Ripping a page out of the playbooks of rivals IBM and Red Hat (suggesting its a bit late to the game), Sun is slowly moving to a model where all of its software is available for free and the money is made on the support of it. With a large legacy software business, Sun didn't have the luxury of Red Hat's green field nor did it have a services organization like IBM's Global Services to help customers succeed with open source. But it does have mission critical software assets like Solaris and Java that give the company its own unique leverage in a services-oriented market. Sun's executive vice president of software Rich Green, now back at the company after a two-year stint with a startup, has explained to CNET News.com's Martin Lamonica why he thinks Sun is a different company than it was two years ago and why it's approach to open source, which includes the eventual open sourcing of Java, is the right one.
Here are some noteworthy quotes:
- I'm not going to sit here and say, "We're going to software instead of hardware." But what I am going to say is that we're going to run software as a significant peer component of Sun's business, certainly use it to positively affect our system sales.
- I want to separate out the buzz in the industry from the reality, which is, by and large, most individuals have full open-source access to the [Java] technology. That said, the means of licensing, the flexibility of using that open source is affected by what Jonathan and I announced at JavaOne. And that's why we're going to take the steps to fully free up the technology. But it should be well-known that virtually everybody gets the access to the source (code) of Java today, but we want to further make flexible what you can do with that stuff going forward.
- We did 5 million (downloads) with Solaris. So how're we doing? Not so bad for a year's work.
- Between the acquisitions we did for identity and business integration as well as the rest of the industry-standard open-source middleware stack, we have some really good stuff out there, and it's packaged in such a way that it is more usable than individual piece parts. I don't think we've done a good enough job of getting the message out, that that technology should be considered.
Those last two points pose an interesting dilemna for Sun. First of all, I tire pretty quickly of download statistics. Internally, Sun, Microsoft (who cited some huge number of downloads of the beta of Office 2007 to me yesterday), and other may see some correlation between downloads and the bottom line, but no one has ever drawn a solid line between the two because they can't. So, I wish vendors would stop citing downloads as an indicator of the riches to come.
More importantly, Green is right. Sun has a software stack that is one to be reckoned with, if only Sun can get the word out. Sure, it's missing a few pieces like a database. But, as the company makes this transition to being more of a Red Hat-esque services oriented company on the software front, it needs to do a better job generating some awareness around its stack.