At the end of last year, Oracle took aim at Red Hat with a support program that seriously undercut Red Hat's pricing. Oracle's pricing claims might be a bit of smoke and mirrors, but it is giving customers something to think about as contracts come up for renewal.
Now Sun is planning to attack Red Hat, as well as Oracle, claiming that the leading open source Linux company is under-serving customers and that Solaris can do the job better. "The big take away is that it is not just the [Solaris] technology," said Rich Green, executive vice-president of software at Sun. "There is a vacuum that is not being served by Red Hat or served by Microsoft. We are well positioned and fully intend to fill the gap." The big volume gap is primarily the Web tier and edge content serving for startups and small businesses, which has been a Red Hat stronghold.
Sun offers free access to Solaris 10 (no support contract required) and support that the company claims is 20 to 50 percent cheaper than Red Hat support, and is priced competitively with Oracle Red Hat support. Sun also touts Solaris as a superior (more robust, secure and supportable) operating system to Red Hat Linux or other distributions for enterprises as well as smaller businesses and startups.
"Today with Web 2.0, the amount of content and applications is growing and businesses rely 100 percent on Web," Green said. "The choice of how to build systems is now extremely relevant." With nearly 7 million downloads of free Solaris, Sun hopes to engage customers in conversations that could lead to Solaris deployments irregardless of hardware platform, said Peder Ulander, vice president of software marketing at Sun.
As part of the support offering, Sun introduced The Sun Connection service, which provides life cycle management of Solaris in the Web tier, and migration programs and new programs for resellers.
"We can provide better support than Red Hat or Oracle, and we have an aggressive campaign to educate partners and to engage with the startup community, partnering with VCs and luminaries to get Solaris into the higher volume Web tier," Ulander claimed.
"We have an opportunity right now with new versions of Windows, Red Hat and others. With the release of a new Red Hat operating system, there is a lot of cost associated with migration and re-certifying hardware and software. Solaris has always been binary-compatible through the migration of the platform, which gives us an advantage. There is an opportunity in the market, and ours to take," Ulander continued.
Ulander said that Sun has corporate goals--metrics for success--around volume, new design wins, and start ups, which influence the compensation program in the company.
Sun's attack on Red Hat should be good for users, but it remains to be seen just how successful Sun will be at slowing down Red Hat and achieving its metrics for success.