Sun unveils mock Wal-Mart distribution center

Sun Microsystems, an early leader in support of RFID, announced Monday the creation of a retail compliance test center that will simulate a Wal-Mart Stores distribution center in order to evaluate RFID tag compliance for vendors.

In addition, Sun officials said the company will include RFID technology in its iForce partner program, offer an RFID warehouse management solution (WMS) predefined to work with Sun solutions, and offer a tool kit to test both hardware and enterprise software for compliance with Sun's Java RFID middleware.

The retail compliance center is targeted at giving manufacturers a head start in meeting strict Wal-Mart requirements that include 100 percent tag read accuracy at the palette and case level when products arrive at the dock door and 100 percent read accuracy along conveyor belts that travel at the rate of 600-feet-per-second.

The test center is targeted at any vendor regardless of whether or not they use Sun hardware or software, according to Julie Sarbacker, director of RFID Business Unit at Sun.

Pricing depends on the number of SKUs a vendor has and starts at US$5,000 per SKU.

"This was not intended to generate revenue. But we do want customers to think about RFID from an architectural perspective. Data management and data integration is our expertise," said Sarbacker.

Sharyn Leaver, vice president and research director at Forrester Research said that Sun and all of the other major vendors are now entering the field with potential infrastructure solutions. However, all of the vendors do not have the packaged algorithms that give IT the ability to get beneath the data in a meaningful way, Sarbacker added.

"IT needs a solution from a vendor that has a flexible architecture for pretty big logic, like data filtering algorithms so that some of the hard work can be done for them," said Leaver.

The Sun tool kit includes packaged APIs with documentation and sample code for RFID hardware manufacturers to interface with Sun middleware.

The iForce partner program is designed for both large and small system integrators to integrate various enterprise-level back-end applications into Sun solutions.

Finally, Sun announced a deal with ERP vendor SSA Global for interoperability with its warehouse management system and SIS Technologies for technical support and services.

Sun is also working with SAP (Profile, Products, Articles) to integrate Sun RFID solutions with SAP ERP applications despite the fact that SAP has its own RFID middleware solution.

"In this market there is a lot of coopetition," said Sarbacker.

The tool kit is shipping now.

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