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Sun exec: Galaxy to shape Sun's future, part 2

The head of Sun Microsystems' new "Galaxy" server line talks about Sun's plans to improve the bottom line, how open source plays into that strategy, and cooperation with Microsoft.

After years of troubling financial results, Sun Microsystems is hoping its newly announced server refresh will provide the spark the company needs to improve its bottom line.

Announced yesterday, Sun's new line of servers -- code-named Galaxy -- are powered by Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processors and have dual-core capabilities. The new family of x64 servers run from one-way, low-end boxes (the Sun Fire X2100) to two-socket, four-way machines (Sun Fire X4100 and X4200). Looking ahead to next year, Sun plans to expand the line to include an eight-socket, 16-way machine.

To find out more, spoke with Graham Lovell, Sun's senior director of x64 servers and head of the Galaxy line. Here, in part 2 of that interview, Lovell talks about how Sun plans to improve the bottom line, how open source plays into that strategy and competition -- as well as cooperation -- with rival Microsoft. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

Graham Lovell
Graham Lovell

Can you talk a little bit about how Sun plans to produce better financial results going forward? Specifically, how does the Linux/open source community play into that strategy?

Graham Lovell: We are a technology company. We believe strongly in the quality and value of our products. As you'll see with this launch, we are announcing some leading-edge products that have to be attractive to customers. But just having the right hardware or the right operating system or whatever isn't going to make the company successful in terms of growth of revenue or bottom line.

It needs to be a balance across all of our product opportunities. For example, we have an advanced portfolio of software that runs on Red Hat Linux, as well as on Solaris. We have services, storage, a whole raft of additional capabilities that customers will find increasingly interesting from the start.

We're supplying systems and capabilities, which are operating system agnostic, as well as, of course, adding considerable integration and volume where the technology is under our control. For example, for our SPARC systems and with Solaris, we have those integration capabilities.

Increasingly, what you'll see us do is both make our software available to the open source community, as we did with Solaris (the technologies that are embedded within there are now available to open source), as well as utilize open source components in the software that we design and develop. An example of that is our commitment to Xen, a key virtualization technology for the company going forward.

Speaking of Xen, I spoke to an analyst recently who said the combination of Xen and the open source JBoss application server could give virtualization software vendors like VMware and Microsoft some real competition over the next couple of years. Do you agree with this statement?

Lovell: I think the thing to be careful about with that statement is that both of those companies, particularly VMware, have put considerable effort into enterprise-class capabilities and features. Xen is still kind of growing up to that. When you've got a company whose whole direction has been around virtualization for about the last eight or 10 years, they've got robustness, they've got capabilities built into the product that Xen is still sort of building out. There are going to be customers where Xen is absolutely the right choice. It's the right price point, it's the right technology, it's going to be heavily integrated with other open source [platforms] and so on. But, for others, they're going to prefer the comfort, reliability and robustness of a VMware-based solution. As it exists today, you see companies choosing either or both of those for different deployments.

Does Sun have ties to both VMware and the Xen community?

Lovell: We're selling and supporting VMware, and we're also working very closely with the Xen community. We've gifted them some systems and we've done some other work directly with them. We've also got a strategic relationship with [Advanced Micro Devices] and they're collaborating on a technology perspective with Xen as well. So Xen is getting a lot of focus and attention and I think deservedly.

More on Sun:

Sun moves away from Linux desktop

Sun, VMware join forces

Authors slam Sun's open source strategy

Awhile back, Sun and Microsoft announced a strategic partnership, where the two companies would work together to improve integration. I haven't heard much about this deal since. What's been happening with that?

Lovell: You'll see more announcements I guess out of Sun in that space. But we're busy working away from a fundamental interconnectivity perspective. We want to make sure that our products and their products work better. That's across the spectrum. It's not just format exchanges and documents. It's at the fundamental interconnectivity level, so that, [for example], when you're using LDAP [Lightweight Directory Access Protocol] services that those are well integrated between our two products. I'm not so sure we've got much to announce right now in terms of products, but the fundamentals are being worked on between the two companies. That extends not just to the engineering aspects, but also, we're going to be supporting Windows.

Microsoft has made some friendly gestures to the open source community of late. From your perspective, do you see that company as warming up to the open source community?

Lovell: I think it's fair for any commercial company to be looking at open source and community-driven developments as being an attractive area to collaborate in. I think the more your software overlaps [with an open source product], the less likely companies are to sort of embrace the open source equivalent. I really don't see Microsoft as saying, 'Hey, Linux is a really great thing.' [laughs] But where there's not so much overlap is perhaps an area that they could embrace.

If you missed it, be sure to read part 1 of this interview, where Lovell gives technical details on the new Galaxy server line.

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