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Sun ups ISP focus

Sun Microsystems unveils a specialized software focus tailored for the service provider market.

MENLO PARK, California--Sun Microsystems unveiled a specialized software focus tailored for the service provider market--a traditional stronghold--highlighted by the announcement of a partnership with telecommunications equipment behemoth Lucent Technologies.

The deal between the two giants, to be unveiled at the SuperComm '98 trade show, essentially adds a monstrous sales channel for Sun's hardware and software, with the two combining to offer service provider-focused networks.

The move is part of a targeted initiative at Sun to tailor its server-based software business to the specific needs of particular markets, a theme that pervaded an Inside Sun Software event for the press and analyst community here.

"There are only a few companies in the world that can pull this thing off," said Stuart Wells, senior director of Sun's Internet business services, of the Lucent partnership.

As part of the event, the company announced a version of its Solaris Unix-based operating system will ship next month specifically for the Internet service provider market, featuring improved security, administration, and messaging capabilities, among other high-end functions.

Sun is essentially prepackaging many functions third-party developers in service provider settings implement themselves, including a replication function for the software running on Web servers, according to analysts. "This is probably a response to customer requests," said Jean Bozman, analyst with market researcher International Data Corporation. "They're already in a lot of these sites."

The price of the ISP-focused version of Solaris is twice that of a standard copy of the operating system, but Bozman said the added industrial-strength functions may make the hike palatable to customers. "It's a premium price for a premium-type product," she said.

In conjunction with the Solaris launch, the company also rolled out new versions of its Internet Mail Server and Internet Calendar Server as well. New additions to Solaris for ISPs include the integration of Java Servlet support for server-based Java applications, a new version of the company's Web server, and new News and file transfer protocol (FTP) servers.

GTE Internetworking is among the ISPs that have been deploying Web hosting and other types of services for companies on Sun hardware and software and will use the ISP-focused version.

"It shows a direction on their part that gets us out of having to do a lot of reengineering," said Douglas Brockett, vice president of network computing for GTE Internetworking.

Sun also announced an initial deployment of TV set-top boxes using Java-based software in Japan with Hitachi, as previously reported.

Also, Sun soon will launch a new add-on for Solaris called the Sun Community Server, currently in beta and scheduled to ship in the fall. The new software server allows organizations to build Web-based communities. The offering includes technology that allows an intermediary without much specialized training to step in and oversee discussions.

Separately, John McFarlane, president of Sun's Solaris software division, said as part of a wide-ranging interview that his portion of the Sun empire--echoing comments from other licensees of the Java programming language--would like to see server-side enhancements to the language come out sooner.

"I'd like some of the things to move faster as well," he said. "But I don't know if we could have done it faster. I don't think we could have shepherded the standard any faster."