Sun Microsystems took another step Wednesday in its effort to attract a wider body of users to its struggling software business by making its Java middleware available as open-source code.
"We will be driving for volume, first and foremost," said Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz in a teleconference. "Volume wins in the marketplace, especially the marketplace for technology," he added, citing the success of Red Hat Linux, the MySQL open-source database, and JBoss open-source application server.
Sun is seeking to be a disruptive force against its better established middleware competitors. By making its Java Enterprise System available for free, it hopes to entice some WebLogic users from BEA Systems Inc., WebSphere users from IBM, or Fusion users from Oracle.
Schwartz took pains to say that Sun's goal is not to give away software that produces revenue. Sun's revenue from its Java Enterprise System middleware was considered small alongside those of competitors IBM and BEA. The goal, said Schwartz, "is to remove barriers to revenue."
If Sun can get its Identity Management Server and Directory Server " key components of the Java Enterprise System " broadly established, it will then "figure out the products and services to monetize" that market presence, Schwartz said.
Sun made its Application Server, another key part of the Java Enterprise Suite, open-source back in June. Three months later it reported a loss of $123 million for its first quarter of fiscal 2006.
Schwartz asserted that open-source middleware would lead to more revenue for Sun from services and support. Few CIOs would be willing to take software produced by Sun or any other supplier and use it in mission-critical systems without support contracts with the producer, he said.
Still, Sun is making enough software available to start a small enterprise. The source code for its Java Enterprise System includes the Java Identity Management Suite, which in turn includes the well-regarded Identity Management Server and Directory Server Enterprise Edition, as well as Access Manager. Other pieces of JES include the Java Application Platform Suite, with its Service Registry, Portal Server, Web Server, and Portal Mobility Access server for wireless users.
Schwartz said Sun was succeeding in getting its Solaris operating system on more computers, thanks to making it an open-source product earlier this year. There have been 3.4 million downloads of Solaris since the move, he said, with three-quarters of them running on Intel-based hardware rather than Sun's own UltraSparc servers. Many copies of Solaris for x86-based servers are running on servers from Hewlett-Packard, a primary competitor, Schwartz noted.
Sun also made its C and C++ tools and Java development tools available as open-source code, as well as it's N1 application management software, based on its earlier acquisition of SeeBeyond.
Core Java technology, such as Java Standard Edition, remains licensed code, not open-source code.