Sun Under New Fire For Linux

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Sun Microsystems continues to draw fire from the Linux community for an article attacking mainframe Linux that Sun posted on its Web site in February.

In a letter to Sun Chief Competitive Officer Shahin Khan obtained by CRN Friday, Alexander Tormasov, chief scientist for ISV SWsoft and a member of the team that develops networking code for the Linux kernel, said Sun is using its strategy to promote Linux at the network edge solely to sell more Solaris-based servers to bail the company out of its financial troubles.

Tormasov also criticizes Sun's entire product strategy in his letter, which is scheduled to be released Monday, two days before Sun formally unveils the latest version of its Unix operating system, Solaris 9.

"I'm now convinced that Sun's strategy is to undermine the credibility of Linux as a serious OS by hyping Linux only on the low end and Solaris on the high end," writes Tormasov. "I understand that Sun is driven to do this because [of a poor long-term architecture strategy that has resulted in a loss of market demand for Sparc/Solaris and serious financial problems for Sun."

In the letter, Tormasov also writes that Sparc/Solaris-based servers not only are facing extinction in the low-end markets because of Linux, but also can't compete well against the mainframe because Sun's "basic architecture lacks the high availability, scalability and reliability strengths of mainframes."

Khan is the author of the article, "Linux on the Mainframe, Not a Good Idea," which prompted an initial response letter in March by Tormasov, co-signed by officials at Linux vendors Caldera, Red Hat, Turbolinux and SuSE.

Tormasov's most recent letter is a response to one written by Khan in April, which defended accusations made in the first letter that Sun is promoting Linux strictly at the network edge in an attempt to salvage Solaris' position as the dominant operating system for high-end servers and that Sun is putting a negative spin on mainframe Linux to stave off competition from IBM's z800 Linux mainframe.

In his letter to Tormasov, Khan defended Sun's Linux position as a move to create open systems rather than proprietary network architecture, something that has been consistent with Sun's overall strategy from the company's inception.

"Linux is fighting the same fight as Unix," wrote Khan. "It is fundamentally about open systems as an alternative and a replacement for closed systems, not as a vehicle to create royalty streams for them. This is why Unix on the mainframe did not work. This is why Linux on the mainframe is a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Sun CEO Scott McNealy also has defended Sun's decision to support Linux, saying it is consistent with Sun's long-standing Unix strategy.

McNealy told CRN in late March that Linux and Solaris are ostensibly the same thing, since they both are forms of Unix. Sun's support of Linux simply means Sun now has another flavor of Unix in its portfolio, McNealy said.

SWsoft, based in South San Francisco, and IBM have a pact to co-market SWsoft's server-virtualization software, Virtuozzo, on IBM's mainframe Linux operating system, said Alex Plant, SWsoft's senior marketing manager.

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