wrong," he said, responding to a recent Goldman Sachs Group report.

With that in mind, Sun is offering support for Linux on Solaris and Intel.

When pressed by a reporter in attendance about Linux' relatively small desktop market share, Schwartz responded by saying he disagrees that it is insignificant. "It had to go from zero to 1.7 percent and pretty quickly," he said.

Sun also brought to a customer to the press conference, Mike Prince, the CIO of Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse, to testify on Linux' behalf.

Prince said that Linux has come of age recently, within the last six months, in fact. "There is a change. There were a lot of things that precluded us from going to Linux," Prince said. He added that the lack of a viable office suite and varying support from applications vendors prevented Burlington Coat Factory from widespread deployment.

"As companies, like Oracle, take away the obstacles, I think the economics of deploying Linux on the desktop are going to move toward the knowledge workers," Prince said.

Schwartz said that while Linux will eventually become appealing for knowledge workers, that demographic is not Sun's aim in the short-term. "When we can offer open Windows, we'll make headway with knowledge workers," he said.

In the meantime, Schwartz said that Sun is not leaving its Unix roots behind as it embraces Linux. "What HP and IBM are doing is somehow abandoning Unix. We continue to drive our Unix, not only on Sparc, but also on Intel," Schwartz said.

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