Major bank will deploy Sun's Java desktop

The Allied Irish Bank is migrating to the Linux desktop despite the relative immaturity of the platform

Sun has finally received the seal of approval it has been seeking from a large private sector client following the announcement on Tuesday that Allied Irish Bank (AIB) is migrating 7,500 users to the Java Desktop System (JDS).

AIB in Ireland, Northern Ireland and mainland Britain will move to JDS during 2005 as part of a wider move to a new branch banking platform. According to a statement, AIB chose the JDS because of its "integrated environment based on open source components and industry standards".

Over the last 12 months, numerous European public organisations including the City of Munich have pledged support for the open-source desktop but AIB represents one of the largest private companies to adopt it.

"The global momentum for the Java Desktop System continues at a rapid pace because of its affordability, enhanced security, manageability, and interoperability," said Curtis Sasaki, Sun's vice president of desktop solutions.

Desktop Linux needs the endorsement of a high-profile financial organisation such as AIB, which gives this kind of customer a very strong negotiating position. Sun may not be making much money on the deal.

Earlier this year, Robin Wilton, Sun's JDS programme manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, alluded to a "hard bargain" that an unnamed bank had negotiated with the software maker over a JDS deployment.

Wilton's comments, made during a speech at the Linux User and Developer Expo 2004, made it pretty clear that Sun found its mysterious bank hard to make a deal with.

"I hope they won't be a template for future customers," said Wilton. "Boy, have they put pressure on us for a good price. If all companies are like this, it really will be earning a fiver the hard way."

Wilton claimed this JDS rollout would supersede a Windows 3.1 suite that the bank was writing off over a 10- to 15-year timeframe -- another indication of its thrifty approach to IT.

He also hinted that the unnamed bank stipulated that some of the functionality that Sun has included in JDS to compete with the likes of Windows should be removed, a process Wilton described as "deintegration".

"They want us to rip out the instant-messenger client, for example, so they're left with a robust core that needs minimal maintenance."

This wouldn't be the first time that Sun has secured a JDS deal that won't yield massive profits. It recently secured a deal with the Chinese government that could see hundreds of millions of PCs running desktop Java, but chief executive Scott McNealy has admitted that this won't be a big money spinner.

McNealy told a Sun European user event in Berlin last December that the agreement was a strategic play that stopped Microsoft dominating the lucrative Chinese market.

ZDNet UK's Graeme Wearden contributed to this report.