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Sun software targets telcos, ISPs

Sun Microsystems will begin shipping new Java-enabled network management software for telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers.

Sun Microsystems tomorrow will begin shipping new Java-enabled network management software for telecommunications carriers and Internet service providers.

With Solstice Enterprise Manager 3.0, Sun believes it has found a market niche not well served by the big network management software vendors, such as Computer Associates, IBM subsidiary Tivoli Systems, and Hewlett-Packard.

"Our main competition has been in-house development," said Andrew Taylor, group manager for Sun's network management products. "For [telcos] to maintain, develop, and enhance their software is cumbersome and takes a lot of effort."

The new product, with support for Java and various proprietary telco protocols, allows telecommunications companies to integrate new applications and services with older systems, Taylor said.

Sun is announcing the latest upgrade to Solstice Enterprise Manager tomorrow in conjunction with several new hardware and software products and services geared toward the telecommunications market. Other new technologies include a high-reliability server that complies with the international Signaling System 7 (SS7) telecommunications standard.

Analyst Jasmine Noel, of D.H. Brown Associates, in Port Chester, New York, believes Sun has found a good market niche. "Telcos are trying to get out of building management applications for the network. It costs too much money and it's cheaper to buy," she said.

Sun doesn't have much competition: Hewlett-Packard has one OpenView product aimed at the telecommunications industry, she said. But overall, "it's early in the market, so Sun can stake out a good chunk of it."

In the past, Sun tried to sell Solstice to corporate customers, but couldn't compete with the bigger network management software vendors, whose products had better features for the enterprise, she said.

Solstice Enterprise Manager "is a better fit in the telco space because of the type of problem it's solving. It's really good at managing gigantic networks," Noel said. "CA, Tivoli and HP are trying to do everything, networks, systems, users. Sun is not playing in that game. They're focusing on the network."

The new version of Solstice Enterprise Manager offers an easier-to-use interface, Java tools for rapid application development and cross-platform support and the integration of the Java Dynamic Management Kit, which allows users to create Java "agents" that alert administrators of problems within the network or fix the problems on their own.

It also features Web-based access, allowing administrators to view the state of a network using a browser. Pricing for Solstice Enterprise Manager 3.0 starts at $15,500.

A future version of the product will support Jini, Sun networking software that will allow for the automatic networking of applications and devices, including printers and personal digital assistants, Sun officials said.

Solstice Enterprise Manager will manage millions of Jini-enabled devices in the future, said company officials who will announce its Jini plans in detail in late January.