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Sun Microsystems Businesses Red Hat Software The Almighty Buck

Sun Plans Solaris Subscription Model 152

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 phaze3000 ( 204500 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:56AM (#8768081) Homepage
    Realistically though, this move would seem to be targetted at stopping existing Sun customers from migrating to Linux rather than tempting RedHat customers away. As Sun's customerbase is geared more towards the higher end of the market I suspect they are less likely to be swayed by arguments about openness.

    Having said this, it's not like Sun doesn't use openness when it suits them - Gnome (Sun Java Desktop) being a good example.

  • by El Cubano ( 631386 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:57AM (#8768082)

    "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."

    I would be more concerned about a possible unfavorabe comparison with MS. Both MS and Sun sell proprietary operating systems. They would need to tread carefully to not scare off the folks that have started considering *nix alternatives to keep Microsoft's tentacles out their bank accounts.

    Sun also needs to make it clear to people that they are really paying for support (with a small bit for licensing) and not the MS-style license renewal. Otherwise a comparison with RHAT is not valid.

  • by levell ( 538346 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:06AM (#8768136) Homepage

    I don't think the software world is as black and white as you make out. Sun are the driving force behind OpenOffice, which I'm very grateful for.

    I certainly don't intend to start boycotting them any time soon.

  • by steve_l ( 109732 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:06AM (#8768140) Homepage
    I'd argue something different: RedHat's current subscription-only policy is going to kill it if they keep it up.

    If the current pricing model of RedHat is relaly such that Solaris or Windows costs *less* that a RedHat sub, then it is in trouble.

    I 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.

    Sun are just going to put pricing pressure on RedHat; the real test is what penetration Novell/SuSE linux has. If a version backed by the suits gets picked up by the PC vendors and sold mainstream, it can put serious pressure on RedHat's position as "the" north american commercial Linux distro.

    Sun are probably still doomed, either way :)
  • And customers don't like it. Do you think they're stupid? Generally subscription models mean the customer pays more, for not necessarily more service or features.

    People are in general moving away from RedHat, not toward it. RHEL means lock-in, with less features. It may be OSS, but if you change the code - is Red Hat going to support your changes? No.

    So this is the model Sun wants to emulate? Sun is already perceived as too expensive in general for a Unix. The people that have stuck with Sun tend to be those running specialized platforms they couldn't migrate out of too easily. Sun's best bet is the Chinese desktop deal, not trying to compete with Linux here in the States..
  • Re:Won? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by steve_l ( 109732 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:11AM (#8768173) Homepage
    As a Java developer on some Apache projects, I'm not yet rushing out to boycott Java. I'll just deny Sun any of my money. Oh, wait a minute, I wasn't giving them any anyway.

    How about I let Sun continue to lose money providing and supporting Java? That would be even worse than boycotting it, wouldnt it?

    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. 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.
  • by Rotting ( 7243 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:17AM (#8768198)
    I don't think it was RedHat's open source model or subscription model that has made them successful. I believe it was because back in the day they had one of the easiest installers to use which gained them market share. If debian or slackware had "better" installers then who knows which distro would be the "redhat" of today.

    Not trying to start a distro flame war here. I personally prefer slackware but this is just how I see it. :/
  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:20AM (#8768219) Homepage

    "I've never looked at Microsoft or Sun in detail, and run all of my assumptions from Slashdot"

    "On Slashdot I only read the articles about Linux and hate SCO with a religious fanaticism, all of my views on software companies are therefore based on the SCO case"

    "I have been working in Software only a few years and have no understanding of the history of either Sun, Microsoft or IBM and am not aware of what Sun actually does"

    I'm sorry to be so rude, but to base an opinion on either Sun and MSFT around the SCO case is like saying that Sony and Philips are the same company because of the Intertrust case.
  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:23AM (#8768243) Homepage
    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.

    Sure, because the world will be so much better with fewer operating systems to choose from? IBM still offer commercial, propriety Unix alongside Linux. Sun offer exactly the same with Solaris and the Sun Java Desktop.

    Choice isn't a bad thing. We should be glad Sun are around and the choice is still there. For big companies (think banks or car manufacturers) who have reputations and $billions on the line, there will always be a market for big iron with a custom *nix to run on top of it. IBM offer it, as do Sun.

    Sun seem to have ahd a really hard time over their settlement with / victory over Microsoft. Folk need to remember that Sun is a public company. That means the Board cannot turn down a settlement on the basis of not liking Microsoft. The directors are legally required to deliver the best value for their shareholders. That means is Microsoft offer to settle on better terms than Sun were demanding they have no choice but to accept that settlement. Not to do so would see them lose their jobs and possibly end up in court.

  • by davecb ( 6526 ) * <davec-b@rogers.com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:30AM (#8768286) Homepage Journal
    passthecrackpipe writes A subsciption fee based model tends to be ...not so good for the end-user (expensive, bad for your cashflow).

    Actually it can be good for a company that has trouble coming up with great whacks of cash for upgrades, so long as the subscription fee is both

    • fair for the value received and
    • low enough to allow savings to finance a change-over.
    I'm biased, but $50-$100 per seat per year sounds good to me.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:35AM (#8768329)
    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?

    And who says Open Sourcing Java is the light? Sun's business decisions may not reflect your ideals as a user/developer. We don't live in a perfect world!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @09:59AM (#8768593)
    First both Sun and Microsoft invest in SCO, after it *trys* to get freaky with linux.

    This is getting tedious. Tell me, when you buy gas, are you "investing" in Shell Oil? When you buy a PC from HP are you "investing" in HP? Not in any normal sense of the word. Sun didn't "invest" in SCO, they licensed driver technology [eweek.com]. That isn't hard to understand. As is common in multimillion dollar deals Sun did get warrants to allow them to buy stock, but a warrant isn't stock, it is a right to invest if they choose to do so.

    As to getting "freaky" with Linux, maybe you didn't notice but Sun is the leading Linux desktop vendor [linuxworld.com]. Just one deal they have is giving them sales of 500,000-1,000,000 Linux desktops a year. Not bad for what many people claim to be "not a Linux company."

    Sun charged for some types of updates before, just like HP, IBM, Red Hat, Suse and many other *nix companies. Nothing much to see here.
  • by mrm677 ( 456727 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:06AM (#8768673)
    They will slowly lose more and more to the PPC based systems and better OSes (Linux/MacOS X).

    Better OSes? Solaris is arguably the best Unix OS in existance. If you think that Linux is "better", and it may be for your needs, I urge you to think again. The key to Solaris is its scalability. It scales to hundreds of processors. This is key for throughput computing, and you will see Sun come out with chips that have a dozen or so UltraSparcs on the same core in the near future.

    Yes pundants, point me to the links about Linux running on 500 processors. I frankly don't beleive that a single Linux kernel image can run on 500 processors. I mean it still uses test, test-and-set spinlocks!
  • by Urd ( 198177 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:08AM (#8768685)
    Sun Freeware has nothing to do with Sun, it's done by volunteers exactly because Sun couldn't be bothered with freeware.

    Instead of trying to beat more money out of the client who just gets the same thing, maybe they could do something smart like sell decent services which would be a whole new revenue stream for them.

    Sun IMHO is very shortsighted, however they have a lot of cash and so they are quite in the position to come out of this, however it's going to get a lot worse first. (As long as they keep ignoring their established clients and heritage they will continue to decline.)
  • Re:For free (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:16AM (#8768780)
    Solaris 8 used to be free. Solaris 9 has some funky license (unless they've changed it again) where it's free for single processors and then you pay per processor slot capable on multiple processor capable systems.

    Sun changed the license to the current one in Solaris 8 with the later releases.

    The license costs only hit you if you buy used hardware. Sun includes the cost of the license if you buy the hardware from them. I suspect that there aren't a lot of places trying to buy and use E10k systems on a shoe string budget.

    Sun has you coming and going with their overpriced hardware and now charging high prices for the OS.

    I suggest you roll up the total life cycle costs for the servers you are buying. I suspect that Solaris on X86 will start looking a lot better once you start rolling up license and support costs compared to Red Hat. Sun's prices on X86 servers aren't that bad for a major vendor.

    I will also point out that there are still plenty of things that Red Hat (Linux) doesn't do well or at all that RISC hardware running Sun Solaris/HP HP/UX/IBM AIX do well. If you need a capability that a Linux solution doesn't provide what are you going to do?

  • same old same old (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:36AM (#8768960)
    The article didnt have enough details. DOes th subscribtion cover maintenance cost or only right to use. If the maint cost is included we have been on subscription forever, they just called it maintenace? Does the OS stop if you dont pay next years subscription fee? If not I dont see any differance in the old vs the new.

    As somone mentioned there is a CPU license on USED servers but that has always been included with new servers.
  • Re:Write Them Off (Score:4, Insightful)

    by haggar ( 72771 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:56AM (#8769149) Homepage Journal
    I would totally agree with your post, except that it's all wrong, without a shred of truth to it and even offtopic.

    In a truer sense, Sun needs to open source Java and J2EE
    That's your opinion. It can be argued efficiently against it: Sun has released and well documented all of the API. It has nothing to gain from opensourcing Java, except making happy a few Slashdot readers.

    They've sold their high end server business,
    Of course, this is totally your imagination and it has no bearing to reality.

    unlike HP they don't have a PC market.
    They definitely do, and apparently, a strong one, with JDS deals in China and with Wal-Mart.

    It wasn't so long ago DEC was #2 in the computer industry, now they're just a memory. Sun unfortunately will most likely be the same.
    Sun, compared to DEC:
    - has a better financial position
    - is selling a much larger volume of UNIX servers
    - is more flexible in terms of hardware(just released excellent 1,2 and 4-Opteron servers and 1 and 2 opteron Blade servers)
    - delivers a desktop OS upon which they have complete control (Gnome + StarOffice + Gaim...)
    - has a detailed CPU roadmap for the years to come

    Interestingly, your post has no connection with the topic at hand (Sun introducing software subscription model). You just though it would be a good opportunity to bash Sun, and you went for it. After all, this is Slashdot!
    So I will try to bring this thread closer to the main subject: seeing the other two biggest software manufacturers that do use a subscription model - RedHat and Microsoft - making a sweat profit, I don't think Sun's decision is a mistake.
  • by Whatchamacallit ( 21721 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @11:26AM (#8769543) Homepage
    Used to be Sun was the biggest baddest Unix platform, chosen by those who needed real power and scalability. Customers paid a premium in hardware and software as well support contracts.

    Now that Linux is making huge progress on it's Enterprise abilities there are several event horizons rapidly approaching.

    1. x86 hardware is getting cheaper all the time. Sun hardware is still very much overpriced.

    2. IBM's PowerPC Power4/Power5 & Power 970 chips are about to go mainstream. You will be able to buy multi-processor Power4/5 racks running Linux and supported by IBM. All IBM needs to do is start selling these monster CPU's to third party OEM's and the price will drop. Virginia Tech's PowerMacG5 super cluster is evidence of the coming storm. It's scored very high and has the highest ROI achieved in it's class. Switching it over to 1U XServeG5's will reduce it's physical footprint thereby reducing cooling and location space. Apple won't be the only PowerPC dealer. Linux runs very well on Power chips. IBM will assist in further kernel optimizations.

    3. What's going on with Intel? AMD and IBM appear to be mopping the floor with them lately. Looks like they need to go back to the drawing board and start over with a new core outside of Itanium.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize Sun is doomed. They may never be at the top again unless they get very competitive very fast. I work for a huge corporation that has quite a bit of Sun hardware and I can tell you most of the hardware is out of date and near obsolete. We are still running Solaris 2.6 in production, that was released in 1997! Why didn't we upgrade? Because we can run Linux a heck of a lot cheaper then Solaris and we can upgrade the hardware without killing our budgets.
  • Re:Write Them Off (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:15PM (#8770103)

    Wow, a troll modded to 4?!?

    They didn't "throw in the towel" with Microsoft.

    They have the Java Community Process for Java.

    They didn't sell their high-end server business. Most likely, it will be a partnership with Fujitsu.

    Sun is not an "also ran". They are still pushing out lots of new non-trivial things, like JDS, Java 1.5, Solaris 10, 144-core servers, etc.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Piddle ( 567882 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:23PM (#8770166)

    The trolls are really hot today!!!

    McNealy most likely hates Ballmer's guts. That Java memo was a long time ago. Python and Perl do not have the breadth of the Java API. Python's compiler is also immature (optimization: coming soon!). Sun is embracing Linux not trying to destroy it.

    This article today has resulted in so much misinformation being posted that it is sickening.
  • by haggar ( 72771 ) on Monday April 05, 2004 @01:29PM (#8770884) Homepage Journal
    Your (attempt at) analogy with the early adoption of Ethernet and TCP/IP on each machine is interesting, but I would like to expand it:

    if you look at Sun's offering, including their x86 servers, they offer LOM on all models. They are also going to offer N1 as a standard management system that will become incredibly handy with blade servers. We are seriously thrilled at the prospect of using N1 to install our distributed software on large clusters of Sun blades (NOT the Blade workstations!!!).

    I predict that this kind of management options will have to become ubiquitous eventually, as the number of clustered nodes grows and the need for managing software on such configurations becomes more pressing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @01:47PM (#8771083)
    Until you can yank power, CPU, memory, fans, etc. LIVE without causing so much as a hiccup to running software SUN hardware will have a place in high availability envirnoments not well suited to clusters.

    Linux is "hardened" via cheap boxes in a cluster, this doesn't work the best for mammoth DB's that lose millions a minute if they are down.

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