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Sun's Linux distro is dead

Er, long live Linux

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Sun Microsystems' branded Linux distribution has been extinguished before it ever even caught a light.

The company will go with "standard distributions" instead. Sun refused to utter the words Red Hat and SuSE, but we are quite sure those are the "standard distributions" which it intends to offer on 32-bit hardware.

Interestingly, John Loiacono, vice president of operating platforms at Sun said that the company now defines the ELC (Enterprise Linux Client) as "software" rather than "hardware". A hint that Sun really, really doesn't want to be in the box-shifting business when the Client launches in the middle of this year.

Hand crafted

Loiacono said that customers do not really want a Sun crafted version of Linux when more than ample OSes already exist.

Sun Linux has only been available since late last year on the LX50 server. It walked hand in hand with Solaris x86 on this system and was to provide a common link for Sun's desktop and low end Intel server efforts.

Solaris x86 was once shunned within Sun as well. The needy code required large support investments and did little to support the real money maker -- Solaris for SPARC.

But Sun changed its mind with Solaris x86 and backs the OS with full force now, saying that numerous Intel OEMs will start shipping it.

Sun has talked with "every major vendor you can imagine other than IBM," Loiacono said.

Companies such as Dell do ship Solaris x86 on their servers today when an oppurtunity presents itself, but we have trouble believing that OEMs will collectively jump at the chance to include Solaris x86 as an option even if Sun has flip-flopped and decided to support it on various servers.

Client goes soft

For the ELC, Loiacono suggested that this product may not be hardware at all but rather just a bundle of software, including an OS, email apps, productivity suite, etc, that can run on any PC.

Sun likes to bundle software with its OSes wherever possible and Loiacono had no shame when he compared Sun's strategy to Microsoft's great browser bundling escapade.

He claims that Sun's enterprise oriented Project Orion is "redefining the definition of the operating system" by including a huge stack of software with every shipment of Solaris.

Customers can still buy software on per user or per processor basis for indivudal products or they can go with Orion and pay one price for all the software Sun makes. With Orion, Sun will charge customers based on how many employees they have and then ship every server with Solaris, an application server, web server, directory server, grid computing software, and the list goes on.

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun vice president in charge of software, is bullish on Orion, to say the least.

"This is probably the single biggest shift in our software strategy in the last decade," he said.

This seems to discount the operating systems that have been killed and resurrected in the last year, the invention of Java and 64-bit Solaris just in the last few years, but Schwartz's enthusiasm is appreciated.®

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