Sun to integrate more software into Solaris

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s flagship operating system Solaris is poised to gobble up more Sun software products, the company's top executive said Wednesday.

Following its recent move to bundle a basic application server with Solaris 9, Sun now plans to do the same with products such as its portal server, Scott McNealy, Sun's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said Wednesday during a keynote at the company's SunNetwork user conference here.

"There are lots of things like mail, calendaring, portals, instant messaging and Web services that are going to get integrated into the basic operating system environment," McNealy said. "Stay tuned."

The company has already said it will bundle a version of its Sun One Application server with Solaris 9, which was released in May and has since sold more than 300,000 licenses, according to Sun. Its directory server has also been integrated with the OS.

One of the benefits to such bundling is cost savings, since customers don't pay extra for the bundled products, according to Sun. For example, Solaris 9 customers can use the bundled directory server to support up to 200,000 user identities at no extra cost, said John Fanelli, director of product marketing for Sun's software group.

The application server bundled with Solaris lacks features required for critical enterprise applications, but Sun officials say businesses can now deploy the product in places they previously couldn't afford to, such as branch offices and retail stores. It offers higher-end versions for a price.

At least one user here said Sun is on the right track with its bundling strategy. "It's definitely beneficial to Sun because they can just sell a Solaris box, and (it's also beneficial) for some customers because they can just turn it on and have the functionality," said Naveen Godhla, senior engineer with Waterware Internet Services Inc. in San Jose, California.

He added that most companies will probably only use the free software for development purposes, using higher-end versions to put their applications into production.

The bundling efforts turn Solaris into an operating environment that is ready to run a variety Web-based applications without requiring customers to add more software, McNealy said. The move fits with Sun's strategy to provide businesses with the "complete stack" of software for running their back-end and mid-tier systems, a theme that ran throughout Wednesday's presentations here.

"What they want to be able to do is go to a company and say, 'We can outfit you from top to bottom,'" said Jean Bozman, an IDC analyst and vice president.

As Sun integrates more software into Solaris, McNealy said, it will give customers the choice of using competing software.

"We are ensuring the customer will not get locked in and will not get trapped," McNealy said. "We will provide you an integrated stack, all assembled. But if you want to pull our Web server out and put in Apache, or pull our directory server and put in Novell, we will not void your warranty and it will still work."

Other vendors have made their application servers available for free to customers, including Hewlett-Packard Co. While Microsoft Corp. doesn't offer a standalone application server, it is touting its upcoming Windows .Net Server 2003 operating system as a product that will have an application server built in.

Meanwhile BEA Systems Inc. and IBM Corp. lead the Java application server market by a wide margin, according to various analyst estimates.

It wasn't immediately clear which version of Solaris will include the additional products, though company officials have already started talking about the next version of Solaris, planned for release in 2004 or 2005. Sun's Fanelli said later that Sun hasn't come up yet with a formal plan or timeline for the bundling.

Around 8,000 attendees from 35 countries are at the three-day show, according to Sun. Two hundred partner companies are also there, representing 14 industries, according to McNealy, who reflected on how Sun's presence in the industry has become much broader in the past two decades.

"It's different from the early days, when CAD and CAM were pretty much the industries we were involved with," he said.

(James Niccolai in the IDG News Service San Francisco bureau contributed to this report.)

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