Say goodbye to software audits: Sun

SAN FRANCISCO — Companies tired of battling viruses and the costs of maintaining their Windows environments got an alternative this week when Sun Microsystems took the wraps off new suites of desktop and server software at its annual SunNetwork conference.

The company’s chief executive, Scott

McNealy, told some 8,500 conference attendees the products will simplify enterprise software pricing, which to date has been a complex and costly undertaking for most organizations.

“”I believe, as an industry, we’ve been overcharging to deliver services by a factor of at least 10,”” he said, adding that moving to a utility model is the No. 1 way companies can address cost and complexity. McNealy said an estimated US$45 billion is spent each year on desktop software and Sun would like to push that cost down to $10 billion, and grab 40 per cent of the revenue in the process.

In a move designed to wrestle mind share and market share from the dominating force in the PC environment, Microsoft Corp., Sun unveiled its Java Desktop System.

Previously code-named MadHatter, Java Desktop System runs on the Linux operating systems and includes Sun-flavoured programs that replace Microsoft’s Office suite and Internet browser, but will seamlessly interoperate with it. Jonathan, Schwartz, executive vice-president of Sun’s software group, said Java Desktop System is the answer to the manageability problem introduced by Windows.

“”The majority of problems, including viruses, are coming from the desktop,”” Schwartz said. Java Desktop System will be offered to customers for a price of US$100 per employee.

On the server side, Sun announced the Java Enterprise System software suite, which rolls the company’s middleware software — including the Sun ONE application server, directory server, portal server, Sun’s clustering software and various products for messaging and calendaring — into a single bundle with its Solaris server operating system and creates a one-stop-shop pricing model for customers. Previously code-named Project Orion, Sun executives call Java Enterprise a “”radical simplification”” in software delivery and maintenance.

“”We needed to change our thinking from standalone products to an environment where it’s easy to share information and services,”” Schwartz said.

Admitting the complexity of licensing models has made it difficult for companies to figure out what they’re paying to maintain their software environments, McNealy said companies that adopt the new strategy can say goodbye to software audits.

“”We’re going to trust that the numbers you give us are correct,”” he said during a press conference after the keynote presentation. “”We don’t think our customers are going to lie about the number of employees who are using the software.””

Schwartz said Java Enterprise System will cost US$100 per employee per year, including the professional services to migrate off legacy systems, as well as training and support.

“”What we’re announcing is a system that takes 225 products and rolls them into six,”” said Schwartz.

Due for release in November, Java Enterprise System for Solaris on Sparc and Solaris on x86-type processors will be followed by a Linux release in the first quarter of 2004.

McNealy predicted the industry-wide movement toward a low-cost utility computing model will force another shakeup in IT departments across the enterprise.

“”Think about it: the majority of people working in IT have jobs to make products work together,”” he said.

Sun Microsystems of Canada’s president, Stephane Boisvert, said Canadian customers in the banking, telco and oil and gas industries have “”shown interest”” in Java Enterprise System as an avenue to better managing their escalating software costs.

“”One telco customer told us he has to get his $50 million bill from Microsoft down to $3 million,”” said Boisvert.

But are customers prepared to ditch existing infrastructures and invest in new technology in the current economic climate?

It won’t happen in the short term, said Warren Shiau, a senior software analyst with IDC Canada

“”I think in the long term, there’s a fair amount of potential, but we won’t see Sun making a dent in the short term,”” said Shiau.

He admits, however, for companies where software licensing has been a “”particular pain point,”” Sun’s pay-per-employee fee structure will be appealing.

“”Although there may be many users for whom this is a large issue, it may not be large enough to switch to Sun,”” said Shiau.

One of Sun’s Canadian customers doesn’t need convincing. James Betton, assistant vice-president of IT infrastructure at Toronto-based insurance company Aegon, said for its 900 employees in Canada, the company will pay an annual fee of US$900,000. While he admits this represents significant cost savings, he hasn’t figured out the specific return on investment at this point.

Betton said, on a “”complexity”” scale of one to 10, where 10 is the most complex, Sun’s previous pricing structure was at about an eight. This announcement changes all that.

“”This is pretty ground breaking stuff,”” said Betton. “”It’s almost too simple and not indicative of the software licensing industry. Microsoft and IBM could take a few lessons.””

Betton also said the three-page licensing agreement will be a big hit with the legal department.

“”And I will probably read it — for a change,”” he said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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