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Last month Sun launched a server system using an adapted Red Hat Linux and Intel processors, in a move that was seen as a departure from its proprietary hardware and software focus.
Linux distributor Red Hat is not pleased with this development. Michael Tiemann, Red Hat's chief technology officer, said he is not sure whether Sun can legally rebrand Red Hat Linux, and added that many of the popular distributions were originally based on Red Hat - it all depends on how close Sun Linux is to Red Hat's original release.
"Sun is addicted to the drug of proprietary hardware and software," he said. "At LinuxWorld, Scott McNealy [Sun's chief executive] was at a loss to explain why the company had no relationship with Red Hat. Without this, there is a danger that anyone who buys into Sun Linux will also buy into Sun controlling their destiny."
Simon Tindall, Sun's volume products sales manager, defended the launch. "I do not think Sun is taking unfair advantage of the open source community. Mainstream companies want to bet their business on an operating system of quality. Red Hat has a strong distribution to start with and we have optimised from there.
"We will honour the GPL [general public licence] and openly publish any changes we make, and we do not charge for the software on our LX50 Intel-based servers."
Sun said it aims to provide a supportable version of Linux which will allow its customers to have a single source for support and sales. However, IBM and other large hardware manufacturers simply distribute and support Red Hat Advanced Server themselves, under licence from Red Hat.