At that price point, Sun is confident it can undercut all its rivals -- but only customers deploying Orion on Sun hardware will be eligible for the per-employee licensing. Schwartz declined to say whether Orion is intended as a loss leader to boost Sun's hardware sales. The company considers itself a systems vendor, and doesn't differentiate between hardware and software, he said.
"We will do more systems business because of Orion," he said. "We're using all of the competitive weapons in our arsenal."
Customers not buying Sun's hardware will still be able to purchase Orion, but under more expensive, piecemeal licensing terms, Schwartz said. Sun will also offer traditional and metered licensing terms to customers that prefer to purchase that way, but it will encourage buyers to take advantage of its predictable, per-employee billing, he said.
That per-employee billing will eliminate the need for software audits. Sun intends to bill customers based on the number of employees listed in their U.S. Securities and Exchange commission filings; private companies will self-report to Sun their headcounts, he said. Sun's flat Orion licensing will cover both internal and external deployments of its software. For a customer like search engine developer Google Inc., that will mean paying for licenses for its 1,000 employees while being able to use Sun's software to support its 100 million -plus users, Schwartz said.