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NEW YORK—In his inimitable, unflappable style, Sun Microsystems Inc.’s president and chief operating officer, Jonathan Schwartz, Tuesday delivered Sun’s message to the financial community: Sun is back and it’s making its comeback by returning to its roots on Wall Street.

Analysts and customers welcomed the news, especially over advances in the Solaris architecture and the company’s new grid computing program.

During an hour-long presentation to more than 100 financial services customers and financial analysts at Sun’s quarterly Network Computing ’04 event here, Schwartz outlined Sun’s new initiatives, including new hardware and software; a preview of the next refresh of the Solaris OS, Version 10; global support for Linux and Unix; and a new pay-for-use computing offer around Sun’s N1 Grid program.

“Wall Street is the swamp from which we spawned,” Schwartz said. “Sun was built on Wall Street. You are our spawning grounds and this is the place we believe we need to return to grow,” he said.

However, Schwartz said Wall Street gave Sun a shopping list, which the company largely ignored and led to some lean years for the systems maker.

The shopping list included: multi-platform Solaris, industry standard hardware, choice and interoperability, and innovation to define price/performance—all things that Sun is now delivering in spades with its new offerings, Schwartz said.

“You came knocking and we didn’t listen,” he said. “You said Sun is proprietary and expensive, and we declined year over year for a few years.”

But, “What we’ve been doing for the past few years is getting back to our roots so we can deliver real systems innovation to you,” Schwartz said.

Now, Sun offers Solaris on x86 for 249 different systems, he said.

Meanwhile, the company said Solaris 10, which will ship by year end, features Dynamic Tracing, N1 Grid Containers and Trusted Solaris. Schwartz said Solaris 10 offers “extreme performance, utilization/consolidation, unparalleled security, relentless availability, and rationalizes Linux and Unix with native Red Hat and SuSE execution.” Sun is involved in a project called Project Janus to run Linux applications native on Solaris.

eWEEK Labs’ Jason Brooks says Solaris 10 was impressive in early tests. Click here to read more.

Meanwhile, Solaris x86 now has an ecosystem of more than 700 application software partners offering 1,100 solutions, Sun said.

Peter Lankford, senior vice president and head of enterprise information systems at Reuters Information Technology LLC, Oak Brook, Ill., said at the event, “We’re quite excited by Solaris 10. We’re looking at it with a real intense focus on innovation.”

Miriam Soza, senior vice president for system development at Thomson Financial, a New York-based division of Thomson Corp., Stamford, Conn., said Thomson Financial uses Solaris x86 “on a number of mission-critical applications… We also started testing Solaris 10 in preliminary stages, but we gained 35 percent in performance…”

“We know we can win on performance, this company was built on performance,” Schwartz said. “We are absolutely targeting Red Hat specifically.”

Click here to read more about Sun’s long road to Solaris 10.

Indeed, “Linux isn’t so free anymore; it’s about $1,000 per CPU,” Schwartz said. “Sun is about $700 a CPU. Linux is now a farming ground—more opportunity for us to go after.”

Jean Bozman, research vice president, global enterprise server solutions at International Data Corp., in Mountain View, Calif., said “What Sun answered here is how they might approach managing a mixed environment.”

Schwartz announced a deal offering 50 percent off the price of Solaris for customers moving to Solaris from Red Hat Inc.’s line.

125407: Sun Sticks ‘Proprietary’ Label on Red Hat Linux

However, many attendees said perhaps the most interesting of the day’s announcements was the pay-for-use computing announcement around Sun’s N1 Grid program, where Schwartz said Sun would give customers access to its computing grids at a cost of $1 per CPU per hour.

“If you want to re-invent the computer industry around service then you’d want to be able to deliver computing as a service,” Schwartz said.

“This is what we think is an evolution and not hosting, but instead we’re saying ‘here’s our infrastructure and if you can map your workloads to it will work,” he said. “In the long run this is truly virtualization.”

Schwartz said the first evolution of the N1 Grid offering is a computational grid.

“We don’t want to be in the business of owning and operating datacenters, we want to be in the business of expressing our computing as a service,” he said. “The N1 Grid for now is going to be a computational grid and over time we’ll look at the technical hurdles to get to a service grid.”

Mark Stahlman, managing director of equity research at Caris & Company Inc., of New York, said: “Sun has dramatically increased the number of customer requests for high-level meetings, which have been building at a rapid rate over the last three quarters.”

Stahlman said the N1 Grid offer means “Sun will get another 100 major accounts asking for meetings. At some point it becomes a liability if you haven’t wet with Sun.”

IDC’s Bozman said, “They [Sun] realize they need a much bigger footprint in the marketplace. Right now Sun gets 35 percent of its revenue from services. Services are going to continue to develop.”

Meanwhile, Schwartz said the relationship between Sun and Microsoft Corp. continues to blossom, with the first phase of the plan to cooperate focusing on identity and Web services interoperability. “Identity is the fundamental element behind commerce, that’s why we’re starting there,” he said.

“We send hardware to Microsoft now and that’s a bizarre thing,” Schwartz said. “But we have dialogue with them on how to make the hardware more performant.”

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