SolNet lifts eyes to Singapore

SolNet is looking for new business in Singapore, following a successful year in Australia.

SolNet is looking for new business in Singapore, following a successful year in Australia.

Sun’s New Zealand agent says it has been talking with Sun in Singapore, which is keen to see SolNet “engaging” in the market. “But we will do it with or without Sun,” says managing director Mark Botherway.

Sun’s operation in Singapore is “entirely partnership-based” and does not sell directly to end users, he says, so the two operations will be complementary.

The plan could start to gel in another two months, Botherway says.

About 18 months ago SolNet planned to move into Thailand with a local joint-venture partner. The plan got as far as drawing up a business case, but the company decided the idea wouldn’t fly.

The Australian operation is progressing well, Botherway says, with revenues up by over 300% on last year. “We’ve broken into one of the big banks,” Botherway says, clarifying that SolNet has done some business in the financial sector and expects more.

The New Zealand business was less happy, with a 7% fall in revenue to $94 million, though overall software and services revenue was up on last year.

Botherway blames “sector fluctuations”, particularly in the telco and aviation markets, for the decline in hardware revenue. Clear and Telstra have been involved in their merger, while Air New Zealand’s business has been in turmoil after the failure of Ansett.

SolNet and Sun nevertheless lost a large order when Air NZ decided to outsource with IBM. The airline is now burdened with two sets of IT infrastructure, which it will need to reconcile, he says, so there may not be more business for a while.

SolNet continues to place confidence in customers’ awareness of J2EE as a more open alternative to Microsoft’s .Net. Mission-critical applications have been developed

for government departments and large corporates.

The company has also had its first shrink-wrapped product developed by an external, but New Zealand-based, developer. It generates a work profile for a J2EE system allowing load analysis.

SolNet says it has done encouraging business from Linux. Almost paradoxically for the open source operating system, a significant element of this was in “black box” applications such as file/print sharing and email, where Linux was not visible to the implementers who would slot the module into an overall IT system.

A number of SolNet’s clients have “skunkworks”, developing open desktop application alternatives to Microsoft’s, he says. A major trigger for the positive reaction, Botherway says, is the economical price of Linux, particularly against large and ever more stringent licensing arrangements for Microsoft systems software. The media are a factor in this, he says. “When they read in Computerworld about Microsoft’s Software Advantage, they start listening to the alternative voice.”

Once triggered, that willingness to listen will hopefully become established regardless of what Microsoft does. But if the dominant player were to back off from Software Advantage the movement to Linux may lose some of its steam, Botherway acknowledges.

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