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New market goal for Sun: Telecom

Sensing an opportunity to invade a new market, Sun plans to announce new products and services for the telecom business Tuesday.

Sensing an opportunity to invade a new market, Sun Microsystems plans to announce new products and services for the telecommunications business Tuesday.

Among Sun's new lines will be a high-reliability server that the Palo Alto, California, company plans to sell to well-known and upstart telecommunications companies, sources said.

"It's an auspicious time to enter the market," because two primary competitors, Tandem and Digital Equipment, are focused more on their integration with Compaq Computer than on the telecommunications business itself, one source said. Sun, however, is a relative newcomer to the telecom market compared with Digital and other players, including Hewlett-Packard.

The new Sun server will comply with the international Signaling System 7 (SS7) telecommunications standard, sources said.

High-capacity, high-reliability computers are a vital part of the telecommunications infrastructure. "The telecommunications market is very dependent on highly reliable equipment because customers have been conditioned by the old Bell and AT&T system to expect communications services that don't fail," one source said.

In addition, robust equipment is essential for higher-profit services such as voicemail, custom calling, and "unified messaging," which is the combination of communications methods such as email, pagers, and telephones. Providing such services is one way that upstart companies are targeting industry stalwarts.

"Sun is trying to get down into the bowels of the telephone networks," where 99.999 percent reliability is required, a source said. In other words, servers must run around the clock all but 5 minutes a year. In the long term, Sun probably believes that it can benefit from the convergence of telephone networks and the Internet computer network.

Sun wants to be a key player in the long-range vision of "making the Internet just as reliable and consistent as the telephone network is now," this source said.