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Sun Buys Last Bit of Old SCO

UPDATED: Sun Microsystems said it plans on buying Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Tarantella to extend its platform reach.

John Loiacono, Sun executive vice president, said Sun would use the technology for its thin client and mobile strategy by building a bridge to legacy content, such as Microsoft Windows.

"We've been in the thin client space for a while with our Sun Ray line, and the two big hindrances have been network bandwidth and application interoperability," Loiacono said during a conference call with press and analysts. "In November, you may remember that we announced that Sun Ray devices are now broadband capable. Now we are looking to use Tarantella to get access to non-Sun applications, specifically Windows."

Sun said Tarantella has the capability to connect clients to Windows or non-Windows applications from a single management perspective. The remote desktop technology also boasts operations-focused facilities, such as provisioning, management, load balancing and reporting.

While access to non-Sun content would still depend on a Windows or mainframe program running in the background, Loiacono said Tarantella has a non-client-side technology that doesn't interfere with the device, granted that it runs some type of Java Runtime interface.

The $25 million cash- and stock-option deal still needs to be cleared by shareholders and federal regulators. Sun and Tarantella said they are confident the paperwork will be complete by the first quarter of Sun's fiscal year 2006, which ends in September.

Tarantella has three focus areas under its Secure Global Desktop product family: Enterprise, Software Appliance and Terminal. The products compete with rival offerings from Attachmate, Citrix Systems and Hummingbird. However, Tarantella said it has a strong strategic advantage in partners, such as IBM, Sun, Microsoft, HP, Nortel and iCanSP, a wholly owned subsidiary of Computer Associates.

"I'm a bit surprised that it's not IBM buying Tarantella instead of Sun, given Tarantella's closeness to IBM during the past few months," Michael Dortch, an analyst with IT research firm Robert Frances Group, told internetnews.com. "However, it may be that the Sun-Tarantella tie-up will prove to be more interesting, given Sun's continuing to promise interesting things from its evolving ditente with Microsoft."

Tarantella's core software can run on x86 systems running Sun Solaris or Linux (SUSE, Red Hat or Fedora). Secure Global Desktop software can also run on UltraSPARC running Solaris.

The company's application access software can also run on Microsoft Windows, Linux, Unix, mainframe or midrange systems. Tarantella said its software could even be extended to wireless devices such as handhelds and cellular phones.

The Tarantella announcement comes one day after Sun said it would purchase Procom Technology for $50 million in cash.

Tarantella is the last piece of the company formerly known as The Santa Cruz Operation (SCO). The company changed its name when it sold its OpenServer software and professional services divisions to Caldera International, which has since changed its name to The SCO Group .

The History of Tarantella
2003 Acquires New Moon Systems
2001 Company changes name to Tarantella
2001 Sale of operating system divisions to Caldera Systems
2001 Tarantella Enterprise 3 released
1998 Launch of UnixWare7 product
1997 Launch of the Tarantella product
1995 Acquire Unix technology from Novell
1994 Acquire Visionware for client emulation technology
1993 Company goes public on Nasdaq
Source: Tarantella

Doug Michaels, who co-founded SCO, has remained a Tarantella board member.

Joshua Greenbaum, a market research analyst with Enterprise Applications Consulting, says there is a certain irony in the fact that Sun and SCO used to do battle in the 80s over which company had the better desktop Unix product.

"Now we are here 20 years later, and Sun is acquiring the last bit of the original SCO," he said.

For Sun, an addition like Tarantella could help the company improve on its promise to help data center operators control their patchwork of rival servers and systems. The company made a point of mentioning in its announcement that Tarantella is great at letting organizations "access and manage information, data and applications across virtually all platforms, networks and devices."

But not everyone is convinced that Sun is making a good investment. Greenbaum points out that Tarantella software may add security, access and heterogeneity, but adding it to Sun may not change Sun's fortunes.

"My concern is that Sun's master plan isn't very masterful," Greenbaum told internetnews.com. "What Sun keeps doing is dredging the harbor deeper and deeper and filling out the edges without addressing what they have. Tarantella is a good technology base for non-Sun hardware, and that can be advantageous. "But I look around and ask if that will change the competitive landscape. The answer is, no. This is a more mundane announcement. It is like General Motors saying you can now buy rain and snow tires along with your standard tires."

In comparison, Greenbaum points out that IBM's plans to acquire Apache Geronimo-based Gluecode is a much more logical decision.

"I personally have trouble seeing the strategic value of Tarantella to Sun," he said.

Gary Hein, a vice president and analyst with Burton Group, told internetnews.com he also had his doubts about Sun's acquisition plans.

I think I'd view this more as an exit strategy for the Tarantella technologies, engineers and customers. Sun will acquire IP and product around the operations side of deploying and managing remote applications, and this will complement their Java Desktop System. JDS could benefit from enhanced connectivity to non-JDS-capable applications.