Sun, Microsoft Move Focus Of Linux Battle To Leader Red Hat

Sun President Jonathan Schwartz fired a major counteroffensive against Linux nemesis Red Hat by unveiling hefty discounts on the forthcoming Solaris 10 Unix OS upgrade due later this year and an offer to repurchase Xeon-based servers from any customer that buys Sun's discounted AMD Opteron-based servers.

Similar to the apporach of Microsoft, its former archrival, Sun is challenging leading Linux commercial company Red Hat directly on price and customer support issues. Both companies have lost significant share of new server shipments to Red Hat.

Speaking last week at an event on Wall Street, where Sun once dominated, Schwartz criticized the cost of a Red Hat subscription and its technical support. Schwartz said Sun will launch a global Unix/Linux support center capable of handling customers' technical issues 24x7.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's general manager of platform strategy, Martin Taylor, also said last week he's taking on Red Hat, Novell, IBM and other Linux commercial companies head on. Microsoft offers better total cost of ownership, technical support and legal indemnification than Red Hat Linux, he added. "Red Hat has priced themselves above Microsoft," Taylor told CRN.

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One Microsoft solution provider said he evaluated commercial Linux but was concerned about dealing with multiple vendors and the lack of integration and technical support available.

"We're very pragmatic, and we started looking at Linux to see if it was a viable alternative," said Bill Blum, president of Alpine Business Systems, Somerville, N.J. "If you use it only as a file- and print-sharing device, it's hard to say Microsoft has any advantage over Linux. But when you start adding other features and benefits, there's no comparison."

Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik said Sun and Microsoft are jealous of his company's growing success. "The strong execution of our organization has caused our competition to be envious," Szulik wrote in an e-mail to CRN, noting that Red Hat has signed 240,000 subscriptions in the past two quarters. "The future is blindingly bright for the entire Linux industry. We expect attention from our competition to increase."