Sun declared that it will “aggressively participate in the Linux community” at its analyst conference in San Francisco, California this week. The move is a change of heart from a company that has for years only sold servers based on its own version of Unix, the Solaris operating system.
Until now, Sun’s commitment to Linux has been limited. Sun purchased low-end Linux server appliance manufacturer Cobalt Networks in September 2000. But it has sold the Cobalt servers, based on low-cost Intel microprocessors, as a separate, secondary product line.
According to Sun’s chief operating officer Ed Zander, Sun will now expand its line of Cobalt Linux appliances as well as creating a new line of Sun-branded Linux on Intel-based systems. Sun also plans to ship a full version of the Linux operating system.
Sun’s announcement comes as it faces more intense competition from two major sources. First, IBM, which announced in January 2002 that it was developing a Linux-only mainframe that would compete on price and performance with Sun’s high-end Unix servers; and second, Microsoft, with its low-end Intel based servers running Windows.
According to Zander, Sun’s low-end Linux servers will provide a viable alternative to Microsoft at the low-end, while allowing fast-growth customers to scale up to more powerful Solaris-based servers as their businesses expand.
To support this, Sun said it will now enable Linux applications to run on Solaris, but has no plans to enable Solaris applications to run on Linux. “This is a way to bring Linux applications into the Solaris environment,” Zander told analysts.