SAN FRANCISCO (03/08/2000) - Sun Microsystems Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Scott McNealy unveiled a new initiative today called iForce, a far-reaching program that aims to provide businesses with the relationships and expertise they need to get their operations online.
Essentially iForce attempts to connect all types of companies, from Internet startups to old-world businesses, with the software vendors and service providers that they need to take their businesses on the Web. Sun will invest US$300 million to promote the initiative, much of which will be spent on marketing, McNealy said at a press conference here.
At the core of the effort is the "iForce community," a group of vendors and service providers that Sun has worked with to tailor packaged offerings that address various aspects of a company's online operations. The community includes software vendors like Oracle Corp., Inktomi Corp. and Net Perceptions Inc., as well as service providers such as AT&T Corp., Exodus Communications Inc. and US Internetworking Inc.
The initiative also includes new services from Sun. The company has opened three testing facilities, dubbed "iForce Ready Centers," in Silicon Valley, Paris and Tokyo, where customers have access to hardware and software to build blueprints for their Web architectures. The company will open 40 additional centers in the coming months: three in Asia, 17 in Europe and the rest in the U.S., a Sun official said.
While venture capitalists throw billions of dollars at dot-com startups, most established businesses still aren't taking advantage of the Web to connect with partners and make information more accessible to employees, McNealy said. "It's not simple," he said. You don't just "dot com" your business."iForce is designed to ease the pain of the transition, and the initiative includes programs designed to help companies improve their competitive position by helping to define and manage dot-com strategies, McNealy said.
"You've got to get the people in there with the pierced body parts and the purple spiked hair; they can help you, and we have them," he said.
Other programs focus on helping pure-play dot-coms come to market quickly. One program, called Sun Startup Accelerator, will provide startups with access to a development and testing environment that includes preconfigured hardware from Sun, as well as software from Sun, Oracle and iPlanet. The environments will be hosted by service providers like AT&T and Sprint Corp., which will also offer data center management and other support services.
McNealy said Sun has invested heavily in testing interoperability among Sun's hardware and a broad range of third-party offerings. Sun provides many of the powerful servers that run Web sites and corporate databases, and he acknowledged besides helping his customers, the initiative should help boost Sun's bottom line.
"Ït seems like these startups do two things: they buy a lot of servers and then they go and buy advertising to fill the servers up, and we like that," he said.
Sun's efforts to provide customers with a complete package of hardware, software and services puts it on a collision course with IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., both of which are pursuing similar initiatives. IBM issued a statement today deriding Sun's efforts. The company referred to a $500 million fund that IBM established earlier this year to finance Internet startups that buy its products.
As usual, McNealy had some choice words of his own for his rivals. He criticized IBM, HP and Dell Computer Corp. for offering service programs that compete with offerings from their own partners.
"Sun is not in there to compete with our partners," he said.
He reserved his deepest barbs for HP.
"I guess I wish we had ink cartridges as a business, but we don't, so we just have to go out and make money the real way," he quipped.
In a related announcement today, iPlanet's E-Commerce Solutions introduced its "100 days to dot-com" program, designed to extend coverage of the iForce initiative to new partners and other platforms. More information about the iPlanet program is at http://www.iplanet.com/. Information about iForce is at http://www.iforce.com/.
Sun, in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at +1-650-960-1300 or http://www.sun.com/.