Sun has added a new part to its motto "The network is the computer" with the corollary "Zero barrier to entry." Sun reiterated that it is making its entire stack open source over time, and announced that its complete software stack will be free. The Java Enterprise System, Sun N1 Management software and array of Sun developer tools will be available for both development and deployment at no cost. Sun also announced the Solaris Enterprise System, adding Solaris 10 to the Java Enterprise distribution. It's a continuation of Sun's adoption of Red Hat's Linux business model and its quest to compete effectively with Microsoft as well as Red Hat as a software infrastrucuture provider.
"The monetization vehicle is the Java Enterprise and Solaris Enterprise systems, moving from proprietary Unix or Windows to a free open source system that allows Web 2.0 companies to say they have everything that they need," said Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz during a press conference this morning. "The bits are free but not the service or subscription offering. We don't have customers who will use enterprise software without a support contract." Developers or IT shops can go to community forums if they don't want to pay Sun or another firm for support services, but they won't get idemnification, warranties or any urgent care. So far, Sun has about 1 million subscribers for the Java Enterprise System at about $100 per user.
Schwartz has been preaching 'volume wins' mantra for months. He figured that Sun can't win playing the proprietary game, and is gambling on giving away the store, driving volume and figuring out later how to generate revenue. "Developer opportunities always convert to Sun market opportunities," Schwartz said. In Sun's new formula, free software lowers barriers and increases volume and thus attracts developers, who don't typically like to pay for software. The game now is integration and identity, not piece parts like an just have an application server, said John Loicano, Sun executive vice president of software, referring to the pre-integrated end-to-end stack.
The Sun executive referred to the 3.4 million downloads of Solaris 10 as evidence of the viability of the software giveaway. "We've learned from the success with Solaris--it's gone from the back burner to front burner and now it's boiling a lot of water."
Sun's future boils down to more than competing in the free software stack zone. It has a well regarded stack, but up to now hasn't put IBM, BEA or others on the ropes. More enterprises will be looking to install a pre-integrated stack, and Sun has some advantages on that front in being free and unencumbered. Gaining traction is partly a cultural issue, as it is in the utility computing space, which Sun is also trying to crack. Ultimately, Sun has to sell megatons of infrastructure hardware along with the zero barrier to entry software infrastructure distribution to deliver the goods...