Sun Microsystems executives have decided to stay out of the Linux market, claiming it is a lower-end phenomenon that is not quite ready for the data centre yet.
Sun chief executive officer Scott McNealy said competitors such as HP and IBM "are reading the analyst reports and saying Linux is going to happen and they're abandoning their Unix customers".
McNealy's comments coincided with the release of several products and services from Sun, including an Intel processor-based blade server running Linux. That product is the sole general-purpose Linux server the company has released to date.
Sun also remains on track with its enterprise desktop initiative, codenamed Mad Hatter, under which the company will deliver preconfigured desktop bundles running Linux with Sun's StarOffice and other open-source office productivity software. The first products should be available later this year.
Demand for Linux remains limited to such edge-of-the-network, first-tier systems, said Patricia Sueltz, executive vice-president of Sun Services.
"But we never say never to anything," she added. If demand for Linux starts to materialise at the higher end, Sun will be willing to support it as well. "What I see happening to Linux today is what happened to Unix in the 1990s."
Sun's strategy of supporting Linux only at the low-end comes at a time when the open-source operating system is gaining increasing acceptance for edge-of-the-network applications, including firewalls and caching.
Sun agreed that Linux use is very prevalent in a number of customer sites for such applications, said IDC analyst Jean Bozman. But it is still early days when it comes to the adoption of Linux for running higher-end business applications.
As a result, Sun's approach has been to continue pushing Solaris for all but the lower end, she added.