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Sun, Cisco to turn up alliance

The firms plan to announce further developments in an ongoing alliance, sources say, focusing on providing hardware and software for use in communications networks.

Systems giant Sun Microsystems and data networking leader Cisco Systems tomorrow plan to announce further developments in an ongoing alliance, according to sources, with the duo focusing on providing hardware and software for use in communications networks.

Both Sun and Cisco spokespeople declined to comment, but a press teleconference is scheduled for tomorrow.

The deal centers around "universal messaging" technologies, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. All-in-one messaging systems allow individuals to access information--whether it be faxes, email, or voice mail--in one place. Universal messaging has become a hot area as Internet service providers and telecom carriers look to provide a wider array of business services to boost revenue.

Consultants Cap Gemini are also involved in tomorrow's announcement, according to sources, likely as a third-party integrator of the two companies' technology. The deal will include both hardware from Sun and software from the Sun-Netscape alliance, now called iPlanet.

Cisco has collected various pieces of the telecommunications software puzzle in recent months, both by purchasing tools that can connect Internet-based systems to the classic phone network and acquiring software that supports advanced features such as universal messaging.

In January, the company disclosed plans to release new technology as a result of an acquisition that will allow developers to build voice applications for a Net-based layout. That was followed in April by two more telco-focused acquisitions: GeoTel Communications and Amteva Technologies.

All the technology could play a possible role in forthcoming offerings from Sun and Cisco.

The move builds on Sun's strategy to expand the role of its high-end computer systems in service provider and voice carrier networks. Sun announced a similar deal with Cisco rival Lucent Technologies last summer.