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Sun Joins Linux International


In May, Sun Microsystems joined Linux International. In a year where Netscape has released their source and many companies have announced that their products will be supporting Linux, I felt Sun's move was an interesting enough development to want to know more. Therefore, I did a short e-mail interview with Charles Andres, a Group Manager in Market Development Engineering at Sun Microsystems. Here's what he told me.

Margie:Why has Sun made the decision to join Linux International?

Charles: Sun Microsystems is responding to renewed interest in running Linux on its UltraSPARC products, such as the Ultra 5. SPARC products have always been designed to run UNIX extremely well. Linux runs well on UltraSPARC platforms.

It is important to note that this move in no way diminishes Sun's support for Solaris, a proven reliable scalable operating system. The Solaris environment will still be provided with all SPARC systems and is considered by us to be the best operating system for enterprise and network computing.

Margie: Is Sun planning to have Linux support for all its products?

Charles: Sun Microsystems is not planning on selling any products that are bundled with Linux. Sun bundles Solaris with every workstation and server it currently ships. There are also no plans to provide support for Linux directly. However, there are a number of Linux vendors that support a variety of platforms. We are working to ensure that these vendors include UltraSPARC platform support for their Linux products.

Margie: Does this move represent a shift in policy for Sun? Last year, we asked for a picture of a SunSPARC workstation to use on our cover, and were refused because ``Linux is a competitor.'' (We used a Ross SPARCplug instead.)

Charles: Sun Microsystems has never had an official policy regarding Linux up to now. As stated above, Sun Microsystems has gone from having no policy regarding Linux, to helping to ensure that Linux runs on SPARC by assisting companies who sell supported versions of Linux.

Margie: How does Sun feel about the ``Open Source'' movement? (Prominent in the news, because of Netscape source release.)

Charles: Sun Microsystems has a long tradition of supporting open standards, typically through standardized interfaces, many of which Sun has invented. Providing source code may be appropriate in some specific instances, but typically works well only in situations where trademarks associated with the source code are licensed. Compatibility, consistency, reliability and upgrades require a business model that can finance the effort required to provide them.

Users who want the freedom of Open Source take on the responsibility of maintaining their own source code, but cannot guarantee consistent results with other variants. This could become a problem for Netscape source variants if they are not uniquely identified. This is why we feel brand protection through licensing is so important.

Margie: Some people feel that Java should be made Open Source. Any chance of that happening?

Charles: Source for the Java language is available to anyone who signs the Java license which is free for non-commercial use. This is done to allow Java to run anywhere, and to avoid problems that could occur when source is modified to produce variants that are not consistent with the Java language specification.

Margie: Anything else you'd like to add?

Charles: We look forward to working with you and the Linux community to promote the advantages of UNIX and Linux on SPARC in the future.

Margie:Thank you for your time.

Copyright © 1998, Marjorie Richardson
Published in Issue 29 of Linux Gazette, June 1998