In an effort to broaden its reach as a middleware vendor, Sun Microsystems plans to make its Java Enterprise System available on Windows and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX by the end of the year.
Sun's pricing model for the integrated software stack of 14 back-end services -- US$100 per employee per year -- is particularly appealing to companies that provide hosting services to large numbers of external users. Canada's Saskatchewan Telecommunications Holding, which has about 3,800 employees, is one example.
Curt Smith, general manager of the Regina-based telecommunications provider, said the pricing model allows him to provide JES-based services such as messaging and calendaring functions to external customers on a hosted basis, without having to pay additional software-licensing costs to Sun. Smith's cost remains fixed based on the number of employees at his company, so external customers can tap into JES services at no extra charge.
Smith said that his company was attracted to JES because it provided integrated and tested services, and the pricing model is an added benefit because it fixes his costs. "The price works for us, and the model works for us," he said.
But that isn't true for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The newspaper is a Sun hardware shop but is using BEA Systems's Web applications server.
Bruce Bowles, a technology manager at the newspaper, said he met with his Sun representative about six months ago and discussed JES. Bowles said he asked how the vendor's per-employee pricing would account for all of his part-time workers, who bring his workforce total to about 10,000 people, but he never got an answer.
A Sun spokeswoman said that JES pricing applies only to full-time employees, not part-time or contract workers.
The pricing model for the bundled applications "is a great idea, but that pricing model is not necessarily going to work for every business," said Bowles. Regardless, he added, "I'm not going to replace my investment in BEA."
Analysts said Sun had no choice but to extend its JES model to include support for Windows and HP-UX. The stack currently operates on Solaris and Linux systems, and Sun is considering making JES open-source.
"Sun needed to port to other operating systems if they were ever going to be a serious contender in the middleware space," said Shawn Willett, an analyst at Current Analysis. The ability of JES to operate on other systems is "pretty much a requirement for large corporate sites, who can't all be running Solaris everywhere," he said.
One JES user, Fotis Karonis, director of IT and telecommunications at the Athens International Airport in Greece, is running Solaris systems on 64-bit Sun hardware. Karonis said he sees both advantages and disadvantages in running JES on Wintel systems.
Advantages include lower-cost hardware, leveraging the existing Windows expertise of systems administrators, and uniformity in hardware and operating systems administration, he said. But among the disadvantages are duplicate technical support in running JES in two environments and Windows security concerns, Karonis added.
Karonis said the stack is meeting his expectations. "JES offers a rich and open development environment where we can integrate most of our airport-specific applications and systems," he said. Regarding making JES open-source, Karonis didn't seem to think it would matter. "JES is already open enough for developers," he said.
Whether Sun's pricing model makes sense for users depends on a number of variables, including which applications they use in the middleware stack, said Thomas Murphy, an analyst at Meta Group. If an IT shop is interested only in Web development tools, for instance, then it may want to go with IBM's WebSphere or use the open-source Apache Tomcat.
In any case, Sun's JES pricing model does "shake up the market" and is something IT managers should consider, Murphy said.