AOL And Sun Disclose Software Strategy - InformationWeek

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AOL And Sun Disclose Software Strategy

Sun Microsystems and America Online today said their software alliance will yield a new breed of hybrid products starting in the first quarter of next year. Meanwhile, Sun and Netscape, which was acquired by AOL this month, will bring out their own software products that are already in the pipeline.

The alliance is a semiautonomous entity that includes 1,000 technical, sales, and support staff from both Sun and Netscape. Sun chief operating officer Edward Zander says that to "avoid confusion" about the alliance's identity, it will be given a new name before a marketing push in May.

One of the most important challenges for the company will be the integration of application servers, which are increasingly used by companies to link their legacy systems to the Internet. The Netscape Application Server is also a key piece of infrastructure underlying its E-commerce applications.

Netscape Application Server 4.0 will be released in June. NetDynamics 5.0, a competing product from Sun, was launched earlier this month. By the first quarter of next year, the two products will be merged into a single application server that combines features such as failover capability from Netscape and an easy-to-use development environment from NetDynamics, says Stuart Wells, senior VP of the alliance.

Wells says integrating those two products into one won't be difficult because they both rely on common technologies such as Enterprise JavaBeans. "Both application servers were converging on the same set of interfaces," he says. "The differences come down to the internal architecture."

Sun and Netscape will follow a similar convergence path for their competing messaging servers. Early next quarter, Netscape Messaging Server 4.1 will be released, while Sun Internet Mail Server 4.0 will be released in the fourth quarter. Early next year they will be combined into a universal messaging server that includes E-mail, voice, and video. The companies' Web servers will also be integrated by the first quarter of the year 2000.

Some products, such as Netscape Directory Server, will remain largely in their current form as part of the alliance's product line.

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