Sun talks new computing, pricing model

Sun Microsystems Inc. took the wraps off its Project Orion initiative last month, rebranding its family of software infrastructure solutions under the Java Enterprise System.

At its Sun Network conference in San Francisco, Sun chief executive Scott McNealy 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,” McNealy said in front of the 8,500 delegates in attendance, adding that Sun’s renewed holistic focus is on network computing architecture. This approach means that Sun will deal with the integration issues that organizations would either need to do in-house, or incur consultant fees.

The Java Enterprise System – single sign-on server middleware 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, McNealy said.

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.

David Olson, who was in attendance at Sun Network this year, said the Sun announcements largely fulfill the software promises made last year. Olson, who works for Calgary-based integrator GNI Networks, noted that enterprises integrating the new software can not 25only save on costs in services fees, but said the new licensing model would be easier to present to his clients.

Indeed, Sun has come quite a way from the days when customers would be confused about its shipping dates and software licences. McNealy noted the offering simplifies the pricing model and synchronizes quarterly updates for Sun solutions that have been integrated and pre-tested for compatibility.

It looks like Sun is beginning to “right the ship,” said Stephen O’Grady, a software analyst for RedMonk in Bath, Me.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm’s software strategy is designed to go head-to-head with Microsoft Corp.’s software offerings and present a possible alternative to users who might be disenchanted with working in a Windows environment.

In Canada, Sun is particularly targeting the Java Enterprise System at enterprises within the telecommunications, oil and gas and financial industries, according to Stephane Boisvert, president of Markham, Ont.-based Sun Microsystems of Canada.

Analysts note that the regular update schedule should also make Sun’s software easier to use. Substantial execution challenges remain, but the early returns are promising, O’Grady said. Sun’s offerings – particularly from a pricing perspective – have changed the landscape for Java vendors. But the question remains whether the new initiatives will be enough to woo away customers who, like Schwartz noted in a briefing, are willing to pay “three times as much” what Microsoft Office costs to stick with it.

It’s doubtful that Orion will have much affect on Microsoft’s installed base, although undoubtedly they will come across each other in select accounts, O’Grady said. Overall, the Java Enterprise Desktop may prove to be a threat to certain low user-requirement segments of the Microsoft Office market, such as data centre seats, O’Grady added. “The Java Enterprise System, for its part, is poised to strike hard at vendors like BEA and to a lesser extent, IBM, as it undercuts them in pricing and end-to-end integration.”