Sun Debuts Reorganized Software Lineup

The vendor's revamped list of offerings emphasizes integration and usage-based pricing.
After several quarters spent trying to build anticipation, Sun Microsystems on Tuesday introduced a reorganization of its software lineup with an emphasis on integration and usage-based pricing. Sun calls these software bundles "systems." Previously referred to as Project Orion, Sun's new systems-based approach promises to charge customers an annual per-employee fee for a full spectrum of Sun data-center, desktop, and developer apps.

The Sun Java Enterprise System is organized to include the company's directory, identity, application, and portal server middleware, in addition to server-based messaging, calendaring, and clustering apps. While none of these is new to Sun's customers, the pricing model is. When the enterprise software bundle becomes available in November, Sun will charge its customers an annual fee of $100 per employee for all the software. Sun also has designs on its customers' desktops with the Sun Java Desktop System, a set of open-source apps previously referred to as Mad Hatter. The desktop bundle, also available starting in November, will include a Mozilla Web browser, StarOffice productivity apps, Java-based security features, and E-mail. Customers will have the option of paying $100 annually per user for the desktop software bundle or combining desktop and enterprise software for $150 per user annually.

The third system Sun unveiled is Java Studio, a development environment that includes a Java integrated development environment studio, application frameworks, and development tools for wireless apps. Sun will also provide customers with access to online developer communities when Java Studio becomes available early next year. As with the enterprise and desktop bundles, Sun will charge $18.95 annually per developer seat or offer the ability to package all three systems for $155 annually per user.

Other Sun software offerings addressed Tuesday include Java Mobility System, Java Card System, and N1. The mobility software package is designed to appeal to large-scale telecommunications carriers deploying Java services to phones. Sun estimates that 59 such carriers are using Java, and it's deployed to about 200 million cell-phone users. Sun expects this number will jump to 300 million users by year's end. The company is promoting Java cards and N1 utility-computing architectures as more forward-looking strategies for its customers, although Sun claims to have 60 N1 customers, including Cingular Wireless LLC.

Although Sun has been knocked by some for choosing its own path in the hardware and operating-systems markets, as opposed to gladly embracing Intel and Microsoft as competitors IBM and Hewlett-Packard have done, not everyone is ready to condemn Sun. The vendor's struggle for mindshare in the areas of open-source and utility computing isn't any different than that of its competitors, says Tony Iams, a senior analyst at DH Brown Associates.

And Sun's core Unix server and Solaris operating-system revenue streams aren't likely to evaporate, Iams says. "Everyone is focused on commoditization, but it would be oversimplifying to see the whole world that way," he says. "There's interest in industry-standard servers, but the servers that surround them, including those running Unix, aren't going away anytime soon."

The market for utility computing, where Sun's N1 strategy competes with HP's Adaptive Enterprise and IBM's Project Symphony, is still very much up for grabs. "Sun's hitting on the same issues as its competitors," Iams says. That said, "it's put up or shut up time for Sun," he adds. "The company has been talking about Project Orion, Mad Hatter, and N1 for a while. Now we're going to see how they plan to deliver on it."

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