Q&A: Jonathan Schwartz, Sun Microsystems

As the open source faithful prepare to descend upon the LinuxWorld Conference in San Francisco the first week in August, Sun Microsystems is fine-tuning its own Linux message, and alliances.

Despite a concerted effort to expand its support for Linux across more of its product lines, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based systems vendor still finds itself on the defensive about its support for Linux in relation to its high-end Solaris operating system — especially from Wall Street houses keen on installing Linux operating systems where Sun’s systems currently reign.

During a meeting with technology reporters Monday, Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s executive vice president of software, updated the company’s latest strategic embrace of open source while urging doubters to stay tuned for further news from the Linux front.

By Friday, Sun had rolled out news that SuSe Linux was now a Java source licensee. In the deal, SuSe has agreed to become a Java 2 Standard Edition source licensee and to distribute Sun’s Java Virtual Machine (JVM). The alliance also calls for Sun to sell, ship and provide full customer support for SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 on Sun’s x86 systems.

The news arrives as Sun prepares for a fall unveiling of its server side Project Orion software/hardware bundle of Solaris and Linux on a common Java runtime environment, and its Mad Hatter desktop bundle. In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters, Schwartz also managed to land a few jabs on the competition.

Following are excerpts from the Q&A.

About Sun and Software

Besides DVD players, there’s only one industry that still divorces
software from hardware: the PC Desktop. In the PC world, you buy hardware
from Dell and software from Microsoft. It’s not that we expect that to go
away, it’s just that we’re a systems company and we look at that as a bug.
It’s not a feature. And so when we deliver a system, if you look at our
highest-end systems, they do things you just can’t do by assembling
components on your own.

If you wanted to assemble those components on your own, you’d need about
the 10,000 people we have designing high-speed interconnects and kernel bus
optimization interfaces and all the things that go into making a system run
well.

I’ll leave you with the following thought, which I assure you we’ll
repeat in 2015. We open markets with software. We monetize them with
systems. I’ll give you a perfect example to answer the question about
what’s
different in Europe between the US.

Java on cell phones. If you go to Europe, [you would see
that] last year $1.6 billion dollars were spent on ring-tones, and $6
billion worldwide. About none was in the U.S. because Europe has figured
out
how to roll out infrastructure. We have done that in concert with most of
the major forces in Europe.

So J2ME is something that Sun ships with Samsung,
Motorola,
Sony, Ericsson and Nokia. Everyone else in the world ships it. We all have
the same implementation. The good news is there are now 150 million
Java-enabled phones in the world. (corrects sentence to remove prior typo

[Java-phones] will out-ship PCs this year and guess what’s hanging on to
the back end of every one of those cell phones? A really big provisioning
engine with a massive directory server running very high scale service
provider class e-mail messaging, providing calendar and applications,
running on a very large scale distributed infrastructure. That’s our
business. And by the way, we’re agnostic with respect to cell phones.

About Sun’s Approach to Linux

To me, operating systems are the single most valuable asset on the
Internet. Period.

The reason why operating systems are so valuable are the same reasons a
masthead in a newspaper is so valuable or the chassis of a vehicle is so
valuable. It is the vehicle through which you distribute all your content.
Absent an operating system you are left to your own devices to try to get
your product out into the world.

On the server side, there are two schools of thought. One says Intel is
going to be the future as far as we can see (a few years down the road).
And
then there are others like me that say Intel right now, on the low end, has
done a good job of characterizing workloads. We’re going to go after them
in
another couple of years with a very different view of the world.

Looking at the first view that says Intel is the future, how many
operating systems run on Intel? There are only three. There’s the one that
Microsoft delivers. There’s the one that Red Hat delivers — because Linux
right now is Red Hat. Red Hat has way more control than Linus [Torvalds,
the
creator of Linux] does.

If Red Hat tweaks their distribution just a little bit, does anyone care
about what Linus says? ISVs qualify to Red Hat , not to Linus. So Red Hat is number two. And number three is
Solaris [Sun’s UNIX-based operating system].

For the longest time when we were delivering Solaris on Intel, people
were saying to us, ‘What are you doing that for? That’s Microsoft’s
domain.’
Well thank god we were doing that because the industry’s really changed for
us, and now we’ve got a full stack lined up. That allows us to go after
some
pretty interesting opportunities.

Q: When’s Mad Hatter [Sun’s Microsoft-compatible, Linux-based desktop
package of applications] coming out and in which industries will it be
focused?

Probably September or October. For industries, typically large,
homogenous workforces such as retail outlets, big branches. We’re testing
about 4,000 units right now.

We have three principal customers: developers who build things, CIOs who
pay for things, and operators who then have to deal with the aftermath of
applications that were built and bought and make them all work together.

When it comes to products, they range from servers and storage that are
behind the network, to the devices that present the network, to the devices
that authenticate to the network. Those are the three tiers that we see in
the user space of how software is built.

There’s an incredible diversity coming out today on the desktop.
Everything you see today that is on the Internet will have a microprocessor
smart card on it. Look at the Best Buy [fake Web site] fraud.

We are coming to a point where strong authentication is just going to be
a mandate. You don’t make crank cell phone calls for a reason. It’s because
the carrier knows you. But if the desktop is authenticated, people will
create mischief. Therefore strong authentication is going to be a critical
element of all network protocols.

Java defined and invented the notion of network API
; it’s not a built in application for the network. And what
we’ve been doing with Sun One and
increasingly with N1 [its computing services on-demand initiative] is
trying
to define standards for Web services and
consolidation
and utilization of shared services infrastructure.

On the SCO-IBM Linux dispute, and open source

We invested on behalf of two target markets a decade ago, the world’s
intelligence agencies and the telecommunications industry, which dominantly
understood networks.

The one thing they didn’t realize they wanted was the capacity of their
vendors to indemnify them against the risks that went into the products
that
they were using. And just as there are a bunch of mothers of 14-year-olds
getting subpoenas because their kids are sharing music on the Internet,
there will be a bunch of CIOs to testify with respect to the intellectual
property that they are using.

The reason we’re familiar with this is because we own our own
intellectual property (IP). And I want to make sure we’re really clear
about
our position on the SCO
lawsuit against IBM
[over whether UNIX code was misappropriated for
Linux], as well as IP litigation in general.

Open source to me is an irrelevance in the sense that customers don’t
want products based on whether they are open source or not. They buy them
based on whether they are better quality, are faster, are innovative and
help solve problems.

So why did Linux succeed on Wall Street in Round 1? I would claim
because
it just ran faster on a small Intel box and it ran with potentially higher
quality for the tasks that had been assigned to it, such as running a
batch.

But there are two problems [with open source development]. One is that
IBM appears to have committed a landmark mistake in the [alleged] leakage
of
its IP license from SCO into the mainstream distribution of Linux. My bet
is
that as a result, there’s going to be a bunch of end users, who, just like
the mothers of 14-year-olds who trade files, will be getting letters
telling
them that they have an obligation to compensate for the liberties they took
with that IP.

Again, I want to be really clear. This is not a condemnation in any way
of open source. Sun Microsystems is the single largest contributor of open
source technologies on the planet. We are a huge believer of open source.
But I probably have as many lawyers working on my open source products as I
do any other because we also believe that when I go to my customer, I have
to indemnify them against the risks of the IP that I’m selling.

And any vendor that says he can’t do that is lying to you. So I find it
interesting that IBM says there’s no problem and tells its customers not to
worry but refuses to indemnify them against the risks of the SCO suit.

We’re a huge believer in open source, but we’re also a huge believer in
IP ownership. I think when you confuse those two you run into problems.

So will MySQL topple the database companies? If their products are
better, absolutely. Does it have anything to do with open source? I don’t
think so. What matters is: is it better?

Is Linux better at running a one-way Intel server running Apache
? No question. Is it going to be by the end of this year? I
don’t buy it. Why? Because Apache is the last thing you run on that server.
It’s [also running] a bunch of infrastructure for which you will expect
indemnification from your vendors, which we will gladly provide for the
products that Sun produces.

Q: You say you can indemnify the product because you own the IP;
there’s various parts to the stack. What of enterprises running, say, JBoss
for application servers? They run it because it’s cheaper.

That’s an illusion. Did you know that Red Hat has no more free Red Hat?

Q: Yes, but [JBoss] doesn’t cost $85,000 for an application server
[license].

Solaris is less than the leading Linux distributor out there. How much
is
JBoss? Well it’s free the day you get it. How much is Sun’s Linux server?
Free.

Q: But you have to buy [Sun’s bundled Orion package with] hardware to
get it.

Absolutely. Software opens markets.

Q: People buy open source products because they are cheaper.

But they’re not cheaper. Who said they’re cheaper? Some are more
expensive. But again, open source is an irrelevance. Take it off the table.
It’s like saying let’s go look at the licensing terms under which you get a
product. How much is J2EE ? It’s free. How much is star
office?
It’s free. When is Star Office going to beat Microsoft Office? The day it’s
better.

Q: The SCO dispute against IBM is seen as an anomaly, a one-time
deal,
even a cash transaction issue. There’s nothing to prevent Linux from
long-term showing up on the enterprise high-end the same way Solaris
does.

The problem with that logic is like saying if wishes were horses,
beggars
would ride. If Microsoft owns all the software, what’s your play Sun? If
Intel owns all the hardware, what’s your play Sun?

If Linux takes over the whole planet, if it scales to be five thousand
ways, well I’d question a couple of things.

Linux is no longer a thing. One company produces Linux dominatingly: Red
Hat. Go poll every customer on Wall Street you will not find anything
beyond
Red Hat (and SuSe).

Q: IBM is saying they’ll keep working on Linux. It will scale, it
will
be in these large data center environments. So it’s not going to be limited
to Apache servers.

Go look at all the Linux running on mainframes that’s getting pulled off
because it was a stupid waste of time. Look at all these fanciful claims of
how Linux will run on mainframes. Well, now it’s all getting pulled off.
Why? Because it’s done.

People qualify to distributions. What was the distribution IBM was going
to run on its mainframe? IBM’s distribution. Guess how many ISVs are going
to write to IBM’s distribution? Zero.

Whose Linux is it going to be? IBM says it’s XYZ. If that’s true that
means Red Hat wins the market, which means IBM has a problem because
they’ve
given the whole operating system to Red Hat. So I think IBM saying Linux
will take over the world is equivalent on their part of saying Red Hat
takes
over the world.

Q: From IBM’s point of view it’s a global services game though.
That’s
why they bought PwC.

So Red Hat and Microsoft everywhere? And Jboss will eliminate WebSphere?
MySQL will eliminate DB2?

Q: IBM doesn’t really care too much because they’re playing a
services
game.

Well services are valued at one times revenue. And it’s a declining
industry. Right now my costs of hiring talent in Beijing are a 10th of what
they are in the U.S., a fifth of what it is in Bangalore.

The only difference between our strategy and IBM’s strategy is we
believe
in the consolidation in outsourcing and services with technology. And IBM
believes in the consolidation of outsourcing of services to teeming hordes
of high priced consultants. We believe our strategy in the long run wins.

Q: Which Linux distribution version will you be using for Mad Hatter
[Sun’s desktop bundle, which includes MS Exchange, Sun’s StarOffice
application suite, Mozilla browser, Java 2, Gnome 2 and Linux]?

Our own. We will likely work with other companies to build it.

Q: Wasn’t the Sun version of Linux distribution being phased
out?

Server side absolutely. The thing you really need to think about with a
Linux distribution is what does an ISV qualify to? On a server side they
generally qualify to a very low level set of APIs . On this
desktop, they can because you qualify to Java run-time environments, to
browser environments and all the user presentation around it.

So the distribution we deliver may in fact have someone else’s kernel
inside, because we’re not going to build a lot of value into that kernel.
It
will have a huge amount of infrastructure around Gnome, around Evolution,
around Mozilla, around Java, Game, Open Office and Star Office built around
it.

Q: Where do you see [open source’s] sweet spot?

Quality matters more than the licensing agreement used to build
something. Typically open source development is done on products that are
very stable and homogenous. Apache is a great example.

Do I believe that Linux will scale? Absolutely. No question. Do I
believe
that Solaris will scale down? Absolutely. No question in my mind.

Ask IT directors. [They say] more source code is not a value
proposition.
‘I’ve got enough source code, thank you very much.’

I have customers every day saying I’d love to give you this system for
you to manage for me. Open source to CIOs is an irrelevance to them. What
they want are cheaper products that run more effectively at higher quality
at greater scale with a lower cost of maintenance over time. That’s what
we’re going to focus on.

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