Tarantella is a good catch for Sun

Tarantella is currently no match for Citrix, but Sun's acquisition could point the way to a higher profile

Sun's acquisition of Tarantella, the last remnants of Doug Michels' old Santa Cruz-based SCO Corporation (no, not the other one), was so low-key that some of Sun's own PR people were unaware on Tuesday afternoon that it had been announced.

And why should it be otherwise? Tarantella is a minnow in the world of enterprise-application delivery over the Internet, where Citrix dominates with a revenue stream perhaps 100 times larger and backing (up to a point) from Microsoft. Following the dot-com collapse, Tarantella struggled on against all the challenges of being a very small fish in a very large pond, and never really made the headway that its board and investors expected.

It's certainly a veritable snip at $25m. Considering that Tarantella received some $15m in venture capital cash just over a year ago (which will, of course, have to be paid back at some point), the company looks like being very cheap indeed.

All this makes Tarantella a good catch for Sun: the whole cost is probably lower than the lawyers' fees for Sun's $2bn acquisition of Cobalt Networks, which brought the company little more than a short-lived brand name and an HR nightmare.

Sun's first challenge will be to integrate Tarantella's personnel. The absence of Tarantella chief executive Frank Wilde and founder Doug Michels on Sun's press and analyst conference call to discuss the deal should give some indication of the first changes we'll see. As for the rest well, let's hope the company manages a better job at staff retention than it did with Cobalt.

For those wishing to deliver enterprise applications to thin (or Web-based) clients, the choice just got a lot starker: Microsoft/Citrix or Sun/Tarantella? With the pending purchase of Tarantella, we can expect Sun to start pitching it as an enterprise rather than a departmental solution, as it has largely been up to now. We can also expect to see a big technical push to integrate Tarantella into Solaris. And with that, Sun is likely to start pitching its ability to deliver enterprise applications from Windows as well as from mainframe, Unix and Linux platforms. In the long run, interoperability will be the watch-word.

One thing is for certain: hitching a ride on Sun's coat-tails could see Tarantella end up where it could only previously dream of going.