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Sun Touts Hosted Services

Businesses are getting overcharged for enterprise hardware and software by a factor of 10, according to Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy. The leader of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company kicked off the firm's SunNetwork 2003 Conference and Pavilion with a painful admission about the IT industry. "We've made it too hard," he told attendees.

Instead of building enterprise systems a piece at a time, he said Sun wants businesses to let his company and its partners manage hardware, networks and software.

McNealy compared enterprise computing to the way people buy cars. Instead of cobbling together your own IT jalopy, buying one someone else made, or buying a new car, he said business should just take a taxi when they need one -- by using hosted services.

"Service providers is where world is moving," McNealy said, "and that's a wonderful opportunity to take the cost and complexity out of customers' organizations."

At the opening of the conference, held in San Francisco on September 16 through 18, wide screens stretching across the stage flashed a barrage of brag set to ear-splitting music. In a video, a smirking hipster with gelled hair touted the benefits of putting Java everywhere, not only in computers and cell phones, but also the car, the credit card, the razor blade, the gas pump, your kid and the dog. Fog, smoke, and a band preceded McNealy, who strolled onto the stage dressed in his trademark pressed jeans and blue blazer.

"Guess the economy isn't too bad," he quipped. "Everyone has time to come over here and be with us." Sun said the show had drawn 8500 attendees and 300 partners.

The theme of the conference was "cut cost and complexity," and McNealy held up a sign saying "Recall Cost & Complexity," in a jape at California's gubernatorial recall campaign. He recapped the past year and said that its 35,000 employees, offices in 100 countries, $11.4 billion worldwide revenues and $132 billion installed revenue showed Sun's solidity. Milestones included developing Linux-based servers, delivering inexpensive blade server products, bringing Solaris to x86 chip architectures and launching more than 20 low-end server and storage products in a host of different packages, schemes and environments.

Sun has three strategic goals, according to McNealy: attacking cost and complexity, developing tools, architectures, security and safety for Web services thru its Java-based architecture, and providing secure, mobile computing.

Sun said smart cards running Java are already being used as ID cards in Thailand and Belgium, as well as at Sun, where employees can plug their cards into any computer and immediately securely access their personal desktops. McNealy described this as a "wherever you go, there you are computing environment."

McNealy also reaffirmed Sun's commitment to UNIX, which Gartner Dataquest said is the leading provider of UNIX in many areas.

"I love that UNIX is considered a dead end environment, the Rodney Dangerfield of the computer industry," he said. "This is the technology everybody's using to build scalable, reliable, safe computer architectures."

It's a mistake that IT departments are called that, McNealy said. Instead, they should be information management organizations.

"Sun is the IT company, you are the information management company. We do the integrating; make it interoperable. You manage the data," McNealy envisioned.