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Sun turns Microsoft Windows server OEM

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Having recently rediscovered itself as a systems company, Sun Microsystems has been welcomed into Microsoft's vast and growing family of OEM partners.

Expanding the companies' three-year-old interoperability pact, Sun has agreed to ship Microsoft's dated but important Windows Server 2003 operating system pre-installed on its x64 machines. The companies will also co-operate on go-to-market activities for the machines.

And, striking during the week of VMware's annual conference in San Francisco, Microsoft and Sun pledged their engineering teams would ensure the others' server operating system "runs well" in their respective virtualized environments - Windows on Solaris and Solaris on whatever Microsoft finally kicks out next year.

"I'm very excited Sun is becoming a Windows Server OEM," Microsoft's vice president of server and tools marketing Andy Lees said during a Wednesday press conference. "The Sun hardware platform [provides] an excellent, solid footing for Windows computing."

Lees should be excited. The deal opens the door to new selling opportunities for Windows Server 2003 in mixed Sun environments. Spicing it up: planned, new Sun x64 Galaxy servers that should provide a nice fillip to Microsoft's server business.

Sun, in return, gets the opportunity to sell more server hardware and infrastructure software. Since the companies' 2004 peace deal, WS-Federation has been added to Sun's Directory Server, Microsoft storage APIs have been supported by Sun's storage, and there's been interoperability between Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) and .NET exposed in Sun's Glassfish open source Java application server.

Despite this latest display of love, though, the deal does have its limitations. Contrary to the suggestion of some optimistic Microsoft PR, Sun will not be pre-installing Microsoft's middleware server products - such SQL Server and Exchange Server.

That'll be left to both companies' channel partners, according to Microsoft. In reality, that will likely mean Microsoft rather than Sun partners, who already boast the technology and business presence on SQL Server and Exchange.

Also notable: the deal does not stretch to Microsoft's planned Windows Server 2003 replacement - Windows Server 2008 - meaning Sun will be shipping an operating system that's several years old.

In the short term, that shouldn't pose a problem for Sun, as Windows Server 2003 is increasingly the market's defacto Windows sever operating system - and will remain so for some time, even after the delayed Windows Server 2008 does finally ship.

Given Windows Server 2008 delays and the hokey cokey roadmap Microsoft's been dancing on Windows Server virtualization, previously Viridian, it would seem logical Microsoft will work with Sun to not just deliver its hypervisor but also ensure it works with Sun's Galaxy hardware, not just Solaris.

Lees played the Microsoft party line, though. "Viridian is on the same schedule it's been on before. This is about providing added support for Solaris running on it... Viridian is on track." It's just not clear which track Viridian is on.®

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