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Sun server VP leaving

The first casualty of the Sun-Netscape Alliance will apparently be the top executive of Sun's NetDynamics business group, Zack Rinat.

In the first fallout from the new Sun-Netscape Alliance, the top executive of Sun's NetDynamics business group, Zack Rinat, has decided to leave the company, sources said.

Rinat, a Sun Microsystems vice president and former chief executive and co-founder of NetDynamics, joined the computing giant last July when it purchased his application server company for upward of $170 million. Sun bought NetDynamics to enter a fast-growing market.

According to sources, Rinat's departure is related to the creation of the Sun-Netscape Alliance and its plans to mix two disparate software packages into one. He emailed his staff several weeks ago, saying it was time to move on.

"He had no obvious role in the alliance," said one executive familiar with Rinat's exodus.

The status of other NetDynamics group executives also is being discussed, according to people familiar with the matter.

Word of Rinat's departure comes in advance of Monday's planned announcement detailing its application server strategy. Rinat, reached at his home, declined comment. A Sun spokeswoman also declined comment.

America Online's buyout of Netscape already has led to an exodus of senior Netscape executives, including chief executive Jim Barksdale. Netscape general counsel Roberta Katz has already resigned and chief administrative officer Peter Currie is expected to resign. Senior vice president Mike Homer is taking a leave of absence and may not return.

Rinat's goal was to make sure NetDynamics's merger into Sun's Java Software division went well, said a source close to Sun. "He figured his job was finished and didn't need to get people integrated into the company anymore," the source said.

The Sun-Netscape Alliance, created in March after AOL's $10.2 billion buyout of Netscape, is run by Sun executive Mark Tolliver with a mix of Sun and Netscape executives reporting under him.

The venture combines business software from Sun and Netscape, including e-commerce, messaging, directory, security and application servers. An application server is software that helps businesses create e-commerce and other Web sites by serving as a connection between Web browsers and back-end databases.

Analyst Dave Kelly, of the Hurwitz Group, said Rinat's departure makes sense.

"It's not unusual to expect someone with his stature would leave," Kelly said.

"The product going forward will be a combination of Netscape and NetDynamics technology. It's a situation where your product is the main star to one that's mixed with other technology and new additional technology. It's certainly hard for someone who's been in charge of the company."

Analysts say Sun's NetDynamics and Netscape's application servers are the two leading products in a hot, emerging market, which Forrester Research predicts will account for $2 billion in revenue by 2002.

Since the new alliance was formed in March, the industry has been waiting to see what the joint operation would do with the two products, how they would combine them, and who would manage the Alliance.

As for Monday's announcement, sources familiar with the Alliance's strategy said the new unified application server is a good mix of the two products and that no one technology clearly wins out.

"I don't think there's a scenario that can be described as a victory for either side," one source said. "It looks to me the two teams recognized the strengths and weaknesses of both and looked to leverage the strengths and get rid of the weaknesses."

The combined product, now called the Unified Application Server, is set to be released in early 2000. Current users of both Netscape and NetDynamics app servers will be able to migrate to the new version.

Rather than just mashing the two different products together, the alliance's strategy is to envision what they wanted in a next-generation application server -- and build it with parts they had with Netscape and NetDynamics, sources said.

"If you were building an application server, you'd license a transaction engine, an ORB, and a directory, but [the alliance] doesn't have to license everything. They've got the Netscape and NetDynamics technology base," a source said.

Sources say the company will use Netscape's transaction engine, one of the more critical parts in app servers. Netscape's transaction engine is considered by analysts to be faster and more powerful and reliable than NetDynamics's engine.

NetDynamics is known for its user-friendly development platform, so these tools will survive in the new app server, one source said. The new app server will also use NetDynamics' software connectors to Enterprise Resource Planning and legacy systems, such as IBM's Customer Information Control System (CICS), a software packaged used for processing transactions.

The unified product also will support Java 2 Enterprise Edition, a version of Java for enterprise applications that includes the Enterprise JavaBeans programming model.

Netscape and NetDynamics users will still be allowed to run their old applications on the new application server. The alliance will provide migration software to make the transition easier.

"If they can pull it off, it means the old users will be fine," one source said. "They can continue using what they have and move forward to the new product with relatively little pain."

News.com's Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.