McNealy: Don't build a custom jalopy

NORFOLK, Va. ? "Every state and local government builds its own one-off, best-of-breed custom jalopy" for a data center or e-government portal, and "it digs a deeper hole by going open source," Sun Microsystems Inc. Chairman Scott McNealy said yesterday at the Commonwealth of Virginia IT Symposium.

Instead, governments should take advantage of the Java, Solaris and storage infrastructure built over decades by Sun and its partners, McNealy said.

"Java Enterprise will cost you $95 per employee per year, with support and maintenance and unlimited external access, and it comes on one CD," he said. "It will blow away the middleware industry. I've told the government it ought to be a court-martial offense to develop in anything but Java."

Virginia is ahead of the game in consolidating dozens of computing-oriented offices into one IT agency, McNealy said.

"That's exactly right-standardized, consistent and integrated," he said. Even having separate e-mail domains for different departments "seems a little stovepiped to me," he said.

McNealy said that next month, Sun and Microsoft Corp. will announce single-sign-on interoperability between Java's Lightweight Directory Access Protocol and Microsoft's .Net Active Directory. Sun is close to open sourcing its Solaris operating system, he said, but he would not give a date for the release.

Also coming soon is a portable Sun Ray thin client for third-generation wireless broadband networks. "It will bring your desktop wherever you are," he said. "We gutted the laptop and the cell phone and kept the keyboard, Java chip and wireless radio" in a lightweight format.

Another speaker, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, said she doesn't yet know "whether wireless will break down walls or just modernize the world without civilizing it."

She said she believes it is imperative to have a worldwide, comprehensive database shared with other nations to deter terrorism, and it is preposterous that the FBI, three years after 9/11, can't listen to all its tapes of possible terrorist conversations because of old computers and too few linguists.

"Technology by itself is no substitute for leadership," she said.

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