Interview

Sun outlines its open source strategy and MySQL integration

Pam Derringer, News Writer

How long has Sun been involved with open source software and why? What's its vision?
Open source is inevitable, and we are choosing to lead. Open source is a part of Sun's heritage and the idea of sharing. Right from its work on the NFS [Network File System] file server, Sun has made open standards a part of its strategy going back to the GNOME project. Now open source has moved from a side effort to become Sun's main software strategy, the way we develop and distribute our software. And one way is to contribute to existing projects.

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For more on Sun and open source:
Sun, MySQL users ponder blockbuster acquisition

Sun OpenSolaris to become more 'Linux-like' 

Red Hat, Sun Microsystems to collaborate on Java development

The other way is to turn your projects over to others in the software ecosystem. We bought NetBeans in 1999, then bought StarOffice and made it OpenOffice. Then, in 2005, we stepped up the pace with development of the GlassFish application server. The message is that if something at Sun currently isn't open source, it will be pretty quickly. It's the central focus of our software strategy.

How does the recently finalized MySQL fit into your strategy?
It was six weeks in closing. We had lots of pieces up and down the stack -- the chip, operating system, the application layer -- but we were missing the database piece. This also gets us into a whole bunch of new accounts. And MySQL is complementary [with Sun's existing portfolio]. We are able to provide the enterprise 24/7 support services required by the Fortune 500, which is much greater value than a smaller company can provide. Also, the tenor of the two companies and their conduct are very similar. Last fall you announced several ooperative agreements with Microsoft on interoperability, servers and hardware. But the MySQL acquisition puts you in competition with one another -- and with Oracle as well.
The reality is mixed-software environments.
Barton George,
group manager, GNU/Linux strategySun Microsystems Inc.
We're "friends/enemies." I don't think there's any company in the tech industry that's not cooperating with another large company and at the same time competing directly against them. We've struck deals with Microsoft and are deepening that relationship. IBM sells Solaris. We also compete with IBM and resell Red Hat software, which runs on a lot of our servers. We compete aggressively within the open source space, same with Intel. We are always going to compete and partner with our competition, a trend that began back with [Sun Chairman of the Board Scott] McNealy. Compared with a company like Oracle, MySQL fills a different need and a different purpose for a different customer Does MySQL give you a low-cost alternative to the other two?
It does. We have an arsenal of databases. It's all about providing choice to the customer and moving from a welded-shut stack to an ecosystem model. Are Sun, Microsoft and Oracle going to end up going head to head with open source partners and/or acquisitions?
Something like MySQL couldn't have been purchased by Oracle unless the intent was to put it out of commission. MySQL wouldn't have thrived with Microsoft either. When we announced the MySQL acquisition, Oracle announced BEA but that technology is not the direction [in which] the market is going. Oracle will be promoting its end-to-end Linux platform. In general we are ahead of the other two when it comes to free and open source software. Microsoft is making small movements … and is slowly but surely taking a more open view. But they have quite a way to go. Despite the different cultures and drivers for proprietary and open source companies, acquisitions have increased. What drives this trend?
Whether a proprietary software company realizes [the importance of open source] or is just hedging its bets, they have to take notice and develop a strategy. Open source is inevitable [the software is free, but customers pay for support or an enterprise version]. Open source moves from a procurement-led to development-led market, where you can test without getting signoffs. Then after proof of concept, customers go into production and pay for support and service. The other reason we have gone with free and open source is that it allows you to drive tremendous volume. Without volume, you aren't relevant. Regarding proprietary/open source affiliations, Sun recently announced affiliation with Zmanda open source backup software. What was the motivation?
This is no-brainer. It's strengthening the offering that Sun and MySQL are putting out by creating a more robust offering. There will be more of these [affiliations] as we go along, any time we can add value and progress from a point solution to a full solution. SearchEnterpriseLinux.com's audience comprises those who work in data centers and use open source. What difference will MySQL and other Sun pacts like Zmanda offer to configuration options in mixed-environment shops?
[They will gain] tighter alignment and greater support … through strengthened interoperability with other Sun products. It gives us greater traction in the GNU/Linux space, and we can serve that. Every [new Sun product] integration is a challenge for us, but something we are getting better at. We learned a lot of lessons from the acquisition of Lustre file clustering, for example. What is the reaction you've seen so far from the marketplace having Sun support for MySQL?
It seems to be really positive. We have been pleasantly surprised. What kind of impact do all these moves -- interoperability between major vendors, more alliances with open software vendors -- have on the IT shops?
It should make their lives much easier. We've been hearing this a long time. You can have religious wars, but the reality is mixed-software environments. Users tell us that [warring vendors] not talking to one another makes their lives difficult. We're making moves to improve interoperability removing barriers from IT users and making users' lives much easier.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Pam Derringer, News Writer .


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