iPlanet sharpens app tools

Faced with stiff competition from rivals BEA Systems Inc. and IBM Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. is attempting to unify its iPlanet application server lineup and consolidate diverse technologies acquired from recent acquisitions to help its application servers appeal to a broader market.

During the next year, Sun will take the integration technologies acquired from its Forte purchase, which it has already enhanced with Web services support, and its higher-level documentation transformation technology acquired from Netscape and move them to the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) application server, said Patrick Dorsey, product line marketing manager for iPlanet Web and Application Server at Sun in Palo Alto, Calif.

"Our vision is that those capabilities [we acquired] and services will move to the J2EE platform over time," Dorsey said.

All the integration adapters are now based on XML. "If the app exposes with an XML layer we read it natively. Our integration server uses this new approach," Dorsey said. The integration project will include adding J2EE connectors.

"Now the Integration Server can leverage all those standards," Dorsey said.

Although evidence of Sun's determination to broaden the iPlanet Application Server's appeal was on show last week when it announced it will run on the Linux operating system, some of Sun's bigger customers believe the company must do a lot more.

"I want [Sun] to improve the market share of its app server by bundling it into the operating system," said Brian Whitehead, a vice president and chief technology architect at Standard & Poor's in New York.

"We want to be aligned with a mainstream product. We use other third-party software on top of iPlanet, and these companies will only support mainstream application servers. They go to BEA and Websphere and we have to drag them to support iPlanet. It is also easier to find developers and engineers," Whitehead said.

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