Sun embraces, takes aim at Red Hat Linux

Executives from Sun Microsystems Inc.’s software group Tuesday said that the company plans to ship a version of its Java Enterprise System server software for Red Hat Linux within 60 days. But they also took direct aim at Red Hat Inc.’s Linux offering as a key rival of Sun’s Solaris operating system.

Speaking at a meeting with reporters in Boston, Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice-president of software at Sun, claimed that the performance of Solaris now is “at parity with or better than Red Hat” on low-end servers with up to four processors. That applies to systems based on Xeon or Opteron processors in addition to Sun’s own Sparc chips, he said.

“The way that we’re going to win against Red Hat is that we’re going to be better, period,” Schwartz said. He added that Solaris also can more than hold its own against Windows on low-end servers.

Sun neglected the entry-level server market in the past, when it focused on large multiprocessor systems, Schwartz acknowledged. But he said Solaris developers have spent the past two years working with users at Wall Street companies and other customers to upgrade the operating system’s performance on low-end machines.

However, the relationship between Sun and Red Hat isn’t purely a competitive one. In addition to the upcoming release of Java Enterprise System for Red Hat Enterprise Linux AS, Sun offers Red Hat’s software as well as Novell Inc.’s SUSE Linux technology for use with its servers.

“We’re committed to giving people a choice,” Schwartz said. “I’m not bashing Red Hat. I’m telling you how we compete against them (with Solaris).”

The Red Hat version of Java Enterprise System will be the first non-Solaris release of the software bundle, which includes products such as Sun’s application, portal and directory servers. The bundle, which can be licensed on a per-employee basis, was announced last September and began shipping in January.

Versions of Java Enterprise System for Windows and HP-UX are due to follow by year’s end, said Steve Borcich, executive director of security marketing at Sun’s software unit. The company currently doesn’t plan to port the full suite of software to IBM Corp.’s AIX operating system, he added, citing a lack of demand from customers.

Once the different versions are available, Sun plans to upgrade them simultaneously. And despite the company’s continued focus on Solaris as a key competitive asset, Borcich and other executives said they won’t favor that operating system for sales of Java Enterprise System. “We just hope that people buy (the software bundle),” noted Joe Keller, vice-president of marketing for Java Web services and tools.

Within the next 60 days, Sun also plans to lay out a road map and release schedule for an expanded set of identity management tools. The new offering will be integrated into Java Enterprise System and include software that Sun acquired when it bought Waveset Technologies Inc. in December, Borcich said.

In addition, Schwartz said Sun this month will announce support for converting Microsoft Office macros so they can run on its StarOffice desktop applications. The company also plans to introduce a management console for its Java Desktop System bundle that will give IT managers the ability to disable imported macros for security purposes, he said.

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