Sun Champions Developers, Disruption Of Big Software Suppliers

CEO Jonathan Schwartz outlines his company's vision for supplying existing and future Web 2.0 companies with the open source tools they'll need.

Chief Executive Officer and President, Sun Microsystems

Jonathan Schwartz

Chief Executive Officer and President, Sun Microsystems
Sun Microsystems wants to equip the next generation of Internet companies with its hardware and software and will offer virtualization products to help them keep costs down, make their data centers more flexible, and give developers multiple development environments.

CEO Jonathan Schwartz unveiled Sun's approach Wednesday at the company's Global Media Summit, an annual event where Sun executives explain their business strategy to the international press. In his talk, Schwartz attempted to show how Sun's existing open source code initiatives, its entry into the virtualization market, and its planned acquisition of the open source MySQL database put it on a track to supply existing and future Web 2.0 companies.

Schwartz said virtualization software is the key to holding data center costs down by increasing server utilization. In addition to driving server consolidation, he said, virtualization aids software developers by giving them multiple target environments. Sun announced Tuesday that it's buying a small German company, Innotek GmbH, for its VirtualBox software, which can generate Windows, Linux, Solaris 10, or [Microsoft] DOS virtual machine look-alikes on developers' desktops or laptops.

"You can see developing under VirtualBox and sliding the software over to a server running xVM," said Rich Green, executive VP for software; xVM is Sun's Xen-based hypervisor, due in June. Sun views a virtualized development environment as a way to capture developer loyalty. The company already offers developers incentives to use Java, namely its NetBeans tools and the PHP, Ruby, and Perl scripting languages through Sun Developer Network.

It registered an additional 1 million developers on its network in 2007, Schwartz said, and building a relationship with those developers is key to getting more of its software into Web 2.0 companies.

"Everything," he said, "begins with the development of a community," such as Sun's SDN or the OpenSolaris community of developers.

Sun announced last month that it's purchasing MySQL AB, supplier of the MySQL relational database. The $1 billion acquisition will bring Sun a piece of open source code that gets downloaded 50,000 times a day -- a number that has gone up, Schwartz said, since the deal was announced. MySQL brings another key set of developers, the users of the integrated open source LAMP stack, he said. LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, Python or Perl. The "L" doesn't have to be taken literally, he added. Sun can and will substitute Solaris for Linux in the stack.

Schwartz said Sun is repositioning itself as a disruptive software supplier, using freely downloadable open source code to initiate relationships with developers in young Internet companies.

A questioner noted Sun has been described as "an arms dealer" for the next generation of those companies with MySQL in its arsenal, and Green agreed.

But Sun may find itself offending some communities even as it builds new ones. Oracle is an old partner that has sponsored Solaris sales to customers that want to run the Oracle database. By offering free or low-cost MySQL subscriptions, Sun is now a threat to Oracle's database cash cow.

"MySQL will work fine alongside Oracle," Schwartz said in response to an InformationWeek question, "but I prefer to focus on acquiring new customers, not on the competition."

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