Even as an IBMer, I must say that I admire Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz. He helped Sun turn its back on Sun’s “kill the Penguin” stance that seemed so deep rooted a few years ago. (Remember that Linux hurt Unix more than Windows). He’s a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company that blogs and has long hair. What’s not to like?

Jonathan gives a good interview about Sun’s open source strategy. He states:

“In a year where Sun arguably moved more aggressively to give away more free software than any other company, we grew our software business by 13 percent. It was the fastest-growing business at Sun (and doesn’t even include Solaris, which we don’t yet break out). “

“We distributed nine million licenses of Solaris in the last two years. … How do we monetize these? When that technology is run in a Fortune 100 company in a mission-critical app, the CIO will hunt me down to pay me money. The cost of downtime for them is huge compared to the cost.”

Sun appears to believe that building a base of free users will lead to future revenue as these users turn into paying customers. OSS vendors can tell us all about the difficulty of converting free users into paid customers. JBoss has over 10M downloads and about $30M in revenue. Maybe the Solaris conversion rates will be higher?

Matt writes (based on Jonathan’s comments I assume):

“As he stressed, the open-source battle is not between Red Hat and Sun. They are allies. Red Hat and Sun both want open source to succeed, and both want this phenomenon that started at the edge of the network to define the entire computing landscape.”

This is true on some fronts, like openoffice. But you can’t tell me that RHEL doesn’t compete with Solaris, or GlassFish with JBoss or Netbeans with Red Hat’s development tools. One could argue this is a “grow the OSS pie” statement like Dave R. eloquently made previously. Considering that Solaris, the heart of Sun’s software business, was nearly on life support due to Linux, I find it difficult to believe that openSolaris is about growing the OSS pie. I don’t think there is anything wrong with openSolaris competing with Linux. Just don’t tell me you’re not competing.

It will be interesting to see Sun’s progress over the next year or two.

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”