The CIO and the developer

Sun's Jonathan Schwartz is handing over the keys to Java Enterprise System, and more

Rick Steele

Although supposedly committed to Unix, execs at Sun Microsystems Inc. might soon be wedded elsewhere, seeing how quickly they're giving away all Sun's jewels. Recently the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company declared it would be offering, gratis, the open-source code and binaries for the Java Enterprise System middleware stack as well as for the Sun N1 Server management software and the Java Development Studio.

This news follows free releases of the Solaris operating system and the Java System Application Server 8. The glaring exception, of course, to this bonanza of freebies is the source code to the ever-popular Java programming language, so maybe the execs aren't so crazy after all.

Sill, aside from Java, what software will Sun have left to sell? Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's chief operating officer, didn't sound worried during a press conference announcing the latest releases. Waxing Socratic, he noted that most of Sun's users fall into two camps: developers and CIOs. The CIO may have the purse strings, but developers call the shots. They are 'exceptionally important in the long-run evolution of any platform,' Schwartz said. These developers download and modify code, and build communities of interest around the software.

In short, it is the developers and their kin, the administrators, who can make an application successful. So, naturally, Sun wants to get its new goodies in front of the developers, hoping their enthusiasm will eventually bubble up to the CIOs.

But when deployment comes, won't CIOs just copy the software across the enterprise? Schwartz doubts it. 'We really don't have enterprise customers who will use free software without an enterprise contract,' Schwartz said. 'The revenue associated with this service and support is the same, if not greater, than the revenue from a one-time license.'

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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