Sun To Unveil Desktop Linux, Security Offerings

Vendor will introduce new products, services at Sun Network show

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Sun Microsystems will introduce next week a new desktop Linux product at its Sun Network show, a company executive said.

Sun will also unveil new products, services and partnerships around its security strategy, said David Head, director of executive communications at Sun.

Sun will launch Sun ONE Desktop on Linux, a product that Chairman, CEO and President Scott McNealy alluded to in his keynote speech at the LinuxWorld show here last month. Sun hopes a Linux-based desktop will unseat Microsoft Windows as the dominant operating system on PCs.

Industry observers said they expect Sun ONE Desktop will be comprised of products from open-source projects, including the Star Office desktop productivity suite, the GNOME 2.0 interface, the latest version of the Mozilla browser and Evolution e-mail client.

Sun's recent commitment to Linux,with the launch last month of its first Linux server, LX50,is fairly new despite the company's strong rhetoric in favor of the open-source operating system.

As late as this past March, McNealy told CRN that Linux and Solaris were ostensibly the same thing because they "are both Unix."

In 1999, McNealy went so far as to characterize Linux as "a great way to get to the wrong answer," but said it was certainly a better route than Microsoft Windows. At that time, McNealy also admitted that some Sun customers develop on Linux and deploy on Solaris, which was "fine by us." By then, Sun rivals Hewlett-Packard and IBM had both detailed extensive plans to support Linux as well as their own operating systems.

Hank Johnson, vice president of the Enterprise Partner Services group at Dallas-based solution provider Stonebridge Technologies, said that with the industry momentum behind Linux, it was critical for Sun to come out with a strategy around the operating system.

"The advanced technologists at our clients are embracing Linux, and these people will lead the market in the future," Johnson said. "With IBM coming strong in the market, I'm glad Sun is rolling it out now, and not six months later."

Most observers agree that Sun's recent change of heart, and marketing message, on Linux is a ploy to drive revenue in its hardware business, since Sun's traditional play in the high-end server market has been hit hard financially in the economic downturn.

A technology that is not new to Sun is security, said Michael Rasmussen, a director of research at Giga Information Group. He said the vendor next week will unveil strategic repackaging and enhancements around existing products and services in this area.

Rasmussen said Sun will launch new ways of bundling security offerings, particularly around Sun Professional Services.

Sun also will introduce new partnerships; tout its educational resources around security, which are little known; and introduce enhancements in security around network identity and Web services, he added.

Rasmussen said Sun's security strategy is "really nothing new" because Sun has always baked security into its Solaris operating system.

"From a technical standpoint, Sun has integrated security into the operating system more than any one other vendor," Rasmussen said.

But increasing pressure from Microsoft, which recently has been "beating the street" with its own security strategy, has influenced Sun to change the marketing message, he added.

"The Microsoft security story is based on, 'OK, security is important to us now but it hasn't been in the past,'" Rasmussen said. "But Sun has a true story in 'Security has been important to us all along; we just haven't talked about it.' "

Mike Shook, CEO of Cary, N.C.-based systems integrator Strategic Technologies, said sending a strong security message is critical for vendors in a post-9/11 world, and an absolute must for Sun, since its hardware runs many Fortune 500 computer systems.

"Security, secure documentation, disaster recovery, failover,all those things are really vital today," Shook said. "Sun is a major leader. They have to play in that."

BARBARA DARROW, JOSEPH F. KOVAR and PAULA ROONEY contributed to this story.

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