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SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—Open-source game over, Sun Microsystems president Jonathan Schwartz said Tuesday at the annual Vortex conference here. There are a thousand distros, but Red Hat has taken the dominant IT position.

Schwartz claimed that nine out of 10 companies running Linux are using Red Hat in their data centers. He said the promise of open source, where an application runs across a wide range of distributions, is dead. “What you write to Red Hat will not run on SuSE, it will not run in Debian.” He went on to mock the open-source movement, calling it “free like a puppy, not free as in speech.”

Schwartz also pointed to two dominant concerns he uncovered during a recent trip to Wall Street: the exhaust systems of today’s buildings cannot handle the heat coming from today’s computers, and even with huge data centers, IT is out of space for new computing equipment.

To counter that, Sun is focusing on wringing power requirements out of its new SPARC chip, code-named Niagara. It will use just 60 watts of power, Schwartz said, “the same as a light bulb.”

Schwartz also took a dig at IBM while describing his company’s vision of utility computing. “On demand does not equal consultants on demand”, he quipped, adding that it’s all about simplicity.

How will Sun fare with its pay-per-use model for utility computing? Click here for a column.

Mike Volpi, senior vice president and general manager for routing technology at Cisco Systems, laid out his company’s strategy during the morning session as well.

Volpi used an automotive analogy to describe Cisco, saying it’s in the business of making smart roads. The company plans on adding value above the router, including QOS (quality of service) and security features.

Volpi said he expects Cisco to continue to add services into its switches and routers. He pointed specifically to XML-aware routers that analyze packets to determine whether they contain malware and to make decisions based on what’s inside. The challenge is that it takes a lot of processing power to do rapid packet analysis—but Moore’s Law helps.

Click here to read about a new Cisco switch aimed at SMBs (small and midsized businesses).

Cisco’s big focus is on the intersection of communications, such as voice and video, with transactional apps. As an example, he described how Cisco worked with partner Network Solutions Inc. of Granger, Ind., to develop a VOIP-based application that kept a local and rural feel as offices were combined into a nationwide call center.

The afternoon session started with Shane Robison, chief technology officer at Hewlett-Packard Co. Robison positioned his company as the ultimate partner, while at the same time touting the benefits of its Compaq merger.

“We’re number one or number two in servers, storage, Linux. The difference between our strategy [and IBM’s] is that we will focus and invest in areas where we can truly lead, and we’ll partner for the rest,” Robison said. HP has adopted a model of placing fewer, larger bets and partnering to round out its offerings, he said.

He went on to describe HP’s relationships with key partners as ones not of “coopetition” but of “compartners.” “Some days were competitors, some days we’re partners,” he said.

Next Page: Oracle’s president outlines its plans.

Like other execs on Tuesday, Robison characterized open source as both a technology and a social movement. The company sells and supports a lot of Red Hat, and he insisted that HP would never build its own flavor of Linux. But he left the door open slightly, saying that if “something fairly disruptive happens,” HP would step in and support its customers directly by developing its own product.

With so many partners and so little core technology, why buy from HP at all? For accountability, according to Robison. “We will provide a single throat to choke” if something goes wrong, he said.

HP still considers its huge Itanium bet a strategic one, especially on the high end, calling it a “very important architecture for us” and “the best competitor for high-end RISC replacement.” But Robison was particularly enthusiastic about AMD’s 64-bit Opteron, calling it a great architecture. He touted HP’s leadership in delivering blades, servers and desktops with the chip, compared with archrival Dell, which has yet to embrace the platform.

Click here to read about HP’s development of Itanium-powered blade servers.

The day ended with Oracle’s president, Charles Phillips, as he presented Oracle’s view of the computing world.

With all of the attention on Oracle over the past few months, much of what he had to say had been said before. Phillips did admit that Oracle’s focus on leading in Linux led to a drop in Windows market share, but he promised that Oracle would be making a big Windows announcement in December to shore up its flagging position.

Phillips said he sees Oracle’s position in the database market as virtually unassailable, mostly due to the company’s strong technology talent. “There are maybe 300 people in the world that understand database kernels, and luckily we have half of them.”

Phillips pooh-poohed the idea that MySQL was any sort of a competitor at all, calling it good for Oracle instead. “We’re both in the transportation business,” he claimed. “We have a 747, and they have a Toyota.”

But MySQL and other low-end products certainly have Oracle concerned, because Phillips went on to highlight the $149 Oracle Standard Edition product, the cheapest Oracle ever.

Phillips repeated his assertion that the company’s push to acquire PeopleSoft is all about increasing customers, and reiterated that Oracle would maintain the PeopleSoft product line for as long as customers wanted both.

Read more here about Oracle’s chances of acquiring PeopleSoft.

But when the talk turned to other acquisitions, Phillips was more revealing. “It will get easier going forward,” he said, adding that CEOs will be more likely to sell rather than fight—based on the recent court actions in both Delaware and San Francisco.

Looking forward, Phillips focused on mobile applications and data broadcasting as exciting areas for Oracle. “Every product will be able to communicate something back about itself,” he said. Oracle has built a sensor capture technology to try to capitalize on this nascent market, he said.

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