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Sun Microsystems Businesses Red Hat Software The Almighty Buck

Sun Plans Solaris Subscription Model 152

Posted by Hemos
from the change-their-models dept.
heliocentric writes "As reported in this CNet article. In an effort to make its version of Unix compare more favorably to Red Hat's Linux, Sun Microsystems plans in coming weeks to begin selling its Solaris operating system through a subscription model." On the down side, there was coverage of the announced layoffs, as well as the MSFT case being won. The article makes a good point, that Sun has reinvented itself before, and that no one should write Sun off.
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Sun Plans Solaris Subscription Model

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  • by passthecrackpipe (598773) * <passthecrackpipe&hotmail,com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @07:50AM (#8768035)
    What the article's author doesn't get is that maybe Redhat is not so much succesfull because they have a subscription model, but more because their is direct interaction with their userbase (fedora) and the source is Open. A subsciption fee based model tends to be *really* good for the vendor (guaranteed, known cashflow that you can put on the books as revenue) and not so good for the end-user (expensive, bad for your cashflow). I'm sure that this time, the users have wisened up, and are using Linux.

    also, the MSFT case wasn't *won* it was settled...
  • Sun (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kailden (129168) on Monday April 05, 2004 @07:50AM (#8768037) Journal
    I'm not writing them off...I'm investing in them. But I'd wish people would stop using the 'Sun Rises' play on words.
  • Sun and Microsoft (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Zero_K (606548) on Monday April 05, 2004 @07:51AM (#8768042)
    First both Sun and Microsoft invest in SCO, after it *trys* to get freaky with linux. Then Sun and Microsoft settle some lawsuits, which ends up with MS forking over serious money (in the order of 1 billion). And now this. Now they try to pull some pay for updates crap. They sound more and more like one company the more time goes by. It would be interesting to see how much stock MS owns of Sun, if any ofcourse.
  • More money for SCO? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cpghost (719344) on Monday April 05, 2004 @07:55AM (#8768074) Homepage

    Hasn't Sun Microsystems licensed Unix code from SCO? Wouldn't a Solaris subscription funnel even more money to SCO (even though that would only be an unintentional side effect)?

  • Basic Disagreements (Score:1, Interesting)

    by DarkHelmet (120004) * <.mark. .at. .seventhcycle.net.> on Monday April 05, 2004 @07:56AM (#8768080) Homepage

    The article makes a good point, that Sun has reinvented itself before, and that no one should write Sun off.

    Pfft, really now? If Sun has *really* truly reinvented itself, and has started to see the light of things, then why is Java still not Open Sourced?

    The subscription plan will make it clear that Solaris costs less than Linux and will dovetail with Sun's argument that its version of Unix performs better as well.

    To be (a software vendor), or not to be (be a hardware vendor instead). That is the question...

    And Red Hat can't throw in a free server as part of a software promotion the way Sun can.

    Why does this remind me about how Bill Gates was talking about hardware becoming free?

    Come on Sun. Make a good archetecture, and put your best efforts into making BSD / Linux run well on it. Solaris may possibly be destined to the dead path of SCO Unix. Learn from IBM.

  • Massive R&D (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wytcld (179112) on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:02AM (#8768116) Homepage
    Saw an academic's analysis of Sun lately along the lines of "Sun is spending massively on R&D. Why is Sun doing this instead of copying the successful strategies of HP and IBM? Sun should pull the money out of R&D and immediately better its bottom line while lowering the costs of its products."

    And I think, didn't Sun get to be where it once was by catching the front of the wave of network computing (become Internet)? Isn't their core skillset being able to ride such a wave well? Isn't their future in getting out ahead of the next one so they can apply that skill again?

    R&D is always risky, but as a long-term investor, shouldn't you be buying R&D? As corporations put less and less into it (as most are) what's left becomes potentially even more valuable when and if it pays off. Of course, you don't want to go into the equivalent of the old Xerox or AT&T which never properly capitalized on their best inventions ... but Sun's record is a bit better than theirs in this.
  • by Monx (742514) <MonxSlash@expand ... es.com minus cit> on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:05AM (#8768129) Journal
    Boycotting MSFT is not easy/practical

    I've been doing it for years. It actually is quite easy if you are willing to pay for good software or find a good free replacement for the MSFT (or Windows only) software you think you need. For example, there are lots of office suites out there and more individual spreadsheets and word processors that are office compatible.

    In any case, if you are running a Sun OS, what is the likelihood that you have any MS products on it? Didn't IE for Solaris get discontinued years ago?
  • Solaris has also lost ground as the must universally supported UNIX platform. Once upon a time Solaris could charge what it wanted for it's O.S. because to play thier game you had to pay their prices.

    Instead of quacking and crying about it - instead of trying to corner Linux and OSS out of the Market, Sun has done quite the opposite. First, they work with OSS to try and make sure that popular OSS projects work on their platform [sunfreeware.com]. At the same time, they started offering their current O.S. as a free (or nominal) download [sun.com].

    Second (Sun re-invention, part II) they started selling x86 systems with Solaris x86 _AND_ Linux support. This plays on Sun's old-school strength of being known as a very reliable hardware vendor (less true now, but their reputation is still strong).

    Finally, (re-invention part III) they are moving their Solaris OS (the preferred OS for their SPARC hardware) into a subscrption model that more closely resembles what RedHat has to offer. I highly doubt that this has any more reason than to more closely align sun's two product lines (Solaris and Linux).

    Part 1 that I mention happened way back in '94-'96.

  • Sun is in quicksand (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BoomerSooner (308737) on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:09AM (#8768167) Homepage Journal
    They will slowly lose more and more to the PPC based systems and better OSes (Linux/MacOS X). The Apple offerings won't make a large dent, the expected IBM systems will.

    I would sell any shares in Sun you still have (I left long ago).
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <<heironymouscoward> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:28AM (#8768275) Journal
    Sun has a fundamental problem, one it shares with Microsoft. Both firms live by selling a premium product in a commodity market. Operating systems are no longer rare and valuable enough to pay for. Linux has demonstrated the feasability of a single, free, standard OS for all hardware, and despite ferocious resistance from many quarters, makes inexorable progress towards becoming the eventual standard.

    Sun will die if they do not reinvent themselves away from selling proprietary OS products. Moves like the Sun Java Desktop are a sign of hope: Sun must adopt Linux and FOSS and become a services company selling value-added solutions. Then it can survive.

    But changing a company like this is incredibly hard and there are few cases where it works. Most likely, Sun is doomed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:37AM (#8768350)
    Mohring writes [sys-con.com] that that - aside from the monetary payoff - the gains for Sun from the terms and conditions "do not make any sense for Sun in the long term."

    He continues:

    "Sun's agreement to Microsoft Communications Protocol Program represents a real sellout by Sun. Until now, the only major vendors to sign up to the protocol agreement have been Cisco and guess who, The SCO Group ( only after the "investment" by Microsoft ). Even the U.S. Justice Department expressed concern that Microsoft has not completely lived up to its agreement. Just as with the SCO Group, it appears Microsoft has effectively paid off Sun to accept this agreement. "
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:40AM (#8768389)
    "know I will get pointed at fedora, but given that fedora kills the network on a any laptop whose network is on a PC-card, isnt supported by all those binary things I use (nvida, vmware), I dont view it as a broadly tested or stable enough solution to work with."

    Just wanted to point out that this is a problem particular to your system not "any laptop". Fedora defintely works with Laptop PC-cards and can run the binary things you mentioned, ie nvidia just fine. I don't know why your saying that you can't since obviously there are a ton of Fedora users out there using the binary Nvidia drivers. Also I'm writing this from a laptop running FC1 with a Network PC-card.

    Regarding pricing your definitely right though. Red Hat HAS to cost less than Solaris and especially Windows. The guys there are pretty smart though so I don't expect them to just sit around while the martket changes around them without reacting.
  • Re:Won? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ultrabot (200914) on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:46AM (#8768449)
    Also, beware of IBM bearing gifts. They are supporting OSS right now because they see the strategic value. But if their opinions change, watch them change their mind.

    Of course, and IBM are in the lucky position of having the "right thing" as a strategy. Microsoft and Sun are not in that position.

    It's like Oracle: they support linux as a way to keep OS costs down, but are against OSS database solutions. If (when) an OSS database gets to the point that it threatens Oracle or DB2, I could imagine both companies changing their stories about the value of OSS.

    Asking companies to support OSS even if it conflicts with their proprietary interests is not realistic. It all boils down to having the right proprietary interests. E.g. selling stuff higher up on the software stack, which is what Oracle is doing.
  • Re:Sun (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Allen Zadr (767458) <Allen.ZadrNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:00AM (#8768601) Journal
    Tired plays not-withstanding, perhaps the 'Sun' is setting.

    Seriously, Sun's hardware reliability is getting worse, they are selling Linux on their systems - and for quite some time they are no longer the 'dot' in dot com*. Their x86 server offering is not yet well suited to compete with Dell and HP for Linux server hardware either.

    *Way back when - Sun used to be the hardware behind one of the Top Level Domain - DNS servers. J.ROOTSERVERS.NET, IIRC. Anyway, that was short lived, and they were quickly replaced with a faster IBM AIX box.

    They are re-inventing, but they've been re-inventing since 1996. So, you'd best make sure they have bottomed out before you try to ride their restructuring up. They are in a loosing business (proprietary UNIX hardware), and constantly trying to re-structure to keep their heads above water - being later than all other competitors in entering the x86 market space.

  • by fmaxwell (249001) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:15AM (#8768763) Homepage Journal
    Sun made its money selling expensive hardware that was rock-solid and fast -- and if you wanted to run Solaris, you bought a Sun box with a SPARC processor. Now Solaris is out for the x86 and hardware reliability and speed can be had at a fraction of the cost in x86-based servers from Dell, Compaq, IBM, and others. There is no longer a compelling argument to buy Sun boxes for most applications. Sure, there are some exotic, massively multi-CPU servers from Sun, but that's not bread and butter sales and there are nott enough of them sold to support a company the size of Sun (hence the layoffs).

    We've seen this before with IBM. To the Slashdot youngsters who may not remember: It was IBM who created the x86 PC back in the early 80's. They were trouncing "hobbyist" venders like MITS (Altair), Imsai, and Cromemco. They owned the PC market as far as business was concerned. Then the smaller companies like Compaq hit the scenes aiming at the business market with equivalent, or better, performance at lower prices. When is the last time that you saw a new IBM brand PC for sale?

    Next to take a hit: Cisco. Companies are seeing the cost advantage to going with simpler, less-expensive routers and firewalls wherever possible. Why pay for "Cisco-certified" personnel when they can buy an SMC router, some switches, and have their office up and running at a fraction of the cost? Again, there are niche areas where Cisco is still king, but that won't support a Cisco-sized company.
  • Who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eloquence (144160) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:47AM (#8769064) Homepage
    There are those of us who have been saying that Java is crappy technology for years. There are those who have been saying that Java is the best thing that ever happened to programming. The latter group consists of the same persons who also felt that Sun would not betray Linux, that Sun was a bulwark against Microsoft, etc. They only told us good things about Sun. Many of them were paid to write these things -- as Java developers and Sun employees, or as active astroturfers.

    I never believed the official party line with regard to Sun. I saw great ideas devoured by Java -- as even most Java-lovers realize, it is absolutely unsuitable for desktop applications, yet it was marketed for them, and it was used for them. Remember JXTA? That was Sun's peer-to-peer initiative. I saw JXTA come and go and hundreds of peer-to-peer developers with it. Peer-to-peer and Java -- truly a winning combination.

    Nor did I believe that this was merely a coincidence or gross incompetence. When the internal Sun memo the Java problem [internalmemos.com] was released, where Sun engineers complained that Java was too slow even for internal use on Sun's operating system, it was clear to everyone what had always been clear to me: Java was never intended to be a fast, powerful programming language. It was intended to be a way to sell big hardware, and to tie people to a single company: Sun. They sucked up a lot of mindshare. Neither proprietary nor truly free, Java existed in that same state of justifiable coercion (by means of copyright) as, say, MacOS X. But both Apple and Sun have as their goal the same thing as Microsoft -- to become the only vendor that matters, to create a monopoly. Microsoft is just better at it.

    If you want a powerful, truly free, cross-platform interpreted language, try Python or Perl. Just because your PHB hasn't heard about them because there are no glossy brochures doesn't mean they can't kick Java's ass any day, even (or especially) in "mission-critical" application. Both are modern, object-oriented languages, idiosyncratic to be sure, but scalable no less. This very website is probably a larger application than most of the stuff that runs in your company. When did you last lose a comment on Slashdot? And Slashdot's code is ugly and hackish.

    Now it turns out that Steve Ballmer and Scott McNealy are on the same football team. Their common enemy: Linux. Well, you know what? Linux can kick Sun's ass, and Linux can kick Microsoft's ass as well. And that's not because "Micro$oft sux0rZ!" It's because Linux has behind it not just governments and corporations, but the power of thousands of unimaginably creative volunteers. It's because Linux is free and will always remain so. Technology is not just about gadgets. It's also about freedom, and in the long run, freedom will prevail. Say about RMS what you want, but sometimes being a little overzealous can be a good thing.

    Are corporations like Sun and Microsoft evil? Of course not. They are amoral (that also goes for IBM, by the way). They will do anything if it's good for their bottom line. If corporate murder was legal, every corporation would immediately start murdering people, other than by exposing them to toxic chemicals and unsafe workplace conditions. That's because if the current CEO doesn't like murdering people, they will simply be replaced by someone who does - shareholder value.

    Linux is a little bit of everything. It incorporates elements of socialism (sharing your work, writing software in your free time), capitalism (being paid to program), of dictatorships (Linus coordinating the development process), of democracies (various associations with elected representatives), of meritocracy (those who develop, lead), of plutocracy (those who have money can get stuff done). This is in many ways a model for society. There is no single way to run a complex world. You need to combine the elements in a smart fashion.

    Who cares about Sun? Who cares about Microsof

  • by DikSeaCup (767041) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:57AM (#8769159) Homepage
    The thing I have a problem with is that in my time as a Unix Systems Admin, I've heard so much from Sun about how "Things will be different."

    Here's an example of an actual sequence of conversations I've had:

    "We really care about our relationship with your school and will go out of our way to solidify our reputation with you."

    Yeah, but what's this about you changing the support structure for our yearly support contract?

    "Oh, well, we found that most schools weren't using the contract to the fullest, ending up with blank software entitlements instead of using them all, and so we changed it. We now no longer cover things like backup software and directory services as part of your contract. Oh, and it costs more now too."

    Sun lost out to Redhat because Sun (and their authorized reseller) could never get their act together, and their treatment of us bordered on abuse. When you'd pay $15K for a Sun and end up with yearly fees approaching $1K for the warranty period (since we'd have to cover OS upgrades) and then $3K for continuing maintenance, yet you could get a more powerful Dell server with better maintenance coverage and Redhat, in the long run, it was cheaper.

    In other words, the TCO bug didn't just hit Microsoft - it hit Sun pretty hard, too.

  • by Esion Modnar (632431) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:18AM (#8769430)
    Buying the latest OS release used to be like waiting for the next Tom Clancy novel: it got released when it got released, and not a moment sooner. Sure, the publishers have their own internal deadlines, but if it takes 2-3 years between major releases, I'm not sweating it. My money's in my wallet in the meantime.

    A subscription, OTOH, implies a recurring payment for goods delivered on a predictable recurring basis. Such as Playboy, for example. My subscription obliges Playboy to deliver on-time or lose my business. This seems to work for magazines, but would be a horrible idea for Tom Clancy novels: either the quality would go way down, or I would get zero product for my money.

    And this seems to be the deal software subscriptioners are getting: low quality or zero product (missed delivery dates).

  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:14PM (#8772664)
    I like your post, but find it troubling. Mostly, because it doesn't jibe with what I see and know. First, the selling expensive hardware that was rock solid bit... It was always expensive, but the rock-solid? Do you remember when SunOS 4.1.4 was effectively the last BSD based OS, and the switch was made to Solaris? It was called Slowaris, and it was a mess. Pkgadd didn't work, NIS support was phased out kicking and screaming for NIS+, and Sun practically had a revolt on it's hand. It had built up good will mainly in the educational and scientific sectors.

    I could go, but I want to get to my real point, the blurb on Cisco. Here is what I see is a key, and huge difference. A previous reader compared Sun to Saruman, a wannabe who switches to ally with Microsoft, to prevent Linux and the open source movement from crushing them. It's a hedge strategy, trying to leverage open source with the GNOME desktop and the diskless computing model they are pushing.

    Who is Cisco's Microsoft? Cisco is the Microsoft of networking. The same 50 or so really good ASIC designers and networking geniuses in the San Jose area have been bought by Cisco 5 or 6 times now. They start a technology, and Cisco buys it and rolls into a blade on the L3 switch. If you look at the financials, they are gaining market share, not losing it. Juniper just got pushed aside at a couple big service provider accounts, namely the big announcement from AT&T.

    I agree that Dell and HP may offer stiff competition for the 24 port switch in the closet of the small office, but Cisco doesn't give a shit about that.

    Sorry, this is a thread about Sun licensing. I agree with majority of the posts, Sun is following Redhat's model, both think it will be profitable, but it will only be a matter of time before Intel and AMD based hardware crushes the Sparc platform. After the hardware business goes, the OS and Java technologies will also fall. I'm shorting Sun.

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