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Forbes' "Red Hat = Linux" Spin Angers Sun Microsystems COO

Forbes' "Red Hat = Linux" Spin Angers Sun Microsystems COO

Related Links:
  • Schwartz "Totally Crazy" to Raise Idea of Sun Buying Novell, Says Analyst

    Most presidents and COOs of tech companies are glad to be mentioned in Forbes or anywhere else. Not Sun's president and COO Jonathan Schwartz.

    The following Forbes.com September 1 headline did not make Sun's  Jonathan Schwartz happy at all: "Sun Micro Still A Potential Threat To Linux," it declared.

    Not so, says Schwartz, who promptly devoted an entire blog entry to refuting Forbes's implication.

    What sparked the Forbes report in the first place was the news from Credit Suisse First Boston that the recent run on Red Hat's stock price was "due at least in part to reports that Sun is changing its plan to encourage sales of its Solaris system on commodity, or non-Sun, hardware." The market, CSFB stated, was overreacting.  Many execution challenges remain for Sun, the research firm noted, "and we find no evidence that Sun's recent initiatives at the low end of the market are changing strategic decisions to migrate to Linux."

    What maddens Schwartz is the conflation, in such reports, of Linux and Red Hat. He points out, rightly: "Red Hat is not linux, despite what they say, and despite what the media (and IBM's ads) seem to conflate."

    "Sun is not a threat to GNU/linux," Schwartz declares. "Innovation is not a threat to GNU/linux. dTrace is not a threat to linux. Nor is Solaris 10, nor Janus. Nor is our new comp plan."

    He has described this new comp plan as "proving Sun's commitment to building Solaris as the cross platform standard."

    "We're now compensating Sun's hardware salesforce for selling Solaris on non-Sun hardware. So if a sales rep sells Solaris on Dell or IBM, or even HP (Xeon or Nocona), we pay them as if they sold the hardware. This is a huge culture change, obviously. It also focuses everyone on keeping customers happy - and driving hardware choice."

    The reason Schwartz insists on writing 'linux' instead of Linux is something he explained back in July, when he wrote:

    "Now, I put linux in quotes (with all deference and respect) because that one word wasn't just one product - it was, in effect, a reprise of the open source movement on which Sun was founded. And that movement yielded a blizzard of distros. There was (and still is, especially on desktops or clients) no single linux. But if you speak to as many customers as I do, you quickly see that neither they, nor ISV's can afford to support 100 different distributions in the datacenter."

    So his "Red Hat is not linux" refrain is nothing new. It just that when Forbes gets its wrong - and CNET, whose "Sun sales tactic targets Linux" headline also comes under his critical eye - Schwartz is just as unhappy in September as he was in July. Sun is not targeting anyone but Red Hat, which is a distro. ("Let's get specific," Schwarts urges. "Let's start calling a distro a distro.")

    "To my friends in the media," Schwartz thunders, "you are confusing a social movement with a single company - that social movement is all about choice, innovation and freedom. Not dominance or dependence."

    "In that light," Schwartz continues, "no innovation Sun delivers, in comp models or bits, can be anti-linux." 

    So Sun, in Schwartz's worldview is not a threat to Linux, nor is innovation a threat to Linux, nor dTrace nor Solaris 10 nor Janus.

    "They are a problem for Red Hat."

    It remains to be seen whether Forbes or CNET will reply to his broadside.

    Related Links:

  • Schwartz "Totally Crazy" to Raise Idea of Sun Buying Novell, Says Analyst

  • More Stories By Red Hat News Desk

    Red Hat News Desk trawls the world's news information sources and brings you timely updates on its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well as the company's other product lines including database, content, and collaboration management applications; server and embedded operating systems; and software - including its most recent virtualization offerings.

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