But heavy-duty servers are only part of Sun's strategy for becoming a telco industry player: Sun also plans to offer software tying together telephone, computer, and other networks into one giant super network, provide consulting services for telecommunications companies who don't want to get their hands dirty, and advance Java as the technology for making it all possible. (See related story).
"We see this not as a niche market play for us. We see this as a very big play," said Anil Gadre, vice president of marketing for Sun's computer systems unit. "We're looking at a significant source of new revenue for Sun over the coming years."
Today, Sun will announce its Netra ft 1800 server, a machine with "dual redundant everything" running Solaris 7, Sun's 64-bit version of the Unix operating system, said Paul Tempest-Mitchell, director of advanced network platforms at Sun. The server, which can use telecommunications standards such as the international Signaling System 7 (SS7) telecommunications standard, comes with a guarantee to work 99.999 percent of the time, including both planned or unplanned downtime.
The new Netra server uses the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) bus, a technology for plugging equipment into a computer. However, Sun and several other companies say PCI isn't robust enough for heavy-duty usage since PCI components actually take over a chunk of the system memory, making the whole computer more vulnerable to problems in the PCI components. For the Netra, Sun has special hardware that keeps the PCI components from messing with main memory, Tempest-Mitchell said.
The Palo Alto, California, company will do its part to try to erase the distinctions between the networks that carry ordinary telephone calls, cellular phone calls, Internet information, and cable TV, Tempest-Mitchell said.
In addition, Sun believes its "write once, run anywhere" Java technology will let all people deploy clever telecommunication services on all that different hardware. Sun's vision, "Java Advanced Intelligent Network" (JAIN), will make it easier for telecommunications companies to implement services that, for example, route phone calls to specific phones during different times of the day or that let phone systems check credit card authorization as a person makes a call.
JAIN also will let Sun further efforts to use the Internet to carry voice communications presently handled by the telephone network, Tempest-Mitchell said.
Also today, Sun will demonstrate Java-enabled software that lets people manage their telecommunications networks.
Further, Sun will announce consulting services to help telecommunications companies test and integrate their hardware and software, Gadre said.
The telecommunications market is gigantic, with $110 billion in equipment sold in a year. Sun will now have products that can compete in about $14 billion to $25 billion of that market, according to Gadre.