Scott McNealy's five reasons that free, open source software is good for Sun and our customers


Recently Scott McNealy spoke to the Sun OS Ambassadors at our semi-annual conference in Menlo Park CA.  He told us that he is frequently asked by customers:

  • Why Sun is doing this whole "open source" thing and giving away software for free?
  • How can Sun expect to make any money with free software?
  • How is this good for customers?

He gave us his five reasons.

  1. Free means low barrier to entry.  Stated another way, "College students and developers don't pay for software anyway, we want to make sure that the software they're using is Sun's, so why not give it to them." By providing our core OS, developer tools and web infrastructure tools to students, companies and independent developers at no charge, we gain mind share among those people who "join things rather than buy things."  When they move into the enterprise, they will start buying products and support from those companies with which they are familiar.
  2. Open source as a research and development multiplier.  Sun can multiply our $2 billion in R&D funds by leveraging the R&D of the open source communities.  Open sourcing of Java, OpenOffice, Solaris and other technologies allows us to take advantage of the HUGE R&D budgets of IBM, ATT, Nokia and others.  Not to mention the plentiful resources in the emerging markets in China, India and South America.
  3. Security. Whitfield Diffie has said, "the secret to strong security: less reliance on secrets."  As an anecdotal example, Java is the single largest platform in the world installed on billions of devices (much more widely deployed than MS Windows).  Yet you would be hard pressed to name a Java virus.  This is due in part to its open, community driven development model.
  4. Partnering and proliferation of our technology.  Having the Sparc processor technology easily licensed, for example, has allowed our partner Fujitsu to design their own implementation of the Sparc V9 chip architecture.  As a result, our new M-series servers are available from both Sun and Fujitsu providing a dual-source option for customers.  Products from both companies run Solaris and our other software products.  Since open sourcing the UltraSparc T1 chip design, at least two other implementations have been designed for embedded devices further opening new markets to Sun's intellectual property.
  5. Low barriers to exit.  By conforming to open document formats and web standards we can ensure our customers that they won't have that "locked-in feeling" they get when they choose Microsoft, Oracle, BEA, z/OS or other proprietary product families.  The cost to exit these proprietary technologies dwarfs the acquisition costs.  Sun can help reduce customers' cost to exit by using open standards and open source implementations.  This also provides customers with more choice.  In the case of ODF, for example, customers can now choose office automation packages from Adobe, Sun, IBM, Google or the free OpenOffice suite rather than having the data held hostage by proprietary MS Office formats. They can choose to run these suites on Windows, MacOS, Solaris, BSD or any of the Linux variants.

Why should you care?

To summarize, Sun's strategy of making our products free and open is designed to make the entire planet familiar with Sun's products.  We then have the opportunity to offer support, services, training and systems for their enterprise computing needs. This helps customers by providing them more choices at lower cost and allowing them to move from one vendor to another more easily.


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Jim Laurent is an Oracle Sales consultant based in Reston, Virginia. He supports US DoD customers as part of the North American Public Sector hardware organization. With over 17 years experience at Sun and Oracle, he specializes in Solaris and server technologies. Prior to Oracle, Jim worked 11 years for Gould Computer Systems (later known as Encore).


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