Sun official weighs in on iPlanet embedding controversy

A Sun Microsystems Inc. official on Monday echoed sentiments that there are no plans to embed iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions' technologies in Solaris, at least not at present.

"Our view is that Solaris is a great platform and should be a great platform for any software maker in the marketplace," said Anil Gadre, vice president and general manager for Solaris at Sun, which owns iPlanet jointly with America Online Inc. "We have a long history of having multiple choices available to customers."

Last week, comments by an iPlanet official pertaining to the possibility of embedding iPlanet technologies into Solaris led to a sell-off of stock in rival company BEA Systems Inc. The comments were later denied by another iPlanet official.

Sun, according to Gadre, wants to let the best solution win in the marketplace. "Right now, there are no plans to embed [iPlanet technologies] in Solaris," Gadre said.

Yet last Tuesday, iPlanet Group Marketing Manager Patrick Dorsey had told an InfoWorld.com editor that the company was anticipating embedding some of its Web and application server technologies into parent company Sun's Solaris OS, and possibly in other OSes as well. Dorsey's comments appeared in an InfoWorld.com story later that day.

Last Friday, however, iPlanet's Wes Wasson, vice president of product marketing, said the company had no plans to embed its technologies in operating systems or to give away any products. "It's certainly not anything we're doing," Wasson said. The majority of iPlanet sales are on the Sun platform, however, Wasson said.

"iPlanet absolutely does not have any [and] has not announced any plans on giving away our products for free," he added.iPlanet does provide 120-day developer licenses for several of its server products to accompany copies of Solaris sold, Wasson said.

Asked Monday about the possibility of such an arrangement in the future, Sun's Gadre said, "How are you going to tell about the future? But I would also add in there that we regard BEA as a good partner."

After Dorsey's comments were made public on Tuesday, rival BEA Systems, which has a much larger market share than iPlanet, saw its stock plummet. The stock, priced at roughly $34 a share on Tuesday, had dipped to roughly $23 at one point on Thursday, according to E-Trade's stock ticker. By Friday, the stock had picked up again and was selling at approximately $29.

An official at BEA Systems scoffed at the notion that Sun would include iPlanet's technologies right in Solaris.

"I think the reality is that as Sun's No. 1 ISV, which BEA is, we believe we'd have gotten a heads-up from Sun if this was the [final] decision," said Scott Dietzen, CTO at San Jose, Calif.-based BEA Systems.

"I think what we are seeing is an internal debate that's going on within Sun and some of that speculation is leaking out, and Sun is trying to consider how to change the fortunes of the iPlanet Application Server," Dietzen said. BEA offers a more complete e-business platform than iPlanet, Dietzen contended.

According to officials at market research company Giga Information Group, BEA in 2000 held 24 percent of the $1.6 billion market for Java 2 enterprise application servers, a percentage that likely has risen to 28 percent to 30 percent in 2001. iPlanet held 9 percent of the market last year and has maintained roughly that same share, according to Giga.

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