As promised, Sun Microsystems has certified its Xeon- and Opteron-based servers to work with Microsoft's server operating systems, cementing another change in the two companies' always exciting relationship.
As far back as February, Sun executives confirmed that they would look into putting x86 gear though the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) compatibility tests. This doesn't mean Sun will start shipping Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003 any time soon, but the certification does give customers the option of running Windows and receiving support from Microsoft. Sun earlier this month reiterated its plans to make peace with Windows when announcing its $2bn settlement with Microsoft.
El Reg noticed that Sun's web site clearly shows the V20z two-processor Opteron box is indeed Windows-ready. Sun isn't as clear about the WHQL certification for its V60x or V65x Xeon servers. We did, however, check with Sun's new low-end server chief John Fowler, and he confirmed that all of the x86 boxes are good to go even if the web site hides the information.
"All of the x86 rack mount servers are already WHQL certified," Fowler said. "We intend to continue to do this for future products where it makes sense."
Sun now offers a broad set of operating systems for its x86 gear. Along with Windows (2000/Server 2003), customers can run a 32-bit version of Solaris x86 (64-bit is coming); Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 (32-bit/64-bit); SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 (64-bit) and SuSE Linux 9 Professional (64-bit).
Sun's WHQL certification is a fairly weak concession. The move, however, does provide some hope that Sun can dabble with reality from time to time.
Customers obviously run a mix of operating systems in their data centers. Now, if a customer needs to set up a few Windows boxes next to Solaris/Linux systems, they can do so in relative safety.
Back when Sun was storming though data centers with Solaris/Sparc boxes it was much easier for it to take a high and mighty position ignoring Microsoft. But with sales tougher to come by these days, Sun has more of "we'll do whatever it takes within reason" attitude.
An argument could be made that Sun needs to go ahead and sell Windows, if it wants to compete with IBM, HP and Dell in the x86 realm. Such a move, as they say, is not freakin' likely.
The bulk of Sun's low-end system strategy still centers around displacing Windows servers where possible. Sun, for example, isn't selling desktop Linux boxes to become a major PC player, but instead to clear the way for Sun server sales in the back-end. Every Windows PC gone equals a business opportunity for Sun.
All that said, Sun's flaccid embrace of Windows is ultimately one of the larger crow consumptions you're going to see in the server industry. Sun has certified the less than secure, unscalable, evil hairball and served it on a plate to customers.
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