Sun Microsystems has released an update to its Java Enterprise System that includes a more up-to-date application server and support for two additional platforms, HP-UX and Windows, the company announced Tuesday. It is also including licenses for additional Sun products, and has increased the price of the suite to US$140 per employee.
Sun hopes the extra software and new platform support will spur wider adoption of JES, an integrated suite of more than a dozen middleware components including its application server, directory server and portal server. JES has struggled to gain market share from similar "platform suites" from IBM, BEA Systems and Oracle.
Customers who buy JES Release 3 will also get a license for Sun's Identity Manager, N1 Grid Service Provisioning System, Portal Server Mobile Access and Java Studio Enterprise products, which typically are priced separately, said Deborah Williams, group marketing manager for JES. The products have not been integrated with the suite, like the other components, but are offered separately, she noted.
Also new to Release 3 is the Enterprise Edition of Sun's application server, which supports the latest version of the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) specification, version 1.4, as well as some features for improving application availability. JES Release 2 came with the standard-edition application server.
The JES upgrade has already been released for the Sparc and x86 editions of Solaris, including Solaris 10, and Linux. In four to six weeks it will be available for Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX and Microsoft's Windows XP and Windows 2000, Williams said.
Sun sells JES on a subscription basis, with pricing based on an organization's total employee count. JES Release 2 was US$100 per employee per year, with an additional fee for Java Studio Enterprise, Sun's developer suite. JES Release 3 is US$140 per employee, including Java Studio Enterprise. It also comes with Java Studio Creator, Sun's free visual development tool.
"We feel the increase in price is justified by the value of these additional products," Williams said. "They are products -- especially Identity Manager -- that a lot of customers are interested in using."
JES has not been selling quickly of late. In reporting its financial results last week, Sun said its subscriber base for JES increased by just 15,000 in the three months to March, for a total of 433,000 since the suite was launched a little over a year ago.
Analysts were divided over the prospects for Sun's middleware.
The company lags behind competitors because it has not made the most of acquisitions and has done a poor job marketing its products, according to Henry Pyret, an analyst with Forrester Research, who said he does not know any JES customers. Sun has not been seen as a leader in the trend towards converging products for developing and integrating applications and building portals, he said. And middleware products from its rivals have supported Windows and HP-UX for a long time.
"It's a little bit disappointing the way they are managing their software," Pyret said.
James Governor, principal analyst with RedMonk, was more upbeat. Sun's pricing model for JES is relatively new and the company is still figuring out the best way to price and package its products, he said. Sun may yet be able to capitalize on the strength of Solaris to sell more infrastructure software, he said.
"They were coming from a negative perception, but from a product standpoint they are increasingly seen as good enough," he said.
Sun released several subsets of its JES suite in February designed for specific business functions, Governor noted, reducing the impact of the price increase for the full version of JES. Sun said it hopes these Java System Suites, as it calls them, will be an attractive "on ramp" for companies that are new to its middleware and don't want to buy all of JES.
"This is still a relatively new approach to pricing and one that organizations should look at, if nothing else to better inform their discussions with other vendors," Governor said.