Sun focuses application strategy with LAMP initiative

Sun Microsystems' announcement of a new, entry-level Linux server this week is the opening salvo in an aggressive effort to...

Sun Microsystems' announcement of a new, entry-level Linux server this week is the opening salvo in an aggressive effort to capture market share in the desktop and edge-of-the-network applications market.

The company aims to take advantage of the popularity of open-source software such as Linux, Apache Webserver, MySQL database and PHP scripting language to drive new hardware, software and services sales, according to Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's who was appointed executive vice-president of software on 1 July.

Schwartz this week outlined a new Sun initiative, SunLAMP (for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP), which targets the low end of the market.

Sun hopes to position itself as a viable, low-cost option for edge server applications and as an alternative to Microsoft's desktop and client technologies, Schwartz said.

"We believe that the Linux market opportunity is going to be extremely disruptive," particularly for Microsoft, Schwartz said.

SunLAMP will give users fully integrated, prepackaged hardware and software bundles for running Linux-based applications, said Thomas Kucharvy, president of analyst group Summit Strategies.

"They are putting it together so that customers will have a single source [for core Linux software], all of which fits under the Sun management umbrella," Kucharvy said.

"One of the primary differentiators from what IBM and Hewlett-Packard are doing is that Sun is offering proven Linux software that provides integrated management capabilities all tuned to specific preconfigured hardware bundles," Kucharvy added.

Kucharvy said this approach would allow Sun to provide better support to users. The disadvantage, he said, is that "users who want Sun Linux are going to have to assume that Sun will have state-of-the-art hardware, Linux distributions and add-on capabilities and that it is going to be cost-competitive with the other offerings"..

The SunLAMP initiative is part of a multi-pronged Sun software strategy outlined by Schwartz.

At the high end, Sun will continue to push its Solaris operating system as a data-centre-class alternative to IBM's mainframes, Schwartz said.

Sun plans to use Solaris' traditional strengths in areas such as file systems, clustering and high availability to position it as the best platform for consolidating high-end applications, Schwartz said.

In the middle tier, Sun hopes to use its Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based Sun ONE application software stack to help companies make their applications and services Web-enabled. As well as being available on Sun's SPARC systems, Sun will deliver the Sun ONE software stack on its new line of x86 servers by early next year.

"Sun certainly seems to have gotten their software story together over the past few months," said Shawn Willett, an analyst at Current Analysis.

The recent grouping of all Sun software development activities under one organisation, its growing efforts in the Web services space and Sun's new Linux efforts are all examples of Sun's new focus, said Willett.

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