McNealy pitches Sun security

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Scrambling to fight off perceptions that Sun Microsystems Inc. is a fading player in technology markets, the company's boss made a pitch today that military officials should view Sun as a natural partner in their push for more secure and reliable computing.

Scott McNealy, chairman and chief executive officer of Sun, offered an all-in-one deal for one of the company's major products: Any government agency, regardless of size, can buy a copy of Sun's Java Enterprise CD and install it for unlimited use for $12 million a year.

The CD is automatically updated four times a year, "extra stuff" will be thrown into the mix on a regular basis and buyers will never be charged more, McNealy said during a presentation today at the Air Force Information Technology Conference here. In return, Sun officials hope agencies will buy more of the company's servers, tools and storage, he said.

McNealy touted what he called Sun's vision of mobility with security as an alternative to the model of networked desktop PCs that are constantly faced with security challenges and virus attacks. Users with a Java smart card could securely access networked resources from any Sun Ray thin-client desktop system in any location and have a copy of their own desktop environment made available to them, he said.

As opposed to the virus-riddled PC desktops, he said, "When was the last time you heard of a Java virus?"

McNealy also pointed to deals that Sun officials have struck with other technology companies on chip and systems partnerships as evidence of their attempts to make sure Sun systems work with as many other platforms as possible. A big part of that may well be the 10-year development agreement Sun recently made with Microsoft Corp. The first result of that pact will likely be a directory and single sign-on initiative, which will bring the LDAP and Active Directory worlds closer together, McNealy said.

That initiative should be formally announced within the next couple of months, he said.

The whole intention of the Sun/Microsoft venture is to integrate the Java and .Net environments, McNealy said, which will provide a wide circle of trust for users of both platforms.

"Lots of Air Force generals are out there thinking it's about time" this happened, McNealy said in an interview later with Federal Computer Week.

McNealy said that Sun is doing well in the defense, intelligence and homeland security arenas, but he added that there are many other areas in government where the company is not so active. For example, he pointed to the fact that many agencies are only now upgrading to the Solaris 8 version of the company's operating system — Solaris 10 is due for introduction later this year.

"We'd certainly like to have an earlier adoption of Solaris [by those agencies] and for them to move on this notion of mobility with security," he said.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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