Eric Schrock's Blog

Missing the big picture

August 11, 2004

I just saw this article the other day, and was amazed that someone could so clearly miss the point of OpenSolaris and Sun’s business strategy. In the article, the (apparently anonymous) author tries to argue that Jonathan and Adam are on two opposing sides of an internal corporate struggle between the executivess and the engineers over business strategy. He begins with a gross misinterpretation of Jonathan’s blogs:

As far as I can dissect Schwartz’s argument, it’s that IBM made a big mistake by building features on top of open source, because that removes any possible hardware lockin, and lets customers move to less expensive hardware that they can buy from any old vendor.

The point of Jonathan’s argument (whether or not you believe it is up to you) is not about hardware at all. The point is that because IBM relies completely on Linux (and doesn’t have a distribution of its own), they cannot offer the same integrated solution that others can. If you want to run Linux on IBM hardware, you’ll most likely be running RedHat. But if RedHat provides an integrated application server, why would you turn around and buy WebSphere from IBM? Jonathan also discusses software lockin when moving between Linux distributions, but this also has nothing to do with hardware. Yet the author continues to focus on “hardware lockin,” twisting Adam’s blog entry into this lovely conclusion:

If Solaris is open-sourced, then Sun is about to undermine its own hardware lockin.

For historical reasons, Sun has a reputation of big iron and proprietary UNIX, and with that comes hardware lockin. But if you look at Solaris and the rest of our software stack, you’ll quickly see this is no longer true. Whether or not you believe in Sun’s hardware prices (think x86 and Opteron), you can’t ignore the fact that Solaris runs on commodity x86 hardware. And even if you don’t want Solaris, Java Desktop System runs on Linux, and Java Enterprise System runs on Windows and HP-UX. To top it off, they all run on open standards; you can move your apps to non-Sun systems (as long as they are standards compliant) without worry. So where’s the hardware lockin? Sun’s message is that we sell systems. Maybe we’re not quite there yet, but eventually you’ll be able to get an integrated software stack (JES or JDS) on whatever hardware platform and Operating System you choose. If you want to run Solaris, great. If you want to get hardware from us, great. If not, we’ll make damn sure our software all works together as best as possible.

The author does, however, get one thing right: OpenSolaris will enable ports to new platforms. Ask a kernel engineer or ask a VP, they will both tell you this is a good thing. If our customers want to run on POWER, and OpenSolaris enables this port to happen, then we can bring the weight of our entire software portfolio onto the platform, and do it better than anyone else. Go buy your hardware from IBM, but we’ll give you a complete software solution with Java Enterprise System for less than IBM. As Adam points out, OpenSolaris can only help Sun. We love choice, and choice is good.

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