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Today is the day when Sun continues the roll-out of its Sun ONE strategy with the latest release of the Solaris operating system. Solaris 9 starts to bring together some of the components of the iPlanet environment within the operating system and should make the integration of business applications considerably easier.

The key messages that Sun is asking us to take away from the Solaris 9 launch are that this is an operating system that has been designed as a service delivery platform and that it can be used to drive down costs through integration, manageability and scalability.

The big news here is that in order to achieve its manageability goals and ensure the reduced TCO for applications, Sun has bundled the core elements of the iPlanet Application Server and the iPlanet Directory Server into Solaris 9. This gives much greater control over resources and allows application components to become fully integrated alongside the operating system itself.

In an attempt to stave off criticism from those that might see such bundling as anti-competitive, the application server component will be easily switched off for those who wish to use a different app server on Solaris. It strikes us that Microsoft used to claim that it was possible to remove IE and use Netscape Navigator in a similar fashion.

Regardless of that, there is no doubt that Solaris 9 is a big step forward from the previous release. There are now improved facilities for managing storage, security and networks. There is better management of patches and full support for smartcards and all the leading security standards. There have been a number of performance and scalability improvements including better handling of threading, accelerated cache and 64-bit support.

This announcement follows on from the release of StarOffice 6 last week and will be followed by other Sun ONE releases over the next few weeks covering portals and other technologies. Also, there is some expectation of a broader announcement regarding the overall Sun ONE strategy.

Already, we have seen that Sun is not totally against the idea of bundling software - despite what it has said in the past with regard to Microsoft - and so we should not be too surprised if we see more of the same in the future.

The market has been expecting the commoditisation of the application server space for some time. HP has been giving away its product for some months and now Sun is doing the same with its core capabilities. It can only be a short time before IBM follows suit but it is questionable whether BEA can afford to do the same. Sun's move, however, is a confirmation of the expected change in the application server market.

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