Bowing to the open source mantra, Sun Microsystems officials on Wednesday said the company is packaging multiple software products from its catalog as the Solaris Enterprise System, anchored by the Solaris OS, and offering it all for free.
The intention is to increase volume through the free distribution of these products and then build revenue through selling related support, services, and Sun hardware. Sun sees its platform as an alternative to the ubiquitous Windows platform.
"I think we've seen consistently that volume wins in the marketplace," said Sun President and COO Jonathan Schwartz, during a teleconference on Wednesday. He previously has touted Sun's intentions to offer all of its software via open source.
"Free certainly is the lowest barrier to entry to acquiring [a] product," he said.
Under Sun's plan, the company's Java Enterprise System server middleware stack, Sun N1 management software and Sun developer tools will be available at no cost. Additionally, all of this software along with Solaris will be included in Solaris Enterprise System infrastructure platform.
Specifically, Solaris Enterprise System features Solaris 10 with the PostgreSQL database; Java Enterprise System, including identity management and integration software; N1 management software, featuring service provisioning and Sun's grid engine; tools for C, C++, and Java development such as Sun Studio 11 and Sun Java Studio Creator; SunRay thin client software and Sun Secure Global Desktop Service.
Shawn Willett, analyst at Current Analysis, described Sun's move as "pretty radical."
"I guess they will recoup the license revenue through services and of course underlying hardware," Willett said in an e-mail.
"They are not really detailing new services and support programs around this, however, which they need to do," he added.
"This will have the most effect on integration and portal markets, where there is not really good open source products on the market. It will be interesting to see if competitors in this space will respond and how," Willett said.
Sun made Solaris available via open source in June.
"We have seen unbelievable interest in the platform since then," said Tom Goguen, Sun vice president of software marketing. Future plans call for Sun to make its storage management software available for free also.
Users currently paying for use of the products within Solaris Enterprise System are not being shortchanged through the new free format, according to Sun. Those who have been paying $140 per employee a year for Java Enterprise System, for example, receive a warranty, indemnification, and value-added services, Goguen said.
Sun also sees its platform as ideal for developing services on Web 2.0, because it provides identity management as well as integration for SOA environments. Web 2.0 refers to an effort to move the Web from static sites to a computing platform for Internet-based applications.
Schwartz rejected the contention that Sun's previous move to offer its application server for free has not yielded much benefit, saying the application server, serving as Sun's reference implement for Java, has had approximately 2 million downloads.
"In terms of the volume of application servers out there, Sun's reference implementation is in fact the de facto standard for those who want to write a J2EE application," Schwartz said.