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McNealy touts 'excitement' of backup tape

Sun CEO defends StorageTek acquisition and adds open source to his usual hit list of Microsoft and IBM.

GLASGOW, Scotland--Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy was in scathing form this week.

Speaking at Sun's Executive Forum and Golf Marathon here, McNealy added grid computing and open source to his usual hit list that includes rivals IBM and Microsoft.

Commenting on Sun's $4.1 billion acquisition of tape-specialist StorageTek last week, McNealy hit back at analysts who claimed the move wasn't decisive enough to improve the company's flat performance.

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Scott McNealy,
Sun CEO
"People say, 'Tape is kind of boring.' Well, I say go in and tell your customer that you have lost their backup tapes, and you'll see excitement pretty quickly," he said.

However, the Sun boss did acknowledge that StorageTek's massive price tag had stung the company slightly. "We did have $7.4 billion in the bank until the StorageTek deal. They burnt a little hole in our pockets there."

The move, he said, will enable Sun to offer a more complete storage management service to customers than any of its rivals and that the StorageTek products will fit with Sun's existing hierarchical storage management software.

"You can buy the piston ring from EMC or you can go to Sun and buy the whole truck," he said.

McNealy, a car enthusiast, often uses automotive analogies to explain what is wrong with the computer industry and how it can be solved by Sun's approach to utility computing.

He asserted that companies should look to use pay-as-you-go computing grids for their processing needs and hosted applications, instead of the current situation where businesses spend millions on such needs. The difference, he claims, is between delivering a parcel by building a van from scratch or by using FedEx.

Sun is keen to be a leading player in grid computing--where computing power is shared by multiple users over an extended network.

Also on the quip list was open source, with McNealy attacking the widely held view that the Linux operating system is cheap compared with Sun's own Solaris OS or Microsoft's Windows, or even free. "Open source is free like a puppy is free," he said, pointing to long-term costs and hassles, and occasional cleanup jobs. This is despite the fact that Sun recently began releasing Solaris under an open-source licence.

As for old enemy Microsoft, the tone was fairly conciliatory, with McNealy showing a picture of himself shaking hands with