Sun Microsystems took steps to consolidate and strengthen its iForce Partner Program, a Sun ONE initiative that promotes Sun products through established customers who have qualified for the iForce Program.
Formerly known as the iPlanet Partner Program, iForce is a community program of Sun resellers looking to leverage their Sun investments via a third-party exchange of Sun products, services, tools, certification, programs, and collaboration. Sun fuels this partnership interchange by providing cash incentives.
As part of Sun's iForce consolidation announcement, the company simplified the qualification process for becoming a U.S. iForce Partner and reduced its channel partner structure from six designations to two.
The new designations have been renamed the Strategic iForce Partner and the iForce Partner, both of which require certain investments in Sun training and certifications and an ability to meet a minimum revenue goal, the company said.
Sun also announced eight new cash-based incentive programs to reward achievements among its partner members, including those whose investments in Sun technology lead to the development of their own application solution based on the Sun platform.
Among those programs are:
- Target Account Program, which provides cash rebates as of Jan. 1, 2003 to help partners recruit new Sun accounts, particularly in the midsize enterprise category.
- Strategic Investment Rebate, a cash-reward plan for channel partners with who make "extraordinary" investments in their Sun business model.
- Sun-Only Rebate, a program in which Sun will provide additional cash incentives to channel partners who sell and support Sun-only complete Unix systems and Sun-only storage solutions.
- Elite Rebate Program, a plan that builds on last year's Storage Elite program, which rewards iForce partners with a core competency in storage hardware and software consulting integration.
- Sun ONE Specialty Program, in which iForce partners can achieve Sun ONE Elite or Premier status within the iForce Partner Program if they have a significant focus on Sun software products as part of their business offering.
- iForce Advocate Program, an executive sponsorship program that matches Strategic iForce Partners with Sun executives.
- The Education Market Allowance Program, in which Sun provides an additional allowance to qualified channel partners for sales to U.S. higher education and K-12 markets.
Sun's move to streamlines its iForce program is reflective of its ongoing battle to fight Microsoft. In March of this year, Sun filed a private antitrust suit against the Redmond, Wash.-based company, alongside the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust suit, claiming that the No. 1 software maker had engaged in monopolistic, unfair business practices that undermined its Java platform, which competes directly with Microsoft's Window XP.
In its billion dollar lawsuit against Microsoft, Sun also accused the software maker of entering "under-the-table" agreements with Intel and Apple to boycott the Java platform in their operating systems.
Following Friday's court ruling, in which a federal judge let the antitrust settlement of 2001 stand and dismissed pleas from nine other states to enforce stricter limits against Microsoft, Sun stated that it would not back down from its own antitrust suit against the software giant.
"The weak steps that Microsoft has taken to comply with the requirements already show that the settlement will be ineffective in curbing Microsoft's monopolistic and anti-competitive practices and how difficult it will be to enforce, quite apart from the propriety of having Microsoft's own board members be the first line of compliance enforcement," stated Sun's Special Counsel Michael Morris. "We will also continue to pursue our civil case and to cooperate with the European Commission's case against Microsoft to ensure that the company does not continue to use its monopoly position to become the gatekeeper of the Internet," continued Morris.
Microsoft is said to be addressing the Sun lawsuit, along with several other outstanding antitrust suits. There is also suggestion that the nine states that challenged the 2001 ruling will appeal their case.