Sun’s McNealy hopes for Intel-like deal with Big Blue for platform options

"We'd love to work with IBM", ex-CEO says

Not long after Sun Microsystems announced an alliance with Intel, Sun chairman and former CEO Scott McNealy is openly wishing for something similar with IBM.

At a recent Sun event for partners and customers, McNealy said he would like to see his Solaris operating system run on IBM’s Power chip — something he believes can happen, with or without IBM’s help.

“We would love to work with IBM,” said McNealy, adding that he believes such a move would give users, especially those in mixed environments, more platform options. But even without IBM’s help, “we’re going to do the slow and steady community development of Solaris on Power”.

Sun and Intel officials have agreed on joint engineering development plans to optimise Solaris on Intel’s processors. Sun will also sell a line of Intel-based systems along with its AMD Opteron-based systems. “Solaris would be a wonderful arrow in the quiver of the Power server group to have, and I think it would open up the market significantly for the Power processor,” McNealy said.

The Solaris open-source development community said last year that it has ported Solaris to IBM’s Power chip. IBM officials were not immediately available for comment.

One attendee at the partner-customer event, Dusan Korac, a senior systems administrator with Science Applications International and who works on both Sun and IBM systems, said he would like to see IBM take a course similar to Sun and open up AIX to the developers. Korac works on systems for a US federal agency.

Asked about the idea of running Solaris on a Power system, Korac said he would probably not be interested in such a configuration. But he does believe that IBM should open-source the AIX operating system.

In Korac’s view, Sun’s decision to open-source its operating system was a good move because it now draws in contributions from the development community. Open-sourcing is “how you attract people to work on it,” he said.

In other comments at the event, McNealy said the new Intel partnership gives the open-source Solaris a platform on the two major x86-based processor vendors, Intel and AMD, as well as on Sun hardware.

He also called the Intel agreement a major step toward wider adoption of Solaris in government agencies and large businesses.

McNealy stepped down as CEO in April, but says he has frequent contact with his successor, Jonathan Schwartz — exchanging a dozen emails each day and meeting once a week.

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