Sun Microsystems Shines On Linux, But Questions Loom

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Sun Microsystems on Thursday announced a new line of low-end Linux-based servers and clarified its plan for the open source software regarding Sun's own Solaris operating system.

Sun became the latest technology giant to publicly endorse Linux. The computer maker mid-year will begin shipping a full implementation of Linux on a new line of "general purpose servers" for the low-end market that will use x86 architecture and feature both single- and multi-processor systems. In addition, Sun officials say the company will expand its Sun Cobalt Linux appliances, which first began shipping last year.

Sun president Ed Zander at a press conference said Solaris is still the number one operating system for enterprise customers but the company is responding to customer demand for Linux solutions for lower-end systems. Combining Solaris, Java and Linux technology will give customers the broadest range of solutions and technology in the marketplace, Zander said.

"We've had lots of customer requests, especially in the embedded and telecommunications markets, for Sparc-Solaris products and there's been a lot of requests, especially in the lower-end market, for Linux solutions for them," he said.

As part of its long-term strategy for Linux, Sun said it would expand channel efforts to partner with more Linux solution providers. Zander said more Linux developments were on the way but Sun would not get into specifics because of competitive concerns.

During the press conference, Zander and other Sun officials were repeatedly asked if embracing Linux meant demand for Solaris had ebbed. Zander, however, said the Unix-based Solaris and Linux are strong cousins and the real threat is to Microsoft.

"This is about offering a better, more cost-effective alternative to [Windows NT," Zander said. "Customers want an open alternative. The Unix and Linux community has to stand united around and open set of standards."

Zander also challenged the perception that Sun was hopping on the Linux bandwagon, citing 100,000 shipments of Linux-based Cobalt appliances as proof.

"We've certainly been doing a lot with Linux over the last several years, actually," Zander said.

Zander also attacked other technology franchises such as IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard. Sun's president said IBM's skill with Linux is mostly marketing, and claimed his company has more experience with Linux than Dell, HP and Compaq combined.

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