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Sun Microsystems hopes to expand the number of ISVs building applications on Solaris 10 and OpenSolaris by 30 per cent before next summer following an overhaul of its iForce partner program.

Sun's goal is to grow its Solaris 8 partner network to 10,000 independent software vendors (ISVs) during the next year, following the diversification of the marketing, sales and development resources available to partners in the Sun ecosystem.

The company revealed its roadmap as it announced an important new tool to help it achieve the expanded number of developers - the Partner Advantage Program that replaces Sun's established iForce program. The Partner Advantage Program will make 500 Sun internal training courses available, see rollout of technical readiness assessments, deliver expanded sales and marketing resources, and enable Sun's executives to participate in partners' sales engagements.

Partners will qualify for resources according to a four-tiered structure, where ISVs are categorized as either members, associates, principles or executive-level partners. Members are those who want more information about Sun products, associates are those who put their applications on just one Sun product like Solaris 10 on x64, and associates are ISVs who base their applications on multiple Sun technologies.

Executive members are nominated by Sun based on their use of its technology, and get joint collateral along with early access to pre-release editions of Sun products.

Stephen Borcich, Sun's vice president of partner marketing, said iForce wasa "monolithic" offering, while the Partner Advantage Program added more technology and marketing resources to help Sun engage with partners at different levels.

"iForce was somewhat monolithic - all partners got the benefits. But they couldn't grow and differentiate [their] investments from Sun," Borcich told The Register. "[Now] The more a partner works with Sun, the more Sun is going to invest with them."

The Partner Advantage Program will help Sun engage with partners to deliver new offerings based on Sun's systems in new markets, such as vertical sectors. "We have not done enough on direct sales and marketing," Borcich said of iForce.

He added while Sun is attempting to increase its partner network around Solaris 10, with Sun so-far having secured support from 2,000 ISVs, the company is not limiting its focus. ISVs are encouraged to use Sun's integration, Java, identity and service oriented architecture (SOA) software in addition to the company's storage and hardware.

ISVs are the first in Sun's partner ecosystem to experience the Partner Advantage Program. Systems Integrators and channel companies partners, also supported under the iForce umbrella, will also see re-worked programs rolled out during 2006. ®

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