McNealy: We will be powerful in the open source community

Sun chief executive officer Scott McNealy talks candidly about his company's adoption of a Linux strategy and his commitment to...

Sun chief executive officer Scott McNealy talks candidly about his company's adoption of a Linux strategy and his commitment to open computing.

Earlier this week at the LinuxWorld conference in San Francisco, Sun took a massive gamble by announcing its own Linux operating system and Linux hardware. Support for open source is a brave step for the company which has built a multi-billion dollar hardware and software business around its proprietary Solaris Unix operating system. Sun does not appear to have a good track record in the open source community, but this week's news could be seen as a step by the server giant to make amends.

You want to be seen as a steward of Linux. Why should we trust Sun?

McNealy: We've been the driver for 20 years for Unix and even though USL (Unix System Laboratories) tried to be the benevolent dictator, they were incompetent. We ended up taking over and we ended up driving the standard and we never closed up one API on Solaris, even though we now ship all the other Unix systems combined by a big number. We have never taken it proprietary. We've got a dominant position in Unix today, and we've never done anything to take advantage of that.

Now that you have embraced Linux, how do you remain credible given the perception of Sun in the open source community?

McNealy: I'm a believer in intellectual property ownership and intellectual property rights. I'm always saying that, but I'm also saying we'll live the Linux lifestyle in a whole bunch of places. I believe there are multiple systems that can work and will work and need to work and have to exist. We have donated spews of code to the whole Linux thing. I think IBM and HP are scared to death that people will understand how powerful we are in this community.

How does embracing Linux and bundling products such as the mySQL database with Linux affect your relationship with partners such as Oracle?

McNealy: Oracle is embracing Linux and we're embracing mySQL. I don't know that there is any issue. To say that Linux is a threat to Solaris is like saying mySQL is a threat to Oracle 9i. If you look and you ask [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison, he'll tell you he has two platforms: Linux and Solaris. Those are his two platforms. You know what? Those are ours - not a problem.

You also seem to be saying that Linux is limited to two-way processors and 32-bit computing. Is that going to be the case forever?

: At some point when you go eight-way or 16-way, you're dealing with large address spaces and you need 64-bit computing because of the large data sets you're working with. We own that market already with a compatible Sun ONE platform. So it doesn't make sense for us to have a 64-bit Linux.

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