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9/12/2007
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Sun, Microsoft Expand Partnership; Sun To Sell Windows

The former rivals will collaborate on IP television and interoperability between Windows Server and Sun's Solaris operating system.

Sun Microsystems is now taking orders. For Windows Server, that is.

Microsoft and Sun announced Wednesday that Sun has signed on to offer Windows Server 2003 on its 64-bit servers and that the two companies will collaborate on IP television and interoperability between virtualization of Windows Server on Sun's Solaris operating system and vice versa. "The Sun hardware platform is an excellent foundation for Windows-based enterprise solutions," Bob Muglia, senior VP of Microsoft's server and tools division, said in a statement.

The announcement comes as no great shock to the system, except for Sun's channel partners, since a growing percentage of Sun customers were already running Windows on Sun servers anyway. "You could say it's about time," says IDC Research VP Al Gillen.

During a conference call discussing the move, John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun's systems group, noted that 100% of Sun's customers run both Solaris and Windows in their environments. "Our partners and customers want to use Windows," he said.

Why now, though, if Sun customers are already Windows customers? Fowler said timing had to do with it. Sun is getting ready to launch the next generation of its Galaxy server line. Meanwhile, Microsoft is getting ready for its release of Windows Server 2008 early next year. The agreement specifically covers Windows Server 2003, and Fowler wouldn't say if or when Windows Server 2008 would be included. He did, however, refer several times to "joint solutions," making it clear that more could still come from the partnership.

The expansion of the Sun-Microsoft collaboration follows a three-year dearth of news after the two companies publicly settled a long-standing feud with a public handshake and promises of further togetherness by former Sun CEO Scott McNealy and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in 2004.

Still, the silence doesn't mean some collaboration hasn't been happening, Fowler and Microsoft senior VP Andy Lees said on the call. Since 2004, the two companies have worked together in an interoperability lab in Redmond and elsewhere on interoperability for identity management, storage, thin clients, systems management, and Web services. "Collectively, these haven't necessarily generated a huge amount of notice, but among customers, they've been hugely important," Fowler asserted.

For example, Sun has implemented Microsoft storage APIs in its products and the two companies have reached a level of interoperability in systems management to where Lees has done demos of System Center monitoring Sun hardware at technical conferences. The two companies also worked together to help Microsoft's .NET Framework work better with Java Platform Enterprise Edition via Project Tango, Sun's Web services interop play.

As part of today's agreement, Microsoft will expand the interoperability lab in built in 2004 with demonstration areas, work on Sun benchmarks, and support customers running projects on Windows on x64 systems. Another area of increased collaboration will include an expanded IP television partnership, where Microsoft software and Sun hardware are already powering AT&T's IPTV platform.

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