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Sun adds shine to portal software

In a new twist, Sun Microsystems' upcoming Portal Server will work with rival application server software and operating systems.

Looking to boost its software revenue, Sun Microsystems on Monday said it is readying a new release of its portal software for businesses.

Sun said its Sun One Portal Server 6, formerly called iPlanet Portal Server, includes new identity management software and now works with rival application server software and operating systems, said John Fanelli, a marketing executive with Sun.

The software allows businesses to create Web pages, or portals, for their employees, customers and business partners. Such portals give people access to corporate e-mail and other company information, such as human resources and sales data, through a single Web page. Individual employees can personalize their portal pages for their specific needs.

Sun competes against Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, BEA Systems and others in the lucrative market for e-business software--and portal server software has become a strong seller.

Sun is also looking for ways to generate more money from its software business to offset declines in hardware sales. Last month, the company cut a deal with Yahoo to allow access to popular Yahoo content through Sun's Portal Server. In addition, Sun is aiming to increase its share of the application server software market.

In a new move, Sun has designed its upcoming Portal Server to work with application server software from rivals IBM and BEA Systems, in addition to its own Sun One application server. Previous versions of the Java-based software ran only on Sun's application server. The move could make the portal software more attractive to companies that have already committed to an application server from a Sun competitor.


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Software developers can use the company's Sun One Studio development tools to build the individual piece of portal pages, which Sun calls "portlets." Portal Server 6 includes a new tool called a "portlet builder" that works with Sun One Studio.

Fanelli said another new feature lets developers package portlets as Web services, meaning they can be reused on other applications. The tools automatically create a Web services user interface, based on a standard called Web Services Description Language (WSDL), he said.


Gartner analyst Ray Valdes says by unambiguously folding iPlanet into the Sun organization...Sun began the necessary steps to get the iPlanet product line back on track.

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Sun will also bundle its Sun One Identity Management Server with its Portal Server. The Identity Server lets companies verify the identity of people accessing internal Web pages.

Sun did not disclose pricing for the Portal Server. Fanelli said pricing will be announced in August, when an initial release of the software is available.

That initial release will run on Solaris, Sun's Unix operating system, and will support Sun's application server software. A version capable of running on application servers from Sun's rivals will ship in December. And in the first half of next year, Sun will ship a version of the Portal Server that runs on the Windows and Linux operating systems, Fanelli said.