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Sun beams on network computing

At its second "Inside Sun Software Day," Sun Microsystems pounds the lectern in support of network-based computing.

MENLO PARK, California--Sun Microsystems (SUNW) continues to pound the lectern in support of network-based computing and to play down the capabilities of competitors.

The systems giant today herded a slew of reporters to its gigantic headquarters here for a second "Inside Sun Software Day," billed as an opportunity to gain perspective on where the company's software business is heading.

Sun executives introduced a previously announced road map for the company's Solaris for corporate enterprise environments, continuing an oft-stated strategy of tailoring versions of the operating systems to specific customer needs. A version for departments using Web-based technologies, called Solaris for Intranets, is currently shipping.

Another version, set for release early next year, will focus on the needs of service providers. The new enterprise features include a 64-bit version with clustering capabilities. Though Sun plans to ship the full 64-bit version next summer, it has already shipped various pieces of the enterprise version to independent software vendors and customers.

Sun also announced the support of third-party vendors for a set of interfaces for clustering capabilities on Sun systems. Third parties announcing support for the APIs (application programming interfaces) include Oracle, Sybase, and IBM subsidiary Tivoli Systems, among others.

Sun announced that in December it will release a new version of its Solstice Enterprise Manager that adds access controls for systems and devices connected to a network. An administrator, for example, could restrict access to applications on a server from an Enterprise Manager console.

Sun executives also reinforced their commitment to providing Solaris on Intel-based systems, a foregone conclusion given Sun's recent announcement of a long-term relationship with Intel-based systems provider NCR.

The support will include the much-hyped 64-bit Merced chip being constructed by Intel and Hewlett-Packard, which is due sometime in 1999, according to Remy Malan, group marketing manager for Solaris. "We're very interested in what Intel is doing, and we're very interested in working with them in the future," he said.

Use of 64-bit technology allows systems to crunch larger files and amounts of data at once, with users reaping performance gains. Sun executives said that by next year, Sun will offer a 64-bit base kernel for Solaris with systems management and transaction monitoring functions.

Sun continues to try and differentiate itself from the looming menace of Windows NT Server, Microsoft's fast-growing OS. NT's initial grip on the industry has been focused on small workgroups and departments, but the Redmond, Washington-based company continues to stress forthcoming enterprise capabilities due next year in NT 5.0.

Janpieter Scheerder, SunSoft's president, minimized the impact of the variety of new technologies that will be added to NT. "I don't think there's anything that NT has that compares with this," Scheerder said in an interview.

The executive was also critical of Santa Cruz Operations' impact on the market, despite that company's current overall leadership in volume distribution of Unix-based server software, according to market researcher International Data Corporation. SCO is dominant in the Unix-on-Intel space.

"If you look at the big installations, no one's putting their software on SCO," Scheerder said.

SCO executives have indicated that there are about 14,000 applications for the combination of the company's OpenServer and UnixWare OS products. "We see them in the press more than we see them in customer sites," countered Mike Foster, director of Unix systems marketing at SCO.

Brian Croll, director of marketing for Solaris, claims that SCO has a longer way to go to get to a 64-bit OS than does Sun. The executive said Sun's recent partnership with NCR has allowed it to add key features to its 64-bit road map.

Sun today also detailed its embedded systems strategy. The embedded systems group will focus on four business segments: Network Computers, consumer Internet appliances, embedded Java, and embedded real-time systems, said the group's marketing manager Troy Toman. Central to the company's plans is the technology it acquired when it purchased Chorus Systems, a deal that was finalized October 21.

For embedded real-time systems in markets such as telecommunications and networking hubs and routers, Sun will keep selling the ChorusOS, formerly known as Chorus Classix, as it is today. But the technology will serve as a foundation for the rest of Sun's embedded systems OSes, including flavors of the JavaOS.

When Sun's JavaSoft division releases the Embedded Java APIs next year, SunSoft will incorporate them into the ChorusOS to create an embedded JavaOS, due at the earliest in the second half of 1998.

Sun anticipates using the Personal Java APIs, also due next year, to create a new version of the JavaOS for Appliances. A current version, which is meant to run on phones, set-top boxes, and other non-PC devices, is available, but Sun expects it will be used primarily for prototype development. The next revision with the Personal Java APIs won't be ready until about March, said Toman.

Finally, the group is now offering the JavaOS for NCs 1.1 with support for the JDK 1.1.

To support its various embedded systems OSes, Sun also will create an integrated development environment and enhance the object request broker it acquired from Chorus. The IDE and enhanced ORB will be available in the next few months with revisions approximately every six months, Toman said.

Reporter Alex Lash contributed to this report.