Sun makes government pitch

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s products are ideal for government, but the company is finding rival Microsoft Corp.'s hold hard to break, said Scott McNealy, Sun's chairman, president and chief executive officer.

McNealy, in a keynote speech at the FOSE trade show in Washington, D.C., and during a brief press conference, outlined the reasons that agencies should consider Sun's Unix and Java-based products. For one, he said, there are no Java viruses. "It's not because there's not an installed base," he said. "It's because nobody's figured out how to write a Java virus."

Sun's products can run on the same Intel Corp. processor systems that Microsoft's products use, he said, but aren't limited to Intel. The only strong competitor to Sun's Java-based Web services is Microsoft's "welded-shut, single-vendor, Intel-based" .NET offering, said McNealy, who has been one of Microsoft's most vocal critics for years.

Dendy Young, chairman and CEO at GTSI Corp., joined McNealy for a press conference after the keynote and echoed the Sun message.

"People don't yet understand the power of the Solaris desktop," he said. "It's not yet common enough."

The company has deployed some pilot projects, primarily in the Defense Department, McNealy said. But while military services understand the importance of highly secure command and control systems, McNealy said they don't understand that Sun can bring the same security and flexibility to e-mail and other desktop systems.

"It's fair to say that there isn't a lot of Java desktop technology in the government right now," he said.

"Everyone thinks that the only alternative to Microsoft is Linux," Young said. "Somehow we've got to get the message out that what Sun has is far superior."

Although many corporations use Solaris and other proprietary Unix-based products, critics argue that relatively high licensing fees make Solaris systems more expensive than those running open source Linux or Microsoft's Windows, particularly for low-end and mid-range tasks. IBM Corp. -- Sun's largest server competitor and a staunch Linux advocate -- commissioned a July 2002 study by the Robert Frances Group Inc., which claimed that for a system processing 100,000 hits per day over three years, Linux costs could be 87 percent less than Solaris and 61 percent less than Microsoft.

On the other hand, Sun officials contend that the Solaris' robustness, security and support make it the most efficient system in the long run. The company sponsored an April 2003 study from the Aberdeen Group, which claimed that a Sun system running a 50-client Oracle 9i database over five years would be 11 percent cheaper than a comparable Linux system from Dell Inc.

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