Sun Microsystems Wednesday unveiled updates to its hardware and software lines as it positioned its Java brand for new competition with its fiercest rivals.
As part of its quarterly systems update, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker formally launched its Java Enterprise System, Java Desktop System, and Java developer tools now branded as "Studio Creator."
The company also announced its fifth update to the Solaris 9 OS for SPARC and x86 platforms.
Sun at this time also debuted its B100x server (USD$1,795) to add to its x86 low-cost server lineup, which includes its Sun Fire V60/V65x. The B100x runs on a single Opteron processor and clearly takes advantage of Sun's new relationship with AMD.
In addition, Sun took pot shots at its blade server competition with a new $13,800 B10p blade for specialty functions and a dual-Ultra SPARC processor Sun Blade 2500 priced at $4,995.
While Sun has a great presence in existing Unix-based data centers, it needs all the help it can get garnering new customers. The company runs a distant third in server market share behind IBM and Hewlett-Packard, while Dell is quickly closing the gap.
"In the past year, we've gotten out in front of the competition and worked aggressively with partners like AMD and Oracle," Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy said in a statement.
McNealy also addressed Sun's ongoing war with Microsoft in the software space with the release of its latest Java Desktop System (formally known as Mad Hatter). The SUSE Linux-based platform is expected to ship December 8 and includes the StarOffice 7 word processor/spreadsheet/presentation platform, the Mozilla open source browser, Evolution e-mail client, RealNetworks' RealONE player, and Macromedia Flash.
The operating system also includes Looking Glass, a new visualization interface that lets users surf around in interactive 3D-like environments. One addition to the Desktop System is a management-wide tool.
Known as APOC, the technology preview lets IT pros and system administrators set up security and personal profiles for a wide bank of staff.
While Sun is trying to entice enterprises to replace Microsoft Windows systems with its $50 per-employee/per year licensing program, company execs told internetnews.com that Sun is still considering a $10 to $20 per-citizen pricing model. The Desktop has already gained support from a partnership with the Chinese government to produce a nationwide standard desktop software system.
Likewise, Sun's Java Enterprise System (formerly known as Project Orion) targets similar Java-based offerings from IBM, BEA, HP, and JBoss.
Currently available on the Solaris SPARC and Solaris x86 platforms, Java Enterprise System is scheduled to support Linux and other platforms within calendar year 2004.
Formerly a mish-mash of SunONE and other server-related applications, the Java Enterprise System has been streamlined to focus on shared network services. It does so through its Portal Server, Directory Server, Identity Server, Web Server, Messaging Server, Calendar Server, Instant Messaging, Application Server, Message Queue, Cluster and special brand of security.
While the original pricing model included unlimited upgrades, service, and support for a mere $100 per-employee/per-year, Sun has also revised its billing methodology to accommodate ISVs and OEMs. The pricing schedule harkens back to a more traditional $1,000 per CPU.
"It's a departure from per-employee model because there are too many layers for ISVs and OEMs," Sun vice president Ingrid Van Den Hoogen told internetnews.com.
As a result of the one-price-fits-all strategy, Sun has closed more than 12 major customers such as Lucent, Athens Airport, Advent Health Care, and World Book. The contracts total about 50,000 employees. Van Den Hoogen said the early adopters are raising the program's profile, considering the software is still in beta version and is not scheduled to ship in final form until January.
Sun is also offering its Java Enterprise System for free to companies with less than 100 employees.
"Service and support for the 'free' version of Java Enterprise Server would be purchased separately on a scale that depends on each company's usage," said Van Den Hoogen. "We're getting a lot of interest from startups about this model."
Another area of high interest is Sun's developer community. The company released a preview version of its Sun Java Studio Creator (formerly code-named Project Rave). Based on the open source NetBeans platform, Sun's alternative to Microsoft's Visual Basic includes its Sun Portlet Builder -- a version of the Java Enterprise System for development and testing purposes -- software maintenance and support, and "how-to" developer support all bundled together. The preview program debuts this month. An "Early Access" flavor is slated for spring with products expecting to ship as early as summer 2004.
Sun is offering its Java Studio Enterprise edition as an add-on to its Sun Java Enterprise System for $5 per employee per year, or as a stand-alone development environment for $1,895 per user. Licensing is on a subscription basis and can be renewed annually. Sun Java Studio Standard edition is currently available at store.sun.com and will hit retail shelves this month.
The suggested retail price is $695 per user with upgrades from previous versions of Sun ONE Studio or rival products for $495.
With its latest preview, Sun is lobbying to win the hearts of non-Java developers by asking for feedback from several hundred corporate developers.
"These are ... people who do not spend 40 hours a week on development, but it is part of their job," Van Den Hoogen said. "We're doing this as a limited release and continue to increase the amount of developers. As we find less issues, we'll increase the number of people we will let in on the release to give us feedback."
Van Den Hoogen said the Sun Java Studio Creator is just one way the company hopes to boost its legions of 3 million developers to 10 million in the next five years.
To that end, Sun has rolled out its latest Java Web Services Developer Pack (WSDP) version 1.3, which comes on the heels of the recent announcement of the unanimous approval of the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) version 1.4 specification by the Java Community Process (JCP).
Sun Wednesday also announced an early access program for Sun Studio 8, the latest release of the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for C, C++ and Fortran developers creating applications for Solaris. The software ($2,995) is planned for release in the first quarter of 2004 with upgrade pricing available.
This article was originally published on siliconvalley.com.