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Enterprise Linux Today: Sun's Linux Strategy: Judge Deeds, Not Words - and Listen to IBM

Jan 23, 2001, 14:49 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Wolley)

"The first new products released by Cobalt since its acquisition by Sun are still running Linux, but that may not be the end of the story. IBM thinks Sun's actions have "let the Linux genie out of the bottle" and Sun won't be able to put it back in, or control it. And at least one IBM exec thinks that IBM's Linux strategy is starting to pay off."

"Last week Sun unveiled an assortment of low end "appliance" servers -- Sun Netras and Cobalt Qubes -- with several models coming in under that magical US$1000 price point that's regarded as critical to compete with Intel boxes. For folks in the Linux community who had been anticipating the announcements, the point of great potential interest was what Sun would have to say about its "Linux strategy," at least regarding the future of Linux on the Cobalt servers. ... Well, in both their prepared statements and in response to direct questions about Linux, both Sun and Cobalt management did their very best to say... nothing -- at least nothing of substance."

"While Sun CEO Scott McNealy once said that "Linux is a great way to get the wrong answer," IBM is betting billions -- US$1 billion in 2001 alone -- that Linux is the right answer, or at least that it will be by the time IBM is done giving the kernel team all the AIX code they want and the full effect of IBM's in-depth support for Linux across its product line sinks in with enterprise IT decision makers. I spoke with Tim Dougherty, IBM's director of e-business strategy, to find out what IBM had to say about Sun's latest move... In Dougherty's view, Sun's actions -- purchasing Cobalt and retaining Linux on its products -- have let "let the Linux genie out of the bottle," and it won't go back in, and it isn't under Sun's control. "...I think it's going to be awfully hard for Sun to continue to say, no matter what the question is, Solaris and Sparc are the answer."

"IBM's latest quarterly results were very impressive, particularly against the background of a "PC slowdown" that's been causing most technology companies to downgrade their forecasts and come in with earnings well below analysts' recent estimates. I asked Dougherty to comment on what role, if any, IBM's Linux strategy may have played in the latest financials -- "is IBM's Linux strategy starting to pay off?" His answer: "...we do think that's part of what's fueling our growth, because the strategy makes sense -- that people buy into the strategy and therefore buy your products. And it's not just a one-piece Linux strategy, it's a multi-purpose strategy, and we think the fact that we told the world, for instance, that in our Unix business, which grew 49% this quarter, that part of the reason for that is that we've told people that Linux is a part of our strategy..."

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