Resistance Proves Futile; Sun To Sell Windows Servers - InformationWeek
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Resistance Proves Futile; Sun To Sell Windows Servers

Three years after settling legal matters, Sun and Microsoft enter second stage of cooperation.

We're not shipping Windows. We're not doing .Net. We're not shipping the Microsoft platform," Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy insisted in 2003. Last week, Sun's chairman and former CEO ate those words.

In expanding a 3-year-old "cooperation agreement" with Microsoft, Sun last week revealed plans to sell Sun servers running the Windows Server 2003 operating system, a turn of events that left those who know the history of these two companies shaking their heads. Sun selling Windows servers? "Over my dead body," McNealy would have said in the old days of knock-down, drag-out competition with Microsoft. But both vendors have had to tone down the rhetoric and make it easier for customers to manage data centers where Unix and Windows run side by side.

Sun will begin selling Windows Server 2003 on its 64-bit Sun x64 servers within three months. The two companies also plan to redouble efforts to improve interoperability between their products. In a separate development with similar goals, Microsoft and Novell last week opened a Windows-Linux interoperability lab in Cambridge, Mass.

A growing number of Sun customers already have begun running Windows on Sun servers. Sun executive VP John Fowler said in a conference call that 100% of Sun's customers run Solaris and Windows somewhere in their companies. Now Sun will try to get in on more of those sales.

Last week's agreement has implications for upcoming product releases from both companies. Sun is preparing to launch the next generation of its Galaxy server line, while Microsoft plans to release Windows Server 2008 early next year. Fowler wouldn't say whether Sun will sell Windows Server 2008 on Sun hardware. Given last week's turn of events, however, it's a good bet that will happen.


It's been three years since Sun and Microsoft struck a broad agreement that settled a pending lawsuit, laid the groundwork for cross-licensing of patents and other intellectual property, and called for technical collaboration. At the time, McNealy and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer publicly shook hands and Microsoft handed over $1.95 billion--$900 million to resolve patent disputes, $700 million to settle antitrust claims, and $350 million in royalties.

Since then, the companies have been working to improve interoperability in the areas of identity management, storage, thin clients, systems management, and Web services. Now the companies plan to expand an interoperability lab on Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Wash. They'll also work on cross-platform virtualization and advancing Microsoft's IPTV technology on Sun servers and storage.

Microsoft And Sun 2.0
• SERVERS Sun will begin selling Windows Server 2003 on Sun x64 servers by mid-December
• VIRTUALIZATION Vendors will ensure that their operating systems run well as "guests" in each other's virtualization environments
• INTEROPERABILITY CENTER Expanded lab at Microsoft's headquarters will server as a demonstration center for Sun x64 systems and proof-of-concept staging area for customers evaluating Windows Server on Sun hardware
The Microsoft-Novell interoperability lab is geared toward mixed environments of Windows and Novell's SUSE Linux. The vendors plan to focus initially on server virtualization, directory and identity services, and management.

Microsoft's willingness to work more closely with Sun, Novell, and other competitors should alleviate some of the technical complexity previously left to customers. Yet this isn't an across-the-board interoperability play--Microsoft's choosing its partners carefully. Indeed, Microsoft continues to threaten the Linux community in general with pointed but unproven charges of patent infringement.

What's more, Microsoft and Sun will continue to compete. Last month, Google announced that it would be distributing Sun's Star Office application suite for free as part of its Google Pack. With friends like that, Microsoft needs no enemies.

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