Why Sun Could Benefit from SCO-IBM Lawsuit

By Bill Claybrook

June 18, 2003

This week, Sun CEO Scott McNealy hinted that the SCO - IBM lawsuit could end up aiding Solaris. The reason: Sun believes that it is not included in the SCO campaign against Linux and Unix suppliers that allegedly misused SCO's intellectual property. McNealy says Sun bought its Unix license outright several years ago.

My opinion is that McNealy could be right -- Sun could benefit from the confusion surrounding the SCO - IBM lawsuit -- but for different reasons. I don't know for sure, but Scott is likely eyeing a surging market around Solaris on SPARC. I can see Solaris on x86 making serious inroads in the market if Linux does stumble a bit (and even if it doesn't) when Sun starts marketing Solaris/x86 and gets more of the 6,000-plus ISV applications certified on Solaris/SPARC onto Solaris/x86.

Sun continues to drag its feet with respect to Solaris/x86 even though at its most recent Worldwide Analyst Conference in San Francisco Sun said that it loved Solaris/x86. But so far, Sun has not made public any plans for x86 hardware beyond the V60x and V65x one- and two-processor machines. And it has not announced anything for Itanium.

The downturn in the economy of the past three years has CIOs and IT managers thinking lower TCO and higher ROI. I don't expect to see this trend change significantly for several years even if the economy recovers. There are now other approaches to providing compute power for an enterprise that provide higher ROI than RISC/Unix platforms. Users want choice, not lock-in, which is what you get with RISC/Unix. However, this does not mean that RISC/Unix is going to be disappearing overnight; new purchases will less and less be RISC/Unix.

Sun has the simplest operating system platform strategy of any of the large systems vendors by far. It has three operating system platforms to support, IBM has [ http://aberdeen.com/ab_company/hottopics/ibmlinux/default.htm ] four hardware platforms with many operating systems to support, and HP by last count has about 12 operating systems platforms to support after its acquisition of Compaq. And Sun delivers, or soon will be delivering, all of its middleware on its three platforms. In addition, Linux and Solaris/x86 are binary compatible. My view is that Sun is in a good position to reap some benefits regardless of what happens to Linux, but it has to get much more serious about Solaris/x86, and soon.

1:15 ET

Last Edited by Bill Claybrook on 2003.06.18 at 1:30 ET

Copyright 2003