Sun Microsystems's focus on releasing software products such as Java and its Solaris operating system as open source technologies leads to a question that Jonathan Schwartz, the company's president and CEO, asks rhetorically: "How do we make money on this?"
One of the answers, Schwartz hopes, was positioned next to him during a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. At the event, Sun announced a line of blade servers that gives users a choice of microprocessors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, as well as Sun's own Ultrasparc T1 chip.
The Sun Blade 6000 Modular System family supports up to 10 blades per chassis and four chassis per rack, and the servers can run Solaris, Windows or Linux. Starting prices range from US$3695 to $5995, depending on the processor used in the systems.
To answer his own question, Schwartz said he thinks that Sun's open source strategy will broaden the adoption of its software products. That, in turn, will lead more customers to the company for hardware and support, he predicted.
For instance, Schwartz confirmed that the upcoming Leopard version of Apple's Mac OS X operating system will use Sun's open source ZFS file system instead of Apple's own HFS+ technology. ZFS, which is formally known as the Zettabyte File System, is currently used in Solaris as well as other operating systems.
Schwartz also pointed to the 90 million or so downloads of OpenOffice.org, the open source desktop applications suite that is based on Sun's Staroffice software. In particular, Openoffice is seeing strong adoption in overseas markets, Schwartz said.
That ultimately would benefit Sun, Schwartz said, by creating a market for its open source technologies, which the company could then monetise via sales and support of "high-scale" hardware.
Although Sun already sells blade servers, Schwartz thinks the new product line gives it a viable alternative to rack-mount systems by incorporating features such as support for the PCI Express interface format for expansion cards. The Sun Blade 6000s also add support for Intel's quad-core Xeon 5300 series processors, making them the first Xeon-based systems to be introduced by Sun since it announced an alliance with Intel in January.