The latest tidbits on Sun deals and product news

300-MHz Ultra Enterprise 2 systems now shipping
Check Point says reliance on SunSoft sales is decreasing
Sun invites partners to its Internet Associate Club
McNealy laments U.S. restrictions on China trade

300 MHz Ultra Enterprise 2 systems now shipping

San Francisco, CA (May 2, 1997) -- Sun is selling two new 300-megahertz (MHz) Ultra Enterprise 2 systems these days. Sun boasts that the new models, which come in one and two-processor flavors (model 1300 and 2300 respectively), are 51 percent faster than their 200-MHz counterparts. Sun has clocked the 2300 at 219.0 SPECint_rate95 and 254.0 SPECfp_rate95. The single processor model 1300 has been benchmarked at 110.0 SPECint_rate95 and 142.0 SPECfp_rate95.

Both models come with two megabytes (MB) of cache, the now-standard 12x CD-ROM, a Fast/Wide SCSI-2 (small computer serial interface) disk and 4.2 gigabytes of storage. The 1300 has 128 MB of memory; the 2300 has 256 MB. They are priced at $24,295 and $36,295 respectively, which compares to $26,495 and $33,995 for the 200 MHz Ultra 2 1200 and 2200 models.

In the Ultra 1 line, Sun says it's replacing the 143-MHz Model 140 with the 167-MHz Model 170 as the entry-level product in this line. Priced at $7,495, Model 170 actually lists for $500 less than the 140.

Sun says its new machines are available immediately.

-- Robert McMillan

Check Point says reliance on SunSoft sales is decreasing

Redwood City, CA (April 30, 1997) -- Responding to criticism that it is overly dependent on SunSoft, Inc. for sales of its Firewall-1 software, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. was quick to point out in its Q1 1997 financial results, released today, that SunSoft's OEM sales of Firewall-1 accounted for 26 percent of Check Point's total revenues, down from about 40 percent in 1996.

However, in terms of dollars, Check Point continues to sell strongly through its Sun Channel. Sales for Q1 1997 through SunSoft were $3.5 million; up from about $2 million in Q1 1996.

The industry speculation is that Sun could leave Check Point high and dry if it decided to sell its own SunScreen EFS 2.0 firewall exclusively, instead of continuing to carry Firewall-1 in its product line.

Check Point reported revenues of $13.5 million for its first fiscal quarter this year with earnings of $6.5 million. This is up from revenues of $4.8 million and earnings of $2.8 million during the same quarter last year.

--Robert McMillan

Sun invites partners to its Internet associate club

Paris (April 30, 1997) -- Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Internet Associate program in Europe appears to be hitting its stride.

Only a few months after its launch, the Internet Associate (IA) certification program has already attracted 30 partners and is two-thirds of the way to its target for this year, said Didier Rombault, Internet Associate's program director in France. At the current growth rate, 100 companies will be certified by 1998, he added.

"This program brings together companies from very different backgrounds, companies such as Netscape Communications Corp. and Cap Gemini SA, reseller chains such as Ista, and maintenance companies such as Thomainfor," Rombault said. "By grouping all these players together in a program like IA, clients have at their disposal a complete offer for implementing an Internet/intranet solution."

To be IA certified, a partner must fulfill three criteria: the company must offer a product or service linked to the market; at least two of the company's engineers must enroll and be certified by two exams (commercial and technical); and the company must use the Sun platform internally. For its part, Sun will provide IA partners commercial and technical support on a regular basis, as well as marketing initiatives.

Sun also launched its Internet Associate Club earlier this month at a Parisian Web bar. "We hope that this club will serve as a stock exchange among the partners," Rombault said.

--Fabrice Dalongeville, Distributique

McNealy laments U.S. restrictions on China trade

Hong Kong (April 29, 1997) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy was in Beijing last week to wave the flag for commercial engagement, well aware that political sentiment back home is a potential obstacle to what he sees as an "awesome opportunity" in China. McNealy's high-profile visit was highlighted by a meeting with Zeng Peiyan, executive vice president of China's State Planning Commission, whom McNealy found receptive to his Java-soaked message.

"This guy was totally wired in," McNealy said, speaking in an interview with Computerworld Hong Kong at the Diaoyutai State Guest House, where the Chinese government accommodates foreign dignitaries and VIPs visiting Beijing.

"It's amazing -- it's just not the same group we met 10 years ago," McNealy said, referring to his contacts with senior Chinese government officials. "They're much more wired -- they're much more cognizant of what's going on."

As it happens, "What's going on?" is exactly the question that's being asked in a different context back in the U.S., where not everyone likes the idea of U.S. technology firms getting too chummy with China. McNealy's Beijing visit came as the U.S. political climate -- chilled most recently by allegations that China has made illegal financial contributions to the U.S. Democratic party -- makes the transfer of high technology to China increasingly controversial, especially when that technology is seen as potentially aiding China's weapons industry. While refusing to criticize U.S. policies in this regard, McNealy made it clear that he thinks the concerns are overblown.

"I'm just not an expert on exactly what worries the U.S. government. I assume they have some legitimate concerns, so I can't second-guess them," McNealy said in the interview. "I can tell you that nuclear weapons were designed and developed and delivered in the 1940s with nothing more than a slide rule. Throw a Pentium Pro at it, and you've got more processing power in the palm of your hand than existed on the entire planet when the original weapons were created. So sometimes I get a little skeptical about the threat. I can understand controlling bomb-grade plutonium, but a computer? What are you going to do, drop it on somebody's head?"

McNealy said he is equally skeptical about the need for the U.S. government to control the export of encryption technology.

"There are fabulous, uncrackable encryption technologies everywhere in the world already," McNealy said. "[The U.S. government] doesn't allow us to export them -- that's kind of crazy. So around encryption and weapons, maybe they know something that I don't know, but I'm just not understanding why we would try to constrain U.S. suppliers on a global basis when nobody else is being constrained."

Sun hosted a dinner reception at Diaoyutai State Guest House for approximately 80 guests, including officials from the Ministry of Electronics Industry, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, and the Ministry of Petroleum (MOP). It was at that dinner that McNealy got a taste of the potential for significant business with MOP -- barring U.S. government interference.

"We met with some of the people in the oil and petroleum industry. They are absolutely eager for the best seismic and oil exploration analysis equipment, which means they need stunning amounts of compute power," McNealy said.

"[Sun] is facing huge opportunities for our new Starfire," he said, referring to Sun's Ultra Enterprise 10000 symmetric multiprocessing server, which scales from 16 to 64 UltraSparc II 250-MHz processors. "Yet the [U.S.] government would potentially try and restrict that. We have an awesome opportunity here because China is just so excited about the new technology to go in and find more oil and find it quickly -- and to go out and compete in the market."

During his day-and-a-half stay in Beijing, McNealy also had meetings with Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Wu Jichuan, and with Legend Computers President Liu Chuanzhi.

See sidebar "McNealy boasts of China investment"

--Don Tennant, Computerworld Hong Kong

[Sidebar][Back to story]

McNealy boasts of China investment

At a press conference in Beijing last week, Sun Microsystems Inc. Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy outlined Sun's expansion in China, shedding light on activities beyond the $1 million initial investment in setting up a software development center in Beijing. McNealy boasted that Sun: "This is one of our fastest growing large markets around the world, and we expect it to be a many-billion-dollar market for us in the foreseeable future," McNealy said. "With the Java and Solaris Unix architectures, we are offering China an open, multivendor architecture that is very different from the proprietary Intel-Microsoft architecture being put forth in the PC industry," he said. "This will allow China to build its own microprocessors, its own operating systems, its own desktop computers, its own servers, and build its own application software without being forced to go to Intel and Microsoft for their core technology. "No company owns English, no company owns Chinese, and no company ought to own the written and spoken language of computers," McNealy said.

--Don Tennant, Computerworld Hong Kong

[Sidebar][Back to story]