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Sun vies for Internet services firms

A new program includes software products from the Sun-Netscape Alliance, discounts on hardware, and a certification program.

Sun Microsystems has announced a consolidated effort to reach companies that sell Internet-based services, intending that Sun products are the foundation of those services.

Among Sun's announcements are software products from the Sun-Netscape Alliance, discounts for service providers that want to buy Sun hardware, and a "SunTone" certification program to back companies whose computers stay up and running, said Kelvin Rowlette, director of IP network services at Sun.

The service provider announcement is aimed not so much at the mom-and-pop operations that sell Internet access, but rather at companies that provide more sophisticated services such as email or database housing. In that business model--long advocated by Sun with its network focus--one company pays a service provider to worry about details such as keeping the systems from crashing, updating software, fending off intruders, and staying on top of expanding storage needs.

"We want to drive this market," Rowlette said.

However, while Sun has long embraced ISPs, competitors such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Compaq have rolled out their own strategies to ensure their hardware competes in future e-commerce markets. Even Intel has a plan to foster Internet services.

About 250 executives from service providers such as Digex and Exodus joined Sun chief executive Scott McNealy and chief operating officer Ed Zander at Sun's announcement in New York.

Sun also said it has established a "preferred integrators" to sell and install Web-based applications based on Sun's hardware and software.

Sun said it has inked deals with several consulting and systems integration firms, including EDS, Computer Sciences, Andersen Consulting, Cap Gemini, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In a related deal, database giant Oracle said today that Sun will provide hardware and software for Oracle's Business OnLine applications hosting service.

Among the other Sun announcements Rowlette described:

• A deal to let service providers buy Sun hardware "starter kits"--basically, "aggressively priced" bundles of equipment. Sun also will discount hardware for companies that are developing their own service provider software. "We want to make it really easy for them to make a Sun decision," he said.

• A suite of services Sun will sell to help service providers get started, including training, advice on the best systems to use, and how to make sure computer systems will be able to keep up with demand.

• Several software packages, many of them part of the Sun-Netscape Alliance that resulted from America Online's acquisition of Netscape. Among the products will be a special version of Sun Internet Mail Server, designed for service providers who need offer email service to multiple organizations; a version of Netscape's Messaging Server 4.1 geared for small-scale Internet service providers; and Sun's i-Planet software to allow employees to gain access to their company's network regardless of where they are.

• An initiative to eliminate competition when a company is deciding whether to set up its own service or go with an outside service provider.

• A virtual showroom to help service providers configure Sun systems, get product information, and generally "extend the ability to buy products online," he said.
• A new Sun "competency center" where service providers can build and test services.