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Sun sales tactic targets Linux

If a salesperson sells Solaris on a non-Sun machine, "we pay them as if they sold the hardware," an exec says.

As part of an effort to fend off competition from low-cost servers running Linux, Sun Microsystems will begin giving its salespeople commissions on the non-Sun hardware that's bundled with Solaris.

Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Schwartz described the strategy in a posting to his blog Monday.

"So if a sales rep sells Solaris on Dell or IBM, or even HP (Xeon or Nocona), we pay them as if they sold the hardware," Schwartz wrote. "I'm not sure we could make the point more clearly that we're committed to making Solaris the volume leader on all systems."

The change comes at a time when Sun is trying to make its own servers more competitive with Linux, which continues to become more prevalent in corporate data centers. According to analysts, many of Sun's current financial woes stem from the fact the many corporate customers are opting to buy commodity servers that run Linux and use x86 processors from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices, instead of purchasing Sun's own Solaris on Sparc servers.

In response to the Linux competition, Sun has renewed its commitment to selling Solaris servers for the x86 platform. Last year, the company partnered with AMD to develop servers based on AMD's Operton 64-bit processor. Sun is also developing software called Janus for running Linux applications on Solaris.

Schwartz noted that Solaris is now "up and running" on Intel's new Nocona processor for servers, which can run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

Schwartz, formerly the head of Sun's software business, has sought to shake up the company's internal culture in an effort to bring it back to stable financial footing. The company, which currently makes the bulk of its revenue from its Sparc-based servers, has renewed its commitment to Solaris and other software product lines, such as its Java application server and open-source desktop system.

Sun long has been wedded to its own UltraSparc processors, and Solaris has rarely been used elsewhere. Now Sun is aggressively boosting the operating system on x86 chips and has begun efforts to bring Solaris to IBM's Power chips and Intel's Itanium.

Solaris may spread, but Sun competitors aren't likely to warm to it as easily as they have toward the comparatively neutral Linux. Solaris remains Sun's intellectual property, though that could change somewhat; Sun expects later this year to detail a plan to release Solaris as open-source software.

Also on Tuesday, Sun announced a joint sales, marketing and development agreement with Hyperion, a company that sells software that lets companies monitor performance and regulatory compliance. Under the agreement, the companies will integrate Hyperion's software with Solaris running on UltraSparc and x86 processors, Sun said.

CNET's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.