Sun invests $15m in education, research and start-ups

Sun's 'anyquestions' provides kids with library help at home

Sun’s involvement with the anyquestions library help site for students stems from the National Library being a long-term Sun customer, says Australasian Sun chief Jim Hassell.

“They asked us whether we’d be interested in sponsoring this. As the company which started out as Stanford University Networks, we put a lot of money into education. About $15 million over the past year has gone into education, research and innovative start-ups in Australasia,” says Hassell. The education emphasis is particularly marked in New Zealand.

“This is a fantastic project,” he says. "With billions of sites on the internet [and] millions being added every week — and less being discarded than should be — it can be discouraging to a school student to try to find relevant and worthwhile content.

"Whatever the alleged strengths of search engines, librarians have the skills to assist [student] searches in a more intelligent and human way."

A Wellington library spokeswoman involved with the project (Computerworld, February 21) said the skill was not just in finding material but in discovering the student’s real needs.

Hassell sees Sun’s involvement as an investment both in education and future innovation — not just a simple branding exercise. “That approach doesn’t work. When I was a student we all used DECs [Digital Equipment]. That didn’t persuade us to buy DEC [later on].”

Sun is build up its New Zealand sales and support team, after the rift with SolNet. Business is growing at 15-20% a year. “We’ll keep building [staff numbers] for at least the next 12 to 18 months,” says Hassell.

Interest in Sun’s Opteron offering — small-scale servers based on AMD chips — is strong. There is also interest in Sun's identity management suite and the company expects to sign a major, as yet unnamed, NZ customer for this product-set soon.

“Identification, authentication and security in a large population are big issues, particularly in areas such as retail, with many part-time and casual workers, and occupations with high staff turnover," says Hassell. "It becomes crucial to be able to 'switch on and switch off' individuals’ access to information and premises.

"With telecomms companies delivering increasingly sophisticated forms of data through mobile phones and hand-held terminals, it is crucial [that] information does not go to the wrong person."

The Opteron has been particularly successful with New Zealand government agencies, says local client solutions manager John Mazenier. The ACC has acquired a number on the back of its Fineos case management software.

Sun also continues to enhance Solaris, with Solaris 10 featuring a number of the security features originally developed for Trusted Solaris, the implementation conceived for US government agencies.

Since Solaris 10 was released at the end of last month, as an open-source product, there have been more than half-a-million downloads — many for installation on non-Sun hardware. The operating system can run in several virtual copies, in secure partitions, concurrently, and is also strong on performance and scalability, says Hassell. A feature called Dtrace has been introduced to help diagnosis and unblock system bottlenecks.

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