McNealy sees thin clients, open source as path to lower TCO

Sun has set its sights on companies facing the pressures of scalability, software licensing costs, and remote working requirements as targets for its thin client network computing model, according to Scott McNealy, president and CEO of the company.

In Sydney this week, McNealy said Sun thin client model provides a lower total cost of ownership by running applications off a central server for many users.

“By orders of magnitude we are cheaper,” McNealy said. “Having 20 users sharing one processor and a set amount of memory and disk, divides the cost of hardware significantly when compared with individual computers for every employee. We are doing this now and are looking to extend it to 200 and eventually 1000 users per processor.”

McNealy cited the use of smartcards with Sun Ray thin clients as way of securely connecting to applications remotely.

“With smartcard technology employees can securely logon to any Sun thin client and have their personal profile loaded on the screen allowing access to their applications,” McNealy said. “This works equally well within or outside the corporate network.”

Sun intends to incorporate wireless technology into the smartcard access model.

In terms of what the users see on their desktop, McNealy is adamant that Solaris and Linux will be identical.

“[Mid-year] we will be releasing project Mad Hatter which is a Linux kernel with the Gnome desktop, Mozilla Web browser, StarOffice for productivity, and a Java virtual machine,” he said. “Linux is the operating system alternative to Windows on the desktop. It is a tool and opportunity for us, not a threat. The cost of software should be closer to zero than the current market dictates. For example, the open source database market is gaining activity and aggressively challenges the pricing of enterprise database vendors.”

McNealy continuously used the car part analogy to push Sun’s holistic-systems product model. “Sun sells systems,” he said. “When you buy a car you don’t buy all the parts such as pistons and tyres and then assemble everything. Customers should expect the same level of integration from systems vendors.”

The one concession McNealy made regarding his “car part” analogy was on the long-term viability of continuing to develop its 64-bit processors in favour of adopting those from another manufacturer.

“We are the commodity in 64-bit computing and it would be irresponsible for us to drop this,” he said. “The reason our high-end systems are leading products is because we know the processor, kernel, and application technology.”

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