Google takes a leisurely stroll through Sun's pantry of goods

What's Sun gonna do, tell him to get in line behind Microsoft?
Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor on

I can see it now. Google honcho Eric Schmidt decides to stretch his legs and venture down from Olympus to do some window shopping at his former employer, Sun Microsystems. He probably dropped in to Sun's nearby Mountain View campus on a whim after pacing the grounds at the NASA Ames Research Center, wondering whether 1 million square feet will be enough for the new Googleplex addition.

"Oh, driver," he says, "While we're in the neighborhood, let's pull into Sun and have a look-see." Silicon Valley is to Google what Rodeo Drive is to Paris Hilton.

Once on-site, peering into the Sun pantry of engineered wares and patented what-nots, Dr. Schmidt sees some baubles and trinkets. "Well, that Java virtual machine might be nice to have about the 'plex.' And, oh, I guess those Galaxy servers might come in handy if the 1 million square feet fills up too quickly. Ah, me, I guess we could take some of that OpenOffice code and whip something up as a service some day soon. Hey, that Solaris 10 on Niagara might jazz up some of our VOIP data centers, too. We'll take them all, and make sure you tip the COO on the way out," he says to the driver before motoring back to the home office.

As Mel Brooks once said, "It's good to be the king." And with Google firmly on the top of the IT zeitgeist hill, and Sun Microsystems sort of feverishly building fortifications and levees in the meadows below, Google is in a great position to co-opt ... err, I mean, partner with Sun. What's Sun gonna do, tell him to get in line behind Microsoft? Do you think it took as long to reach a deal with Google as it did with IBM when Big Blue re-upped for 11 more years of Java license? Doubt it.

Yes, the trenchant announcement today that those folks who soon download Sun's latest JVM for their local runtime pleasure will also get a free Google browser toolbar (it's like you get the Ginsu knives free after paying $20 for the spatula) must be Sun's way of saving face. Wouldn't it make more sense to give a shiny new JVM to everyone that downloads a Google tool bar? Certainly IE on Windows clients.

The other parts of the announcement are where the real meat is. And while we've heard the Sun mantra -- Have we got a new partner for you! -- before about cooperating with the competition (ala IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, Novell .... yada, yada, yada), this one is for real. Sun's strengths and Google's interests do align really well, on the back end and the client. The competitive landscape also suits Sun and Google pairing up where it makes sense, and it makes a lot of cents. What's good for Sun and Google is not so good for Microsoft, Intel, IBM, BEA, and HP. Yet it won't really upset the field of play for SAP, Oracle, and Salesforce.com-anche.

What's most important, however, is that the new, albeit nebulous, tightness between Sun and Google is ultimately very good for enterprise IT budget mavens. It is no longer remote of feasibility nor far-off in time and space that low-cost, high-quality, high-reliability baseline workgroup productivity applications and voice and data communications together as subscription services become available. And just in time so that CFOs can do a thorough cost-benefit analysis against next year's Vista-Office 12 "connected systems" approach rollout.

So what do the vague announcements today about the Google-Sun deal-in-motion mean? Sun gets to showcase its present and future data center and services delivery platform grid efficiencies at the premier ISV: Google. Java Runtime Environment on the desktop gets a life-sustaining shot of vitamin B-12, while OpenOffice-StarOffice might well become the R&D replacement and speed-to-market turbo-charge that Google needs to leap out front in the race to redefine the client computing-as-service experience. Make that mission-critical experience.

Now, who needs to worry most about Sun and Google making happy-face? I say it's the voice and data networks providers, the Verizons, Sprints, SBCs, BTs, MCIs, BellSouths, and France Telecoms. Because if Sun+Google=Voice and Data Efficiencies as a service stream, aka Webtone, par excellence, on a global scale, then who are you gonna call when you need business services?

Editor's note: See ZDNet's special report for additional news and views on the Sun-Google partnerhsip.

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