08:55 PM

Three New Choices Enter Application-Server Market

Shipper sticks with Sun as software infrastructure vendor

When Consolidated Freightways Corp. went shopping for a new IT infrastructure vendor for the shipping company's Internet-based network two years ago, it was a choice between IBM or Sun Microsystems. "It was close," says Larry Brown, IT architect for the Vancouver, Wash., company. "We went back and forth."

Sun won because its hardware and software offered more for the price and fit better with Consolidated's IT systems, Brown says. For the same reasons, he plans to upgrade to new versions of Sun software. Sun hopes more companies will buy that argument when it comes to three versions of the Sun One Application Server 7, which were unveiled last week. But one thing is clear: Sun will need to prove it offers more value to grab more market share--it's a distant third behind BEA Systems Inc. and IBM.

Sun plans to give away the so-called platform edition, a low-end version that will compete with open-source Apache and other Web servers. However, the company will charge for its standard and enterprise editions, both of which include enterprise-level services. The latter, which costs $10,000 per CPU, includes clustering technology. The standard version, which includes multiserver management, sells for $2,000 per CPU.

Playing Catch-UpConsolidated bought Sun's application server about two years ago to move Web-based, shipment-tracking applications off the mainframe, where it was too difficult to modify or add features that let its customers do more business over the Web. At the time, Sun's package cost about 20% less than competing products and made it easier to start small and expand as usage grew. Brown also liked Sun's Solaris over IBM's AIX. "I had my own biases," he says.

Consolidated's Web infrastructure has grown from about 10 Windows NT and Unix servers to 20. The company, which had sales last year of $2.2 billion, plans to upgrade from Sun One Application 6.3 to version 7 and from Solaris 8 to 9.

Although it likes Sun products, Consolidated has been following standards such as Java and XML in case another vendor proves it's better than Sun. "We don't marry technology," Brown says. "We just want to move freight better."

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