Sun Inks Deal With EDS For Java Desktop Support - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Sun Inks Deal With EDS For Java Desktop Support

The IT services firm will handle user training, migration, call-center, and education services.

Until recently, Sun Microsystems' idea of choice was running its Unix-based Solaris operating system on any one of its Sparc-based servers. During the past few months, however, Sun has redefined its meaning of choice by promising a Linux operating system and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. x86-based servers that more accurately reflect the market's current sensibilities. Sun took its new strategy a step further Wednesday by revealing a deal with EDS to provide desktop-support services to users of Sun's Java Desktop System, which is scheduled to ship in a few weeks.

Java Desktop is a key component to Sun's future. More than an open-source alternative to Windows, Java Desktop could also give interested companies reason to take another look at Sun's other hardware and software. "It's probably the most aggressive Linux desktop offered by any of the major vendors, which is ironic because Sun's been on and off about Linux until recently," says Gordon Haff, a senior analyst at Illuminata.

"We've had our Linux desktop strategy questioned for some time," says Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's executive VP of software. Sun hopes to put these questions to rest with the help of EDS, which will handle Java Desktop user training, migration, call-center, and education services. Sun wants to make similar arrangements with IBM Global Services and HP Services, Schwartz says. The company announced an early win in mid-November when the People's Republic of China and China Standard Software Co. signed on to make Java Desktop the country's standard desktop operating system.

In addition to its focus on the desktop, Sun also introduced a blade server that runs on AMD's 1.53-GHz Mobile Athlon processor. The B100x, priced at $1,795, supports the x86 version of Solaris 9 as well as Linux. Both the B100x and the new B10p SSL proxy blade server continue Sun's determination to have an impact on the market for low-end servers. The company said last month that it would use AMD's 64-bit compatible Opteron chips in its entry-level rack-mountable servers.

It's critical for Sun to expand its presence in the low end of the server market, says Souheil Saliba, VP of marketing for Sun's volume systems division. Even as the economy recovers, companies will continue to look for ways to cut costs and reduce complexity, he says. "These fundamentals are not going to change as we see a recovery."

Sun has to offer blade servers if it wants to compete in the low-end market, Haff says. "Sun's bet on volume systems is a big one, but it's probably one that they have to make," he says. "What's playing in their favor is that the blade market has been slow to get under way."

Sun's ability to embrace choice may be the thing that pulls the company out of its financial lull. "If Sun can make [the Java Desktop and the AMD-based servers] work, and it will be a challenge," Haff says, "these could very well be the company's saviors."

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