Sun Microsystems is entering the final stages in the development of a new enterprise computing architecture that promises to fundamentally change the way the company brings its products and services to market.
At the core of this effort is the next release of its Solaris operating system this fourth quarter, a plan to develop more sophisticated clustering technology, and a new development effort to build a management console tool that spans all of its server software offerings, according to Brian Croll, director of marketing at Solaris.
With the release of Solaris for ISPs this summer, Sun for the first time will bundle its directory software within the operating system.
"We think that computing is looking more like an information utility; in a sense you have a huge grid, similar to a telephone grid, and ISPs are at the vanguard," Croll said.
The release, announced last week, will give Sun the same type of directory technology in the operating systems Microsoft plans to deliver in Windows NT 5.0 in 1999. The directory will serve as the foundation for services Sun plans to add during the next year, such as support for digital certificates and the new management console.
Once this architecture is in place, Sun plans to take a more solutions-based approach to marketing, in contrast to the modular approach it currently takes by selling individual server software packages.
Sun's approach will be driven by the knowledge gained from its own extranet, Sun.net. The extranet lets users, both inside and outside of the company, access corporate data after being authenticated and authorised for specific applications.
"I can walk up to any browser or other consumer device, go through authentication, and get to my corporate applications," said Greg Papadopoulos, chief technical officer at Sun.
The company hopes to meld Sun .net into a solution it will market to ISPs and enterprise service providers. For example, an ISP might deploy Sun's full set of server software to host enterprise resource planning applications that would be licensed on a usage basis. Or a major corporation could deploy Sun's networking software to provide IT services for both its owns operations and the operations of its partners and suppliers.
Although Sun currently operates Sun.net internally, the commercial version of the system will not be available until Sun fills out its suite of enterprise software products.
Targeting ISPs and enterprise service providers is a smart approach for Sun, analysts said.
"ISPs are building infrastructure at a fast clip right now," said Jean Bozman, an analyst at International Data. "IT in corporations will be functioning more like an ISP over time, not just for [its] work force, but also to its end customers and partners."
Sun Microsystems, in Palo Alto, California, can be reached at http://www.sun.com.