March 20, 2001, 1:59 PM —
Sun Microsystems's recent purchase of Cobalt Networks tells me that somebody at Sun has his or her head screwed on right. Sun has publicly positioned this move as an opportunity to jump into the low-end server appliance market; buying Cobalt was undoubtedly one of the best possible ways to do that. And in the long run, Cobalt helps Sun hedge its bets against the probability that its Solaris- and Sparc-based systems will not forever hold the lead in the high-end Internet server space.
Sun must deal with three potential future threats: Linux, Intel, and Windows 2000. Sun doesn't want to fully endorse Linux just yet, nor should it. Linux isn't ready to compete with Solaris on Sun's biggest boxes. Sun can still get a lot of mileage out of its Sparc line of processors running Solaris.
Sun could take the stance that Linux will hit a brick wall when people discover it can't run well on big iron. But I think Sun knows very well that the future will not likely unfold that way. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the Open Source Development Lab (OSDL) plans to provide open source developers with the resources and motivation to make Linux scale efficiently on the best hardware. With the right person at the helm of OSDL, I predict Linux will start making its way onto high-end hardware within three years -- perhaps much sooner.