Sun president Ed Zander recently spoke with Carol Sliwa about his company's application server plans in the wake of its alliance with America Online's Netscape subsidiary. The two companies struck a deal last November to co-develop and co-market their software.
IDG: Some customers have expressed concern about Sun or Netscape products being eliminated.
Zander: I know, I know. The app server. These are the risks you take. The important thing is to think about the future.
That was the hard part about doing the deal. A year from now, you want to have one product line, not two app servers and two Web servers and two directory servers.
We've tried very diligently to go to these customers and say, "Here is the growth path for you." So we figured if we could get the engineering teams together, we could probably lift pieces of the code from each one and early next year build an app server based on some of the capabilities of both. But we've had to make some tougher decisions short term of which one you lead with and what you tell a NetDynamics or an NAS customer.
If you end your AOL/Netscape relationship at the end of the three-year deal, what will happen?
We both own the intellectual property. So they can go where they want with the products, and we can go where we want.
Where does that leave customers?
I don't know. But we're preparing. We're now hiring and building into this [alliance] Sun employees so that when we take the intellectual property, we have a whole understanding of where to take these products.
Why didn't you acquire Netscape's products group in the first place?
There was no way to work it with the financial transaction.
What changes will customers see from Sun a year from now? Five years from now?
We don't know about five years. We have been pretty consistent for 15 years on the network focus - on scalability and the pervasiveness of network computing, which is now called Internet computing. We've said Solaris is going to be our operating system, and it's the only one we're ever going to go do. We're not doing NT. We're not going to do Linux. We may have some supporting tools which we've announced with Java capability.
If you're going to run your business, you're running on Solaris. And we've added Java and Jini to it.
And then, of course, we talk about all the things around each of those products, and the network computing focus, the scalability focus, the anyone-anytime-anywhere focus and the Alliance product set, which is a lot of new products in terms of messaging and directory and mail.