Sun enters Linux fray

Sun Microsystems announcement

Sun Microsystems Inc., one of the last Unix-centric vendors, announced Wednesday that seven of its Sun ONE server products are now available with the Linux operating system, with more Linux systems on the way.

Sun offered only two Linux products as recently as six months ago, preferring to offer servers and workstations based on its Solaris operating system, company officials said in making the announcement at the 2003 LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in New York City.

Linux, a variant of Unix, which is not owned by any one vendor, has become increasingly popular as an alternative to proprietary operating systems offered by Microsoft Corp., Sun and other vendors. Linux, like other open-source software, is generally available for free, although numerous companies make money selling software utilities and support services.

The move comes about a year after rival IBM Corp. released a version of Linux designed for its mainframes. That sparked renewed interest in the open-source operating system among federal agencies and the private sector alike.

"That's what this is all about. Matching IBM," said Shawn Willett, principal analyst with Current Analysis Inc., based in Sterling, Va. "Sun had resisted Linux for a while [because] they have their own Unix operating system. They finally bowed to reality."

According to Sun's announcement, its Application Server 7, Directory Server 5.1, Web Server 6, Active Server Pages, Studio 4, Grid Engine and Grid Engine Enterprise Edition now all support Linux. Four more server products will support Linux by the end of the year, the company said. It also said that its Java applications all run under Linux. And Mad Hatter, Sun's Linux-based desktop system, is due out by the summer.

"Linux is a real growth opportunity for Sun and we are continuing to make enterprise-class software available on Linux," Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive vice president of software, said in a statement.

The new willingness to embrace Linux shouldn't hurt Sun's Unix-based Solaris operating system, and should open more doors in the government for the company, Willett said.

"There's an awful lot of Solaris in the government market. This makes Linux more of a viable option because there's vendor support from Sun," he said.

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