SUN NETWORK: Sun talks new pricing, computing model

SAN FRANCISCO – Sun Microsystems Inc. took the wraps off its Project Orion initiative Tuesday, rebranding its family of software infrastructure solutions under the Java Enterprise System.

At its Sun Network conference, Sun chief executive Scott McNeely riffed on the theme of recalling “cost and complexity.”

Rather than sell the network components on their own, “we’re going to sell you the whole car,” McNeely said, adding that Sun’s renewed focus is on network computing architecture.

The middleware Java Enterprise System – single sign-on server software that features network identity, e-mail, Sun ONE application server, directory server and portal server, Sun’s clustering software and Java programs support – consolidates Sun’s network services environment, McNeely said.

McNeely noted the offering simplifies the pricing model and synchronizes quarterly updates for Sun solutions that have been integrated and pre-tested for compatibility.

Slated for a November release, both the server and desktop versions of Java Enterprise System are tagged at US$100 per employee, per year. This includes unlimited right-to-use for intranet and Internet deployments.

Sun Software Executive Vice-President Jonathan Schwartz noted that larger organizations with 120,000 workers or more will pay a flat fee of US$12 million per year.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm’s software strategy is designed to go head-to-head with Microsoft Corp.’s software offerings and appeal to users who might be disenchanted with Microsoft.

This particular pricing model – which includes training, quarterly updates, support and installation services – should benefit enterprises, Schwartz offered, as they won’t incur vendor audits and the model can be deployed to an organization’s entire customer, supplier and partner base.

In addition, Sun unveiled its Project Mad Hatter open source software. Now dubbed the Java Desktop System, the office solution – which features the look-and-feel of Microsoft Office along with MS file compatibility – uses a JavaCard smartcard for security, and includes StarOffice 7; the latest release of J2SE; a Mozilla browser; and desktop applications such as Macromedia Flash, e-mail calendaring and instant messaging (IM).

Pricing at starts at US$100 per desktop. The Linux client-operating environment runs on x86 and Sun Sparc systems using the Solaris or Linux OS. A network-enabled StarOffice enterprise version will be launched in 2004, Sun said.

Sun has come a long way from the days where customers would be confused about shipping dates and software licenses. According to Sun claims, its Java Desktop System costs 60 to 80 per cent less than Microsoft Office. Analysts here note the regular update schedule should also make Sun’s software easier to use.

But the question remains whether the new initiatives will be enough to woo away customers who, much like Schwartz noted in a media briefing, are willing to pay “three times as much” what Microsoft Office costs to stick with the brand.

In attendance at Sun Network this year, David Olson said the Sun announcements largely fulfill the software promises made last year.

Olson, who works for Calgary-based GNI Networks, noted that enterprises integrating the software can save on costs in services fees.

Other announcements at Sun Network include:

– Sun Java Studio Enterprise, integrated developer tools for the Java Enterprise System including connector builders, Java Runtime and integrated developer environment (IDE)

– N1 annulments, including virtualization and provisioning for storage and servers and N1 CenterRun 4.0, a “one-touch” deployment of new shared services