posted by Eugenia Loli on Mon 28th Apr 2003 05:52 UTC
IconToday, we feature a mini Q&A with Vikas Deolaliker, Group Product Manager of the Competitive Strategy Group at Sun Microsystems. We discuss a number of issues that arise on Sun's stategy in light of the recent releases of the AMD Opteron and Microsoft Windows Server 2003. We also get a taste of Sun's position on the limited hardware support of Sun Solaris 9 on x86.

1. With the Opteron and Itanium machines moving on taking more market in the 64-bit space, and with the launch of Windows Server 2003 64-bit soon, how does this impact the SPARC and Solaris markets?

Vikas Deolaliker: The only reason Itanium 2 and Opteron are getting any attention is that they have some degree of compatibility with 32- bit x86 applications -- much more so for Opteron than Itanium.

However, for the enterprise market 64-bit applications are what matters, not 32-bit: large databases and complex integrated applications need the larger address space. Itanium 2 and Opteron lack the 64-bit ecosystem which SPARC has been fostering for over a decade now. Because Sun is a systems company, it creates the whole system- not just the chips, software or hardware. Sun's advantage is acutely felt by the x86 64-bit world as evidenced below:

- Of the approximately 2500 applications available on Windows 2003 (according to Bill Veghte of Microsoft), how many run on the 64-bit version of Windows 2003 which support Itanium 2? Exactly zero. Even the 64-bit SQL Server to be announced on April 24 runs only on Itanium not Opteron.

- Of the over 100 x86 system vendors, how many have announced boxes based on Itanium 2? None to date.

- On a cost basis an Itanium 2 system is very comparable to a SPARC based system. The real competition then is not between Itanium 2 and UltraSPARC but between Sun system and any vendor's x86 system. This competition is not new to Sun; Sun has been winning here for 20 years now.

[Vikas Deolaliker statement about 64-bit Linux is now removed following Sun's request.]

2. Especially with this release, Windows Server 2003 has added a number of easy to use GUI administration tools (also made available to Windows XP PRO users). Is Sun going to offer similar GUI tools to easily configure and administer any aspect of the OS and its services?

Vikas Deolaliker: Yes. However, the management at the enterprise level is beyond one single OS or single machine. It is about infrastructure as a whole. Think of the difference between your garage at home and a parking garage in the city. Those two serve the same purpose: "Park you car" -- but they are based on an entirely different system. Your home garage may have a user friendly GUI like a garage opener, but you can't have that in the public garage. So expecting enterprise level tools to offer user friendly GUI tools is actually not a realistic expectation. In fact, GUI is the least intensive engineering work involved when designing a management system.

A distinction needs to made here between "easy" and "not complex." Sun is addressing the complexity in the infrastructure management through projects like N1. N1 is dealing with complex issues that Microsoft is not even aware of and cannot address effectively because they are not a systems company and don't offer servers.

3: The main problem with Solaris 9 x86 is the [pretty bad] hardware compatibility list, that seems to have stuck around 1999 hardware-wise. Are there any plans to truly bring Solaris 9 x86 up to speed with newer hardware, Hyperthreading support, more graphic card support etc?

Vikas Deolaliker: Solaris x86 is 32-bit and targeted towards the edge server market. Multi-threading type technologies are more appropriate at the core of the enterprise where transactions run. At the edge the only thing that matters is size of the kernel. In addition, SPARC's MT support helps Solaris's MT support -- x86 processors are not big on accelerating MT yet.

Regarding graphics cards, I think Linux is better at the desktop and should support all the graphics cards and peripherals. Open source is a very efficient way of developing drivers for peripherals.

4: Does Microsoft have plans to invest in the infrastructure to support the enterprise at a level it has come to expect? (Minimize complexity, dependable service and support, predictability)

Vikas Deolaliker: The infrastructure to support the enterprise market is complex and expensive. It takes a long lead time to create such an infrastructure. So far, Microsoft has not shown any signs that it is building such an infrastructure. In fact, the only infrastructure moves Microsoft has recently made are targeted towards their business solutions business unit. Microsoft recently re-orged their sales organization by moving the head of sales to run the sales organization for the business solutions group. Yet the company claims that Windows 2003 is targeted at the enterprise.

5: What has Microsoft done to address enterprise level security requirements? A Trusted OS? Adhering to Common Criteria Certification? How is their offering compares to Sun and where does it differ? Microsoft's efforts in security are driven primarily by need to plug security holes in their current products although they claim more.

Vikas Deolaliker: Windows 2003 was originally meant to be released in 2002 but Microsoft (the famous Bill Gates Security Memo) delayed the release saying they would be reviewing the code for security.

After all the reviews, the security functionality is not very impressive. In fact the security in Windows 2003 is achieved simply by limiting the functionality of components that increase security risks.

For example, now:

- IIS 6.0 is more secure but not as much as Apache (the free Web server)
- Telnet is not installed by default and runs in low-priority
- IE 6.0 is installed by default but with limited functionality
- Finally the secure configuration wizard will not be available on April 24 but a few months later

Lately, Microsoft has also launched a marketing campaign to claim thought leadership for security. This campaign was called "Palladium" or Next Generation Platform for Secure Computing. It is still in early vaporware stage; not even the functionality has been decided upon.

Sun has deployed trusted versions of Solaris for years now. In Solaris 9, Sun included certain features of Trusted Solaris into the base Solaris 9.

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