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Sun Targets Linux Pros with Galaxy and Advantage

It's Still All About Sun

  • September 19, 2005
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

Although Sun Microsystems' recent Galaxy server and Advantage partner program announcements center on Solaris 10, Sun is--not surprisingly--making fervent pitches to Linux administrators and ISVs around the new offerings.

At last week's Galaxy launch in New York City, Sun and Linux distributor Red Hat Software put a temporary lid on loudly vocalized differences, as they joined hands for the day in applauding the performance advantages of the new AMD-based x86 servers.

"Like other vendors, Sun recognizes that you have to open up your channels, even if that sometimes means (teaming) with your competitors," observed Mark McManus, an industry analyst at CEI (Computer Economics, Inc.).

But more specifically, what's in it for Sun to court Linux around its Galaxy line-up and Advantage program? Sun is targeting its latest x86 servers at use in Linux, Microsoft Windows, and multi-OS environments, as well as in traditional Solaris strongholds, said Hal L. Stern, VP/CTO of Sun Software, during a meeting with LinuxPlanet at the launch event in Manhattan.

Sun views Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard as the major hardware rivals for Galaxy. Although Sun expects to make money from new hardware sales, the vendor regards "management, security, and services" as even sweeter revenue spots, according to Stern.

Like other Fire servers before them, Sun's new Galaxy servers are capable of running either Solaris, Linux, or Microsoft Windows, said the Sun exec." But Solaris is the underlying platform," he noted.

For management and security, administrators will turn to Solaris 10, Stern maintained. "You can also run all three OS together--but for that, you'll need a VM."

VMware, one of about 20 Sun ISV partners showcased at the event, produces ESX Server, a virtual infrastructure for consolidating, partitioning, and managing multiple OS.

In terms of services, too, Sun is working on both direct and indirect modes. "We've been providing Linux (technical) support on our Fire servers," the VP/CTO said.

Stern also touted Sun's moves to "open source" Solaris, along with growing use of the OS, which is now available for free download.

"More than 2.5 million people are using Solaris, most of them not even on Sun hardware," he contended.

With the Galaxy servers, moreover, Sun is introducing first-time support for Microsoft Windows on Sun hardware, said Bill Smith, Sun's director of business alliances, during a breakout session at the event.

Sun's new Advantage program, a Web-enabled replacement for the five-year-old iForce partner program, is getting its initial implementation among ISVs, according to Stern.

Later this year, he said, Advantage will add a new "vertical markets" plank, which will be heavily oriented to Linux ISVs developing applications in areas such as financial services.

Sun also expects to expand the Advantage program to encompass resellers and systems integrators somewhere down the road.

Initially, however, the program seems skewed to developers who write either for Solaris only, or for both Solaris and other environments.

"Just about all of our ISVs now develop applications for both Solaris and Linux," said another Sun executive, buttonholed by LinuxPlanet at a product expo during the event.

"Galaxy is a great platform for us. We're a multi-OS shop, because our customers run multiple OS," echoed Stephen Zisk, manager of sales engineering for Metamomix, Inc, in a booth interview during the expo.

For those who qualify, joining the Advantage program costs nothing during the first year of membership, since Sun is waiving the annual fee of $495.

Although the benefits are considerable, many of them revolve around the Solaris environment. Sun is providing free or discounted offerings across four different areas: technology and product; marketing and sales; technology resources and support; and education, training, and information.

In the technology and product category alone, for example, the offerings include downloads of Solaris updates; access to beta editions of Java enterprise and desktop software, and tools for migrating to Sun platforms, to name a few.

But in a video running on Sun's Advantage Web site, Stephen Borcich, Sun's VP of partner markets, sets forth a more aggressive iteration of Sun's intentions with the new program.

"If you go to a Linux distribution, which one? And what's the platform commitment--multi-platform or not?" he asks. "And if you go to Linux, you may need to support anywhere up to 17 distributions to get to volume. Plus, until recently, some of the proprietary extensions of Red Hat and SUSE Linux were kept secret, and (were) not part of the Linux distribution. That meant differences. That meant more work and cost for you."

Also in the video, Borcich makes disparaging remarks about other competing OS, including Windows, AIX, and HP-UX.

"We're here to prove to you that your best choice is Sun, and we're going to make it worth your while with a huge new investment in our partner program," according to Borcich. "It's all about Sun's commitment to you, (and) this program is to get you to commit to Sun."

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