Sun launches ServiceProvider.com

Sun Microsystems yesterday announced ServiceProvider.com, a series of product bundling, sales incentive and service programs designed to help service providers offer mission-critical application outsourcing services.

With the ServiceProvider.com programs, Sun is hoping to take advantage of a business trend in which companies seek to turn over to service providers such tasks as managing networks, servers, applications and e-mail.

The launch event yesterday also included an announcement of messaging product upgrades from the Sun-Netscape Alliance, which was announced in March and which is formed by Sun and America Online's Netscape Enterprise Group.

The new programs go beyond offering hardware and operating systems to companies building Web sites for marketing purposes, stressed Sun executives.

"The network is everywhere and everything; it's not just about buying a book anymore," said Ed Zander, president and chief operating officer of Sun. "This is phase two of the Internet . . . getting service providers online."

Several service providers, speaking at a panel discussion during the Sun event, said that their end-user companies are asking for increasingly complex management services.

"We're no longer seeing marketing sites, we're seeing applications that are mission-critical," said Nancy Faigen, president of Digex Inc. "It's not trivial solutions we're implementing anymore, they are mission-critical."

As companies become more acquainted with the concept of outsourcing mission-critical computing technology to service providers, the service provider model will extend to offloading the entire task of buying and updating software, panelists said.

"I don't think that customers are [going to] buy software; they're going to rent software," said Jonathan Lee, founder and chief executive officer of Corio Corp.

Specific, new service provider programs announced today were grouped into three areas:

-- Programs and tools that help service providers get up and running on new hardware and software. These include a Starter Kit and Quick Ship SP systems for ISPs and ASPs (applications service providers), bundled together at discount prices; server configurations that can be shipped the day after they are ordered; the SP Competency Center, a new centre based in Menlo Park, California, chartered with testing and tuning Sun and service provider applications; the SP Eagle Team -- Sun engineers who can help service providers get up and running quickly on new hardware and software.

-- SunTone programs for building customer confidence in networked applications. SunTone includes a SunTone certification and logo program, in which Sun recognises investments made by service providers by letting them use the SunTone logo; a System Availability Guarantee, a written guarantee from Sun ensuring the availability of service provider systems; Performance Analysis and Capacity Planning Services, which involves Sun consultants who can help, on a set-fee basis, service providers measure system requirements and performance.

-- Sales and revenue-building incentive programs. To encourage the Sun sales force to help service providers build up market demand, Sun salespeople will be compensated when service providers close deals with end users.

In addition, the Sun-Netscape Alliance announced Netscape Messaging Server 4.1, which features the ability to send advertising along with mail; and the Sun Internet Mail Server 4.0, which can now host more than one enterprise mail system.

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