Sun CEO Pledges Linux Support

Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy said Tuesday that he believes a surge of programmers will cross party lines and begin using Linux in the coming years.

McNealy told an audience at the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo that he expects to see a 30 percent increase each year, and he urged companies to get behind the Linux wave of popularity.

“We’re doing things the attorney general couldn’t do,” McNealy said, referring to the company’s long-standing feud with Microsoft.

Sun has paraded its commitment to Linux at the conference. On Tuesday, the company unveiled its first Linux-enabled server, the LX50, and reiterated its dedication to the open source community. Sun previously has made gains with Linux on the desktop.

McNealy also addressed concerns that Sun and other companies could break Linux into proprietary pieces. He vowed that his company would remain true to the community.

Wooing Developers

“We are part of the Linux community and will stay committed through sponsorships, donations and product deliveries,” McNealy said. “We’re leveraging the Linux opportunity and helping customers at the same time by bringing enterprise-level support to the open source community.”

He courted programmers by promising to add more lines of Linux code, LSB (Linux standard base) compliance, more engineering resources and ongoing support for the open source community.

“There is no reason not to go to Sun for Linux — we’ve got the Sun ONE stack, price-performance, support and services, scalability and an upgrade path,” he said.

Hope on a Bandwagon

But Sun’s promise to support Linux has some industry observers wondering whether the company had any alternatives.

“What other choice do they have?” asked Julie Giera, vice president and research leader for IT services at Giga Information Group.

Giera told the E-Commerce Times that she believes Sun is struggling with business issues, including its previous strategy of releasing hardware at deeply discounted prices. As that hardware ages and enters the used market, Giera expects the result will be depressed prices on current hardware.

“Sun, I think, is in deep trouble,” Giera said. “They’ve got to jump on what they perceive as a winner. Those guys [are] getting up and saying, ‘We’re with Linux.’ But where else would they be?”

Popularity Rising

At the same time, Giera acknowledged that Linux adoption is set to increase, because her research has shown companies are willing to experiment with the operating system. She noted that smaller companies and certain departments within major corporations are the most likely to adopt the open source standard.

“Thirty percent is pretty hefty. But again, they’re starting from a pretty small base,” said Giera, regarding McNealy’s prediction.

She credited Linux’ widespread adoption to tech giant IBM’s commitment to the open source operating system, as well as to recent “missteps” Microsoft has made with its vendors regarding its new licensing structure.

Indeed, dissatisfaction with Microsoft could be a substantial factor for companies making the switch, Giera noted, though she said she does not expect Fortune 500 companies to move all their systems to Linux.

“Microsoft has too big of a position right now,” Giera said. “I don’t think we’ve seen [Linux] run large, transaction-based commercial applications. I think that has yet to be proven.”

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