Sun now a Windows OEM

Sun pre-installing Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 on servers

All Sun server hardware offerings available with Windows Server 2003 in the next 90 days as vendors strike partnership that includes interop work on virtualization.

Sun Wednesday said it will begin selling, supporting and pre-installing Windows Server 2003 on all its server hardware within the next three months and that it will work with Microsoft on developing interoperability between their virtualization and other technologies.

The two also said they will work together in a lab on Microsoft’s Redmond campus that will include engineers from both companies working on virtualization interoperability as well as customer support issues.

The announcement came the same day the Microsoft/Novell Interoperability Lab opened in Cambridge, Mass., where virtualization is also a main focus.

Microsoft officials, however, said there won’t be any cross-pollination initially between the two efforts.

Sun and Microsoft billed their announcement as an expansion of an interoperability agreement made in April 2004 that is best remembered for the hockey-jersey peace offering between longtime foes Scott McNealy of Sun and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft, Sun also to be lab partners

“Even as it was three-and-a-half years ago, this is two companies bowing down to the demands of the marketplace with customers clearly needing interoperability and wanting Windows running on some specific hardware,” said Dwight Davis, vice president with analyst firm Ovum Summit. “In part you could tie this a little to [Sun CEO] Jonathan Schwartz’s leadership being less antagonistic toward Microsoft than Scott McNealy’s and more pragmatic about what is good for Sun.”

Wednesday’s press conference focused on Sun becoming a Windows OEM and on collaboration efforts to optimize Windows Server on Sun x64 systems. Sun, which already certifies Windows on Solaris, said it will provide utilities and value-added software as part of its Windows-enabled servers.

Sun officials, however, were coy about whether the agreement will extend to Windows Server 2008, which is slated to ship next year. The server operating system will be the last from Microsoft that includes a 32-bit version.

John Fowler, the executive vice president of Sun’s systems group, also touted Solaris as a premier platform for hosting other Microsoft software including SQL Server, Exchange Server and Microsoft Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) Edition.

He said Sun and Microsoft are already working with AT&T around the IPTV platform.

As part of the agreement, the two vendors also will continue to work on optimizing Windows on Sun storage products.

Virtualization buddies

The other key to the revived partnership is around virtualization where the two will make an effort to ensure that Solaris works well in Microsoft virtualized environments and vice versa. Sun, however, did not commit to adopting Microsoft’s Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format that already has been adopted by VMware, Novell and Citrix/XenSource.

Sun traditionally has stayed away from Microsoft formats and protocols until they have been turned over to a standards body and properly vetted.

“In terms of VHD, we are looking closely at the standardization efforts underneath virtualization,” Fowler said. “We always have a strong effort to adopt standards but VHD is obviously under evaluation and revision.”

The pair said its virtualization work also includes customer support efforts within the new Redmond interoperability lab, which Microsoft officials said is an extension of the lab opened after the April 2004 pact with Sun.

The lab will focus on customer support and joint engineering including Windows on Sun benchmarks and customers running proofs of concept for projects focused on Windows on Sun x64 systems, including joint Sun/Microsoft deployments around databases, e-mail/messaging, virtualization and Remote Desktop Protocol support in Sun Ray thin clients. The lab will also include a demonstration area for Sun x64 systems.

The pair did not say how many people would staff the lab, only that the number of people working there would be fluid depending on projects.

Sun’s Fowler also said that Microsoft products would also begin to show up in Sun’s labs around the world.

Learn more about this topic

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