RealTime IT News

Sun Headed For Roots With Wall Street Show

Sun Microsystems will take its network computing show to the Big Apple next week to lure Wall Street reps with the promise of greater savings on their IT infrastructure.

Though officials refused to divulge specific details ahead of its third-quarter event, they did promise to excite the attendees with several product, service and customer announcements about the company's progress.

Sun Services CTO Hal Stern said Sun is getting back to its roots by addressing the financial services market. For years, the company was successful with its Solaris operating system and Sun Fire servers. However, it has lost market share due to strong sales of low-cost Linux and x86 machines from rivals IBM , HP and Dell .

"Over the last couple of years, financial services firms have been telling us: 'Pay attention to the economics of computing, pay attention to what our needs are.'" Stern said. "We are now in a position to tell them as a group with an interesting set of requirements where we are right now technology-wise. That's why we're having the event in New York, and that's why we're focusing on our Wall Street customers."

Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff said it makes sense that Sun is holding one of its quarterly events amid the hustle and bustle of Wall Street.

"It's certainly no accident that Sun is holding this event in New York -- close by the financial industry customers who were once so loyal but who have been less so recently," Haff said.

"I expect to hear lots of talk about the upcoming Solaris 10 and Opteron servers, even if there aren't a lot of specific new announcements about them," Haff said. "After all, Wall Street didn't desert to Linux in droves because they liked it more than Solaris; they did it because Linux on x86 hardware was cheaper."

Sun has a tight partnership with AMD, using its Opteron chips in conjunction with Solaris on its Sun Fire servers to try and combat the rising market share from its rivals. Sun already sells Opteron-based servers running two- and four-processors and expects to sell 8-way machines this year.

"With Solaris x86 and Opteron, Sun has a good shot at reversing the trend [of Linux and x86 dominance]," Haff said. "It's also in the process of making a play to bring developers back into the fold with the upcoming open sourcing of Solaris and tools like DTrace in Solaris 10."

DTrace is a dynamic tracing tool that provides performance optimization, application performance and capacity planning by viewing what an application does going through various kernel paths. Sun is likely to give updates on this Solaris 10 feature.

But the public is excited about what it already knows of the company. In recent months Sun has invigorated its go-to-market strategy for software by introducing flexible pricing models and new products.

The N1 Grid Containers partitioning system highlights capabilities of the company's utility computing strategy. With the containers, computing power can be provisioned on the fly to complete jobs in an enterprise. The containers allow one instance of an operating system to run several computing environments. And utility computing for StorEdge Systems is a new pay-for-use storage option to deliver storage capacity when it is needed.

The once staunchly proprietary company has also committed to open-sourcing Solaris and its Java Enterprise System, a notion that took the industry by surprise. Sun repeatedly rebuffed IBM's attempts to convince the company to open-source software. So the question remains: How would Sun go about doing it?

Stephen O'Grady, senior analyst with Redmonk, wasn't sure what the potential of open-sourcing Solaris and JES would be until he talked to a customer at a recent Sun software briefing.

"At the end of the day, much of the success or failure of the model depends on the details of the model," O'Grady said. "How is it open-sourced? "How are contributions handled? What, if anything, can be taken out of the code and applied elsewhere?

"Until all of those questions are answered, it's difficult to properly assess the impact, but it's attracting more interest and enthusiasm than I would have predicted."

The open-source speculation comes amid rumors that Sun is considering a purchase of Novell or MontaVista Software to give it a significant advantage over current Linux purveyors IBM, HP and Dell.

The company had previously unveiled a new feature of Solaris 10, codenamed "Project Janus," which lets customers run Linux binary applications unmodified and un-recompiled on Solaris without x86-based hardware.

Regardless of the speculation, Sun's Stern made it clear that the company wants to wow financial services customers with its hardware and software platform combos, as well as new reference architectures and services.