Can Sun Really Thrive Without a Software Strategy?

May 3, 2005

Can Sun Really Thrive Without a Software Strategy?

Can Sun Really Thrive Without a Software Strategy?

by Rikki Kirzner, Partner

Software is pervasive, and it is this ubiquity that enables software development to be one of the driving forces behind the global economy. So we have to wonder how Sun thinks it can reverse its sales losses and actually thrive and grow its business without a comprehensive or competitive software strategy, best of breed development tools, and solutions for web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA). Like the myopic Mr. Magoo, Sun steadfastly remains focused on selling its hardware while insisting that the Solaris operating system and stewardship of the Java language will help it grow its market share. Meanwhile, all of Sun’s competitors are beefing up their software development platforms and architectures while putting complete application lifecycle management (ALM) solutions in place that span design to deployment.

IBM ignored a challenge earlier this year from Sun executive Jonathan Schwartz to port IBM’s various software applications ? including DB2, WebSphere and Tivoli ? to Sun’s Solaris 10 operating system for the x86 platform. IBM insists that, not only is there is not enough customer demand for it to port its software to Solaris, there is no appreciable production code running on the Solaris x86 platform.

Now IBM and Red Hat have just upped the competitive ante. In their own crusade against Sun, they have expanded a program providing a free service to help Solaris customers move from older and more expensive systems to Red Hat Linux running on IBM eServer xSeries, BladeCenter, iSeries, pSeries, OpenPower, and zSeries platforms. The free service offered through the IBM Systems and Technology Group initially targets the financial services industry, one of Sun’s leading markets. The service evaluates customer installations and assesses business and technical impacts of the migration to Linux. Based on this evaluation it recommends appropriate migration solutions. Since both Linux and Solaris are similar, the migration is almost always fairly straightforward.

IBM also provides a fee-based service to help customers migrate from other older UNIX systems to less expensive Red Hat or Suse Linux-based computers and to migrate off Oracle databases or Solaris-storage to IBM solutions. In addition, IBM offers support and testing tools to help software vendors build Linux versions of their applications.

Hurwitz & Associates believes that there is a large class of Sun’s customers who will not want to give up the benefits of scalability, security, network monitoring and performance, and wealth of enterprise class applications running on Solaris. However, IBM’s migration solution is compelling for those companies that fall into the following categories:
    ?     Ready to upgrade to newer open source and more cost effective platforms
    ?     Implementing SOA and Web services and wanting a single source supplier for all their needs
    ?     Requiring ALM tools seamlessly integrated into a comprehensive development and deployment platform
    ?     Desiring to take advantage of Eclipse-based or open source services and products

Meanwhile, as long as Sun adheres to its hardware-centric strategy, the company exposes itself to the continuing predations of its more farsighted competitors. They have taken notice of Sun’s declining sales revenues and sliding market shares and can be counted on to explore all possible ways to exploit Sun’s vulnerability. And Sun’s customers, optimistic that a post-lawsuit Sun and Microsoft would work together to provide .NET and Java cross-platform solutions and tools for integration, have come up short. For now, customers that require this interoperability or integration will just have to find another way to satisfy their corporate needs. Unfortunately for Sun, this state of affairs presents these unrequited companies further reason to consider IBM’s offer and to leave Sun to admire its own hardware. Under these circumstances it is hard for us to see how Sun expects to thrive in the coming years.


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