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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Sun Microsystems Inc is regrouping its iPlanet, Forte, StarOffice and Chili!Soft product lines under the Open Net Environment (ONE) brand. The Palo Alto, California-based company has also created a new ONE business unit to market all its software development tools.

Its aim, senior director Marty Robins told ComputerWire, is "to take all 40,000 Sun employees and get them reading from the same page." Sun, traditionally a company that revolved around hardware, is now turning in earnest to architecture and software, he said.

According to Robins, customers have been asking Sun to take more responsibility for ensuring that the software and services they deploy actually work together. BEA Systems Inc, IBM Corp and other application server vendors have a similar tale to tell. Sun has a very graphic way of describing this phenomenon - "sedimentation". Application servers, directory servers, portals and other products that were once classed as middleware are now seen as requirements, and are sedimenting down into the operating system, said Robins.

"BEA is an important partner for us," he said, "so in this context 'application server' means Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). We want to have the best partner program in the industry around Sun ONE, so if a customer prefers another application instead of ours, fine. Sun believes the customer should always have a choice - but we are one of the choices, and we do all we can to be the best."

Sun has always distinguished carefully between the Java "church" and "state" - responsible for the Java specifications and Sun's own products respectively. Robins emphasized that nothing has changed in this regard. "We don't treat Java as software. It's an investment to ensure that there is a level playing field 'to benefit mankind', as Scott McNealy might put it. And the revenue coming from our Java products shows that this strategy works."

Robins was quick to admit that Sun mishandled its response to Microsoft Corp's .NET announcement in summer 2000. "We yawned at the .NET announcement," he said. "We just positioned it as 'a response to Java'. A lot of what Microsoft announced has gone away since then - for instance, the business model around My Services. But the media insisted that we do better, so we launched Sun ONE in February 2001."

The Sun ONE portfolio includes all the former iPlanet products, which have been renamed accordingly - for instance, the former iPlanet Web Server is now Sun ONE Web Server. The other ex-iPlanet products are Sun ONE Portal Server, Application Server, Directory Server, Identify Server, Messaging Server, Calendar Server and Integration Server. They are joined by Sun ONE Studio (formerly Forte Tools for Java) and Sun ONE Active Server Pages - the new name for Chili!Soft ASP, a product which very few people knew Sun owned. (Cobalt bought Chili!Soft before Sun bought Cobalt).

Last, and rather anomalously, Sun ONE also gets StarOffice 6.0, the integrated office suite that Sun is putting up against Microsoft Office. It does not really seem to belong with the development tools and servers, but perhaps there was nowhere else to put it.

© ComputerWire. All rights reserved.

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